The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) has completed the first tranche of its F-16V Block 70/72 modernisation effort. Work on the project began in January 2017, with the first four aircraft being inducted into the upgrade programme at Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) Taichung facility in the northwest of Taiwan. The first tranche of F-16V upgrades comes two-and-a-half years after the first aircraft was delivered back to the RoCAF by Lockheed Martin’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) partners in October 2018. This milestone paves the way for the configuration to enter service with the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF), which plans to allocate these first aircraft to the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Chiayi in southwest Taiwan.
U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011 decided to offer an upgrade to their existing aircraft as a modicum of improved defense but that would not flare tensions with Beijing. No president since George H.W. Bush has sold advanced fighter jets to Taiwan. A total of 144 “F-16A/B” fighters will be upgraded to “F-16V F-16V Phoenix Rising”. This contract is part of the massive $62 billion ten-year, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ), fixed-price-incentive contract announced by the U.S. Department of Defense. Upgrading the first 42 of its 142 Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/D Fighting Falcon combat aircraft to the latest standard under the Phoenix Rising programme. In August 2017, Taiwan was also cleared to procure 66 F-16C/D Block 70 fighter aircraft by the U.S. State Department under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
Taiwan, represented by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the U.S., has requested to purchase: 66 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft; 75 F110 General Electric Engines (includes 9 spares); 75 Link-16 Systems (includes 9 spares); 75 Improved Programmable Display Generators (iPDG) (includes 9 spares); 75 APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars (includes 9 spares); 75 Modular Mission Computers 7000AH (includes 9 spares); 75 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (includes 9 spares); 75 M61 Vulcan 20mm Guns (includes 9 spares); 138 LAU-129 Multipurpose Launchers; 6 FMU-139D/B Fuze for Guided Bombs; 6 FMU-139D/B Inert Fuze for Guided Bombs; 6 FMU 152 Fuze for Guided Bombs: 6 MK-82 Filled Inert Bombs for Guided Bombs and 3 KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) Tail Kits, GBU-38/54.
The F-16 Block 70 is the newest and most advanced F-16 production configuration, combining numerous capability and structural upgrades. Taiwan currently operates the older F-16A/B variant. The F-16 Block 70 features advanced avionics, a Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modernized cockpit, advanced weapons, conformal fuel tanks (CFT), an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), an advanced engine and an industry-leading extended structural service life of 12,000 hours. While the first of the new-build Block 70 F-16C/Ds are scheduled to arrive in 2023, in the meantime, the ROCAF’s upgraded F-16Vs (which it refers to as the F-16A/B Block 20 MLU) are set to play a vital role.