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Taiwan begins upgrading old F-16A/Bs to F-16V-standard
September 20, 2019
An F-16V unit. Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Taiwan begins upgrading old F-16A/Bs to F-16V-standard

Lockheed Martin and Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) have initiated the process of upgrading the Republic of China Air Force’s (ROCAF) 144 F-16A/B Block-20 multi-role fighter aircraft to F-16V-standards, Taipei Times reports.

The centerpiece of the ROCAF F-16V upgrade is the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, which promises to confer the legacy Fighting Falcon with improved electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) qualities.

The F-16V also comprises of a modernized avionics suite, including a new flight management system, and compatibility with the AIM-9X high off-boresight (HOBS) air-to-air missile (AAM).

Notes & Comments:

Taiwan ordered 150 F-16A/B Block-20s from the U.S. in 1992. The Block-20 is essentially the Block-15 built with Mid-Life-Update (MLU) subsystems from the onset.

As per the Taipei Times, the ROCAF F-16V upgrade program – designated Phoenix Rising Project – is valued at USD $3.47 billion. However, the commonly cited cost-figure of the program is USD $1.85 billion (IHS Jane’s). The latter price-point is also close to the South Korean F-16 upgrade program, which sits at USD $1.2 billion for 170 KF-16C/D Block-50/52 (IHS Jane’s). It is not known if the ROCAF F-16V program involves structural replenishment, which would explain the additional cost.

As per Lockheed Martin (Defense News), 300 F-16s (from Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore) have been slotted for the F-16V upgrade. The company expects an additional 200 aircraft to undergo the upgrade in Greece, Turkey and Egypt. However, it is important to note that Turkey is working on a bespoke upgrade with Aselsan tasked to source an AESA radar (in lieu of Northrop Grumman).

Pakistan was also reportedly in talks with Turkey to upgrade up to 74 F-16s in 2016, though as per TAI’s CEO, the package will be determined by the PAF and Lockheed Martin (if brought to fruition). It is not known if Pakistan is seeking to upgrade its F-16s along similar lines as the F-16V.