Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Government to increase budget for F-16 upgrades

BALANCE:Most of the additional funds are earmarked to boost the number and types of missiles the aircraft can carry, to maintain parity with Chinese warplanes

By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

An air force F-16 taxies at Chiayi Air Base on Aug. 7.

Photo: Lin Yi-chang, Taipei Times

The Ministry of National Defense is to increase the budget to upgrade the air force’s F-16 warplane fleet from NT$129.6 billion to NT$140.2 billion (US$4.21 billion to US$4.56 billion), a high-ranking defense official said yesterday.

Most of the budget increase aims to boost the number and types of air-to-air missiles the aircraft can carry, said the official, who declined to be named.

Better missiles are necessary to maintain parity between the upgraded F-16s and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s tactical fighters, the official said.

Details of the missile portion of the budget would be disclosed to lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee when the Legislative Yuan reviews the national defense budget for fiscal 2019, the official said.

After the fatal crash of an F-16 piloted by major Wu Yen-ting (吳彥霆) during the annual Han Kuang military exercises in June, the military has decided to install the latest version of the automated ground collision avoidance system, which would also be covered by the additional funding, they said.

The system, which has been installed in the US Air Force’s F-16 fleet, enables the aircraft to pull up before crashing into the ground independently of pilot input, which is advantageous in instances where a pilot has been incapacitated or otherwise fails to take action to avoid controlled flight into terrain, they added.

The Republic of China Air Force’s standard-issue equipment for that purpose is the equivalent of the enhanced ground proximity warning system utilized by civilian airliners, the official said.

The proximity warning system is designed to emit an audio warning to the pilot when an aircraft is dangerously close to the ground, but it is not capable of taking action independently of the pilot, they said.

The US government has agreed to supply the armaments and equipment identified in the budget, while an earlier scheme for F-16V performance improvement packages — which is to be completed by 2023 — is to be followed as planned, the official said.

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