Taiwan’s $4.56 billion project to upgrade its fleet of 142 F-16 fighters seems to be back on track with the country’s defense minister announcing completion of the refitting program within four years, previously hit by delays.
“Taiwan’s $4.56 billion refitting program for its 142-aircraft F-16 fleet is now back on schedule. It will be completed within four years. The air force is expected to take delivery of the jets by 2023,” said Yen Teh-fa, Taiwan Defense Minister.
The refitting that began in 2015 is being handled by the state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC), comes amid the country’s efforts to bolster its defenses. It is intended to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets to the same standards as the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper variant. Taipei in February, signed a $8 billion deal with the US for 66 F-16V jets.
The retrofitting program has been running behind schedule with only 6 of 24 fighters been upgraded so far in this year, SCMP reported Thursday.
Some attribute the slow down to Taiwan’s project to develop its own advanced fighter trainer jet, and its purchase of F-16Vs. But Yen refuted these claims, stating the programs “the programs have separate budgets.”
He reportedly admitted that there was a manpower shortage problem within ADIC but assured to lawmakers on Wednesday that coordination with US planemaker Lockheed Martin and recruitment of more engineers, the retrofitting team now has an additional 200 people. “This will ensure the completion of the project by 2023,” he said.
According to Defense News, the upgrades to bring the older F-16 variants up to Fighting Falcon Viper standards include new mission computers, an upgraded electronic warfare suite and avionics, a new radar system and the integration of precision-guided weapons.