November 19, 2021 (by Lieven Dewitte) - On Wednesday, Taiwan officially commissioned the first combat wing completely equipped with the upgraded F-16V jets, in a ceremony at Chiayi Air Base.
RoCAF F-16A block 72V #6701 is spotted during a test flight at Ching Chuan Kang AB right after conversion on November 8th, 2019. [Photo by Jeroen Bos]
The 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Tactical Fighter Groups of the RoCAF
's 4th Tactical Fighter Wing are based in Chiayi. The 21st Tactical Fighter Group is the first unit to fully convert to the F-16V, with the ROCAF reporting that the service already has 64 upgraded jets on hand.
This is out of a total of 141 F-16s, which are the surviving aircraft from a batch of 150 F-16A single-seat and F-16B twin-seat block 20
aircraft delivered in the late 1990s.
The Phoenix Rising upgrade incorporates Northrop Grumman's AN/APG-83 scalable agile beam radar, a new mission computer, and enhanced electronic warfare equipment such as the Terma AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management systems.
The Rockwell Collins-Elbit Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, which permits off-boresight targeting of opposing aircraft during air combat, and a newer identifying friend-or-foe system are among the other improved systems.
The F-16 upgrading program in Taiwan
is estimated to cost $3.96 billion and will last until 2023.
In addition to the modernization effort, the island is purchasing 66 new-build F-16 Block 70/72 aircraft from the US to replace its aging fleet of Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II interceptors to better face down China's air force, notably its J-20 stealth fighter.
The F-16Vs can also carry Raytheon's sophisticated AIM-9X Sidewinder
In the face of China's growing desire to reclaim the self-governing island, which it regards as a renegade province, Taiwan is scrambling to upgrade its security.
China has stated repeatedly that it prefers a peaceful reintegration of Taiwan into the mainland, but has refused to rule out the use of force. Following their defeat in the Chinese Civil War, remnants of Chinese nationalist forces retreated to the island, resulting in the founding of modern Taiwan in 1949.