The 4th Tactical Fighter Wing of Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force held a ceremony to welcome their upgraded F16V Block 20s at an air base in the southern Taiwanese city of Chiayi. With their enhanced system and avionics, the Vipers carry on their duty to defend Taiwan sky. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen commissioned the first combat wing of F-16 fighters upgraded with U.S. help to bolster the island’s defences during rising tensions between Taipei and Beijing. Frequent Chinese and U.S. military exercises in the region have raised fears of conflict touched off by a crisis over democratically-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.
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. 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.
Under the Phoenix Rising program, Taiwan is upgrading its fleet of 144 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B Block 20 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft to the F-16V configuration. As part of the upgrade, the jets will be installed with Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, new mission computers, and more advanced avionics and electronic warfare suite. The upgraded jet will also have the capability to be armed with new precision-guided weapons. The total cost of the program is estimated to be around $5.3 billion. The upgrades are being conducted by the Taiwanese state-owned aviation company, Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC).
The first upgraded jet was delivered to ROC Air Force in 2018 and the project is expected to be completed by 2023. In August 2019, the U.S. State Department approved the FMS sale of 66 F-16C/D Block 70 fighter aircraft, along with related equipment and support, to Taiwan for an estimated cost of $8 billion. The F-16 Block 70 features advanced avionics, an AN/APG-83 SABR 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.