The first upgraded F-16 fighter jet, known as the F-16 Viper or F-16V, has been delivered to the Taiwan Air Force by state-owned aviation firm Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC).
China news agency quoting an unnamed official said that three other F-16Vs are currently undergoing extensive flight testing and are expected to be delivered to the Air Force by year-end.
The upgraded F-16s which have some of the latest technology such as an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and beyond visual range precision missiles among other features, will bring parity with some of the fighter jets in the armory of its adversary China. Taiwan has been practicing how to repel an invasion by China in recent months.
The fighters are part of a NT$110 billion (US$3.68 billion) program launched by the government in 2016 to upgrade 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 program locally, the manufacturer of the jets, Lockheed Martin, sent engineers to Taiwan last year to help train local personnel at the AIDC on how to carry out the upgrades.
According to the AIDC, the retrofit program includes installing advanced equipment on the fighters, including the AN/APG AESA radar system currently used in the U.S. F-22 and F-35 fighters.
The comprehensive upgrade of the Air Force's entire F-16 fleet is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.