Taiwan Air Force to start upgrading F-16 fighter jets in 2016
Taiwan's military is expected to upgrade its existing F-16 fleet in 2016 despite recent rumors that the United States could call off the project due to financial issues, a local newspaper said 4 April 2014.
Washington approved a US$5.85 billion retrofit package to upgrade the country's total number of 145 F-16A/B jets in September 2011.
However, there have been numerous reports that the U.S. Air Force plans to defund the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) program because of budget constraints.
The CAPES program, which would upgrade U.S. and Taiwanese F-16 fighter jets with top-line avionics, has huge implications for the Taiwan Air Force's F-16 upgrade project, reports said.
Both Taiwan's military and its U.S. counterparts have denied the reports, saying that there is no change on the project.
Commenting on the issue, military sources told the Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday that the military is making preparations in face of the possible change in the project.
The R.O.C. Air force is expected to send two F-16 fighter jets to Lockheed Martin in the U.S. in the later half this year so that the defense technology company can install a new AESA radar system to replace the current radar system used by the fighter jets.
Following the revamp, the two jets will then serve as prototype models to conduct flight tests in the U.S. before the company officially opens a production line in Taiwan in the second half of 2016 to upgrade all the nation's F-16 fighters, sources told the newspaper.
The Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) (漢翔航空工業) that developed and built the nation's first ever locally built IDF “Ching-Kuo” (經國號) fighters will work with the U.S. company for the upgrade project, the report said.
Air Force sources, however, did not give a timetable on when all the fighter jets can be upgraded.
The United States had agreed to upgrade Taiwan's F-16 A/B fighters after Taiwan's government had repeatedly asked to buy 66 of the newer generation F-16 C/D fighters from the U.S., without getting an answer.
Taiwan's government has argued that its military needs the more advanced C/D fighters to replace its aging fleets of indigenous, French and U.S.-built fighter aircraft.
But it has been reported that after the upgrades, the A/B fighters will be as capable as the C/D fighters.
Source: TAIPEI, Taiwan -- By Joseph Yeh, The China Post News – 5 April 2014
Photo: The Taiwan Air Force F-16A Block 20 Fighter Jet (Photo by ROCAF)