Eighteen of Taiwan’s F-16A/B jets have been upgraded this year under a joint Taiwan-US program to help the nation boost its air defense capabilities, the military said on Thursday.
The upgraded F-16s are among 141 jets Taiwan asked the US to help modernize in 2011 under a NT$110 billion (US$3.86 billion) joint venture between Aerospace Industrial Development Corp and Lockheed Martin, the military said.
With 123 aircraft still to be modernized, the companies are seeking to accelerate the pace of the project, which has lagged behind schedule, in the hope of completing the upgrades by 2023, it said.
Delivery of 66 new F-16V Block 70 jets that the air force purchased from the US in a deal last year is to be completed by 2026, after which the aircraft would be deployed at Taitung County’s Chihhang Air Base, it added.
The nation’s F-16Vs are to be equipped with ALQ-184 electronic attack pods, instead of ALQ-131 FMS pods, based on a January 2012 legislative resolution stipulating that the air force “procure the same equipment used by the US Air Force to ensure consistency in weapons deployment and maintenance,” the military said.
In addition, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency on Oct. 22 announced three arms sales packages to Taiwan, including MS-110 air reconnaissance pods to be installed in the F-16 fleet and related equipment at an estimated cost of US$367.2 million.
Taiwan and the US are expected to sign a letter of acceptance next year, after which Taiwan would make a down payment and take delivery of the pods and related equipment from 2022 to 2024, the military said.
The MS-110 sensor, the next generation of the DB-110 reconnaissance system developed by Collins Aerospace, provides advanced day and night wide-area, long-range reconnaissance capability.
The MS-110 system is an advancement over the third generation DB-110, providing multispectral detection capabilities, higher resolution and increased coverage, Collins Aerospace’s Web site says.
In other news, the head of the military’s top research unit on Wednesday said that Taiwan is likely to acquire two key components next month as part of its ongoing construction of the nation’s first indigenous submarine.
Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology president Art Chang (張忠誠) made the comments in response to lawmakers’ questions about when Taiwan would obtain an integrated combat system and a digital sonar system from the US.
Taiwan’s state-run shipbuilder officially began construction of the nation’s first indigenous submarine at a ceremony in Kaohsiung presided over by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Tuesday last week.
Previous reports said that the US had not yet issued export permits for the components, which could hinder the project.
Taiwan’s navy said the deal for the parts has been finalized and approved, and the submarine’s construction has begun on schedule.
Military sources had said earlier that the technologies needed to design and build a submarine have been designated red, yellow and green, with red denoting technology such as the main diesel engine, torpedoes and missile systems, which Taiwan could not build on its own.
The yellow parts were difficult to obtain, but could be made in Taiwan, while the green components were more likely to be made domestically, the sources said.
The two key components are coded red and must be imported, they said.
The indigenous submarine project was initiated in 2016 to bolster the nation’s aging fleet of four submarines with eight new diesel-electric models, the first of which could enter service by 2025.
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