A squadron of F-16 fighter planes will carry the Sharpshooter targeting pods as the guidance system for precision bombing missions in the Hankuang No. 19 exercise that is to kick off in mid-April, defense sources said yesterday.
It will be the first time that so many F-16s use the US-made Sharpshooter pods at the same time for the same missions.
The air force bought a total of 39 sets of Sharpshooter targeting pods and Pathfinder navigation pods for the F-16s.
The Sharpshooter and Pathfinder are export versions of the targeting and navigation systems that comprise the LANTIRN (Low-altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night) system for the F-16s of the US Air Force.
Taiwan's air force chose to buy the Sharpshooter mainly because of its ability to deliver laser-guided bombs with pinpoint accuracy by day or by night.
In the live-fire parts of the Hankuang No. 19 exercise, the F-16s will carry the Sharpshooter pods for precision bombing missions. The Paveway II laser-guided bomb will be the only choice if the air force wants to use the Sharpshooter in these tests.
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"With the Sharpshooter, the air force's F-16s can carry out bombing missions either day or night. It means a lot to us," Jan said.
In actual combat, the main bombing targets for the F-16s equipped with the Sharpshooter pods would be valuable military assets along China's southeastern coast.
The central command of the Chinese military in the region, which is equivalent to Taiwan's Hengshan command, is on the target list. It is located in Fuzhou, Fujian Province.
With increased combat capabilities, the F-16s are expected to become an effective deterrent against Chinese aggression.
A high-ranking air force official, who spoke in private, said he does not know how to thank former air force leaders for choosing the F-16s as the main fighter planes for the country.
In related news, the locally built Indigenous Defense Fighter aircraft (IDFs) are also to participate in the live-fire parts of the Hankuang No. 19 exercise.
The participating IDFs, mainly those based in Tainan, will drop bombs in the drills.
The IDF is renowned for its superior air-to-air combat capabilities, but is much less known for its land- or surface-attack capabilities.
Due to limitations in power and structure, the IDF cannot carry the heavier bombs, such as the one-tonne bombs carried by larger US aircraft.
The IDF is capable of carrying the domestically built Hsiung Feng-II anti-ship missile for surface attack missions. But so far, the air force has not tried to deploy that missile on the IDF.
Only the locally built AT-3 fighter trainer has been used as the platform to test-fire the air-launched version of the Hsiung Feng-II.