Taipei--Taiwan's state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) said it has begun an upgrade of the country's fleet of U.S.-manufactured F-16 fighter jets and that the work is expected to be completed within six years.
The first batch of four F-16s is being upgraded at the AIDC's plant, said the company, adding that a new hangar will be launched soon to facilitate the retrofit program.
In order to carry out the program locally, the manufacturer of the jets -- Lockheed Martin in the United States -- sent its engineers to Taiwan last year and helped train local personnel at the AIDC on how to perform the upgrades to improve the aircraft's combat capability.
According to the AIDC, the retrofit program will include installing advanced equipment on the fighters, including the AN/APG active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, currently used in the U.S. F-22 and F-35 fighter aircraft. The Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and the short-range air-to-air missile AIM-9 Sidewinder will also be installed.
The aircraft's avionics and weapons systems will also be replaced, the AIDC said.
Under the Air Force-led project, Taiwan will spend NT$110 billion (US$3.39 billion) to upgrade 142 fighters in its F-16A/B fleet locally, with the other two planes being upgraded in the United States by the manufacturer.
The U.S. approved a sale of 150 F-16A/B fighters to Taiwan in 1992. Over the years, Taiwan has lost six of them in accidents.
The F-16 is one of the three main types of combat aircraft in Taiwan's Air Force.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel