Taiwan is the first nation to deploy upgraded F-16V jets in combat units, which should greatly bolster the air force’s capabilities, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday.
The upgrades were undertaken by Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (漢翔航空工業), the nation’s largest civilian and military aircraft manufacturer, in cooperation with Lockheed Martin.
Tsai made the remarks during a visit to Chiayi County’s Shueishang (水上) Air Force Base, where she was briefed about an air wing’s reception of and transition to F-16V jets, and the training involved.
Twenty-three pilots completed their training last year, seven of whom obtained flight instructor qualification.
Being the first in the world to have combat-ready F-16Vs is an accomplishment that makes the nation proud and bolsters the air force’s capabilities, Tsai said.
She added that she hoped her visit would help boost morale at the base, after a tragedy on Jan. 2, when a UH-60M Black Hawk crashed, killing eight people.
Tsai said she has kept officers and staff at the base in mind, as some of them might have known those who perished in the crash.
The Black Hawk carrying then-chief of the general staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) and his entourage to Dongaoling Base (東澳嶺) in Yilan County crashed in New Taipei City’s Wulai District (烏來).
Of the 13 people on board, only five survived. The deceased included Shen and seven military officials.
“Losses serve to make us stronger and braver,” Tsai said, commending the rescue team for mounting a search-and-rescue operation for a separate incident two days after the crash.
Tsai said she would endeavor to make the military proud of wearing the uniform, adding that defending the nation would “never just be the sole responsibility of the military.”
She asked base personnel to keep alert and attend to their duties over the Lunar New Year holiday.
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