Republic of China Air Force F-16 Fighter Jet
Republic of China Air Force F-16 Fighter Jet

Lockheed Martin to Provide Kapton Harness Replacement on Taiwan’s F-16A/B Aircrafts

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a $33,628,994 firm fixed price contract modification (P00085) to previously awarded contract for F-16 retrofit. This contract modification provides for the Kapton replacement harness installation, harness one-time inspections, and aircraft mod line extension of 140 Taiwan F-16A/B aircraft under the basic contract. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas; and Taiwan, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2023. Foreign Military Sales funds for $33,628,994 will be obligated at the time of the award. The total cumulative face value of the contract is $2,855,817,667. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright? Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

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.

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 21st Fighter Squadron Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force F-16s
21st Fighter Squadron Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force F-16s

The Republic of China Air Force operates a total of 150 F-16A/B blocks 20 aircraft, which are essentially identical to MLU aircraft. Taiwan is planning to acquire 66 F-16C/D blocks 70 aircraft shortly, mainly to counter the perceived threat from mainland China. Although the Taiwanese F-16s are build to MLU standards, they are becoming a bit obsolete and certainly compared with the new hardware mainland China has put into place over the past years. To counter this a $5.3 billion deal was put forward to update the existing F-16s. In 2016 it became apparent that a larger update package was anticipated, covering most items previously mentioned (including the PF100-PW-229 engines). Lockheed expanded this package further ultimately becoming a new subblock. The package is called F-16V configuration, which is also represented as new-build block 70 airframes.

Kapton is a polyimide film used in flexible printed circuits (flexible electronics) and space blankets, which are used on spacecraft, satellites, and various space instruments. Kapton-insulated electrical wiring has been widely used in civil and military aircraft because it is lighter than other insulators and has good insulating and temperature characteristics. However, Kapton insulation ages poorly: an FAA study shows degradation in hot, humid environments or the presence of seawater. It was found to have very poor resistance to mechanical wear, mainly abrasion within cable harnesses due to aircraft movement. Many aircraft models have had to undergo extensive rewiring modifications—sometimes completely replacing all the Kapton-insulated wiring—because of short circuits caused by the faulty insulation. Kapton-wire degradation and chafing due to vibration and heat have been implicated in multiple crashes of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, with loss of life.

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