The Taiwanese Air Force will take delivery of the first four of 144 upgraded F-16 fighter jets in the next six months.
The first of the four upgraded F-16s has completed combat flight testing and all four aircraft in the first batch to be delivered in six months are currently undergoing ground testing by state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC), Liu Jen-yuan, chief of staff of the Air Force was quoted as saying by Focus Taiwan Wednesday.
Liu was responding to a lawmaker's question about progress in the upgrading of the Ministry of National Defense's (MND) 4 F-16 A/B jets into F-16Vs.
The fighters are part of a NT$110 billion (US$3.64 billion) government program to launch a domestic upgrade that transforms Taiwan's 144 F-16 A/B jets into F-16Vs, the largest and most important upgrade ever undertaken by the Air Force.
In order to carry out the upgrade locally, the manufacturer of the jets -- Lockheed Martin in the United States -- sent engineers to Taiwan last year to help train local personnel at AIDC on how to perform the upgrades.
According to AIDC, the retrofit program includes installing advanced equipment in the fighters, including the AN/APG active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, currently used in U.S. F-22 and F-35 fighters.
The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense is to increase the budget to upgrade the air force’s F-16 warplane fleet from NT$129.6 billion to NT$140.2 billion (US$4.21 billion to US$4.56 billion). Most of the budget increase aims to boost the number and types of air-to-air missiles for the upgraded F-16 fighter jets.