Pentagon Details Taiwan Air Force F-16 Modernization Plan

While formal request for the upgrade of Taiwan's F-16A/B (Block 20) fighters is still pending, According to the Defense Security Coope...

While formal request for the upgrade of Taiwan's F-16A/B (Block 20) fighters is still pending, According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Economic and Cultural Representative Office of Taipei is seeking to sustain continued long-term support of its pilot training program, and logistics support for the 18 F-16 aircraft stationed with the 21st fighter squadron at Luke Air Force Base. Photo: taiwanairpower.org

After dragging Taiwan’s request for 66 new F-16C/Ds for five years, the U.S. administration seems to agree to upgrade the island state’s 145 F-16A/B fighters for a hefty budget of up to US$5.3 Billion, reflecting an average cost of more than $36 million per aircraft. The package includes the integration of an unspecified AESA radar, helmet mounted cueing system (JHMCS) supporting AIM-9X air/air missiles and advanced electronic warfare and self-protection systems. Targeting pods and precision guided munitions will also enhance the fighters’ air/ground capability.

The upgrade program includes 176 sets of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars; Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation Systems (GPS_INS) and 128 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS) and Night Vision Goggles sets expanding the aircraft fighting envelope using all-aspect air/air and precision targeted air/ground weaponry. The suppliers of the AESA radar have yet to be announced, but previous reports named Northrop Grumman (SABR) and Raytheon (RACR) as possible suppliers.

For the air/air mission the U.S. is ready to deliver 140 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and support systems. Upgrades to the APX-113 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) combined interrogator transponders and HAVE GLASS II which includes the ‘golden canopy’ derived from the F-22 Raptor and other treatments for radar and thermal signature reduction.

With the new upgrades, the U.S. offers a significant weapons package for the upgraded Viper, including GPS guided bombs (GBU-31v1 and GBU-38 JDAM), Laser JDAM (GBU-56) or GPS Enhanced Laser Guided Weapons (GBU-10 Enhanced Paveway II) and Enhanced Paveway III 200 pound laser guided bombs. Also included are CBU-105 sensor fused weapons.

Part of the upgrade will also include the modernization of the aircraft electronic warfare and self protection systems, to include the ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management systems. The package also includes upgrades to the islands’ 82 existing ALQ-184 Electronic countermeasures (ECM) pods, to incorporate Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology. Alternatively, the Pentagon offers new ECM pods (either AN/ALQ-211(V)9 Airborne Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDEWS) or AN/ALQ-131 pods, both delivered with DFRM).

Supporting precision strike and close-cooperation with ground forces, the Pentagon suggests equipping the Taiwanese Vipers will be equipped are 86 tactical data link terminals, deliver 26 advanced targeting pods – both the AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER  from Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-28 LITENING. In addition, Taiwan’s existing 28 Sharpshooter electro-optical infrared targeting pods will be upgraded. The new supply of targeting systems will double the number of Taiwan’s air force fighters carrying advanced targeting systems for use with precision guided weapons.

Through the modernization process the aircraft could also be fitted with improved engine, replacing the original F100-PW-220 powerplant with the latest model F100-PW-229 engines. Other upgrades could include the replacement of Modular Mission Computers, cockpit multifunction displays, communication equipment, Joint Mission Planning Systems.

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