Taipei-Taiwan has completed the upgrade of 42 of its 141 F-16A/Bs fighter jets to F-16Vs, which can "detect enemies earlier and have a longer striking range," Air Force Chief of Staff Huang Chih-wei (???) said Wednesday.
The 42 F-16Vs will be allocated to the Fourth Tactical Fighter Wing, making it the first Air Force unit in the country to have only F-16V aircraft, Huang said during a legislative session, in response to lawmakers' questions on the progress of the F-16 upgrade project.
A formal handover ceremony will be held at the end of the month, with President Tsai Ing-wen (???) as a special guest, Huang said.
In 2016, the Air Force launched a program to retrofit its F-16 A/Bs as F-16Vs, which are equipped with more advanced avionics, including the APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, Helmet Mounted Cueing System, as well as other flight management and electronic warfare systems.
Taiwan's state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) and the U.S.-based defense firm Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-16, were commissioned to complete the program before 2023, at an estimated cost of NT$110 billion (US$3.7 billion).
Huang told legislators that the F-16V can bring all of Taiwan's airspace within its striking range.
In addition to the retrofitted F-16 A/Bs, Taiwan has also purchased 66 new F-16Vs from the U.S., with delivery expected to start in 2023.
Meanwhile, on the question of the Air Force's operational expenses due to the increased "harassment" by China's military, Huang said an additional NT$2.1 billion has been allocated for 2021, which "should be enough."
In 2020, the Air Force spent NT$30 billion on its efforts to intercept China's military planes that entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) , according to data provided by legislators.
In response to their questions on the issue, Huang said it costs roughly NT$150,000 per hour to deploy F-16s in such situations, NT$220,000 for AIDC F-CK-1s, and NT$200,000 for P-3C anti-submarine aircraft.
On the issue of tensions in the South China Sea, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (???) said during the legislative hearing that Taiwan has no plans to bolster its presence on Taiping Island by deploying Marines there.
In 2000, all Taiwanese military troops that had been deployed to Taiping Island, which lies 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung, were recalled and replaced by Coast Guard personnel, in an effort to de-escalate tensions in the area.
Chiu also confirmed media reports that the U.S. had approved the export of "red zone" military technologies, referring to sensitive items such as the combat system, sonar system and periscope for Taiwan's indigenous submarine program.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel