Taiwan is ready to deploy upgraded F-16 fighters against China

Taiwan F16 Viper operational
Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) F-16 fighter.

The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) said in recent days that it is ready to deploy its upgraded F-16 fighter aircraft for operational missions.

According to reports, Taiwan has successfully completed the upgrade of 42 of its 141 F-16A/B fighters to the advanced F-16V (or Block 70) standard with the entire fleet expected to be completed by 2023. A formal handover ceremony is scheduled for the end of the month, in the presence of President Tsai Ing-wen.

The upgraded jets will be assigned to the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing in Chiayi, on the west coast of Taiwan, where they will become the Air Force's flagship aircraft. Their capabilities are now greatly enhanced thanks to the AN/APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, new mission computer and electronic warfare suite, automated ground collision avoidance system and various cockpit improvements.

The new fleet will play a key role in national defense, it will act as a deterrent against aerial invasions by Chinese fighters. While Taiwan's combat fleet remains smaller than that of the People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), these aircraft will represent a credible deterrence against Chinese assets. China increased Taiwanese airspace violations last year with Beijing threatening to attack Taiwan as it is considered part of Chinese territory.

More than 60% of ROCAF's F-16 fleet has been upgraded and the Vipers will operate alongside French-built Dassault Mirage 2000 jets and indigenous AIDC F-CK-1 fighters.

In 2019, Taipei applied to the United States for authorization to purchase 66 F-16 Block 70 Viper fighter jets under the Foreign Military Sales. That request resulted in a massive $ 62 billion contract with Lockheed Martin in August 2020.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

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