Upgraded F-16s a testament to solid Taiwan-U.S. partnership: Tsai

President Tsai Ing-wen (???) said Thursday that the commissioning of upgraded F-16Vs will boost Taiwan's modern warfare capabilities, describing it as a testament to the nation's solid partnership with the United States.

Tsai made the remarks during a commissioning ceremony for the newly upgraded F-16Vs held at Chiayi Air Base in southern Taiwan.

In her address, the president said the ceremony marked a new chapter in the nation's Air Force history, one that was significant in terms of Taiwan's relationship with Washington and the nation's aerospace technology.

The retrofit program will see the Air Force's F-16A/Bs upgraded into F-16Vs, which are equipped with more advanced avionics and electronic warfare systems.

The upgrade program is a joint initiative undertaken by Taiwan's military and Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. with help from U.S.-based Lockheed Martin.

Given that the upgraded jets are the result of cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. defense industry, this was proof of the further advancement of two countries' friendship and a testimony to the strong, solid promises made by two close partners, according to Tsai.

"As long as we continue to uphold the shared values of democracy and freedom, more like-minded countries will definitely join and stand with us in the same line," Tsai said.

Tsai continued by saying that the upgraded fighters also marked a major step forward for Taiwan's domestic defense industry.

More importantly, the enhanced stealth and long-range censors of the F-16Vs will boost the fighters' combat capabilities in modern warfare settings, she added.

Thursday's ceremony saw the commissioning of three F-16V combat squadrons listed under the Air Force's 4th Tactical Fighter Wing based in Chiayi.

These F-16Vs are former F-16A/Bs that have been upgraded as part of a program launched by the Air Force in 2016.

The program included a retrofit of all of its 141 F-16 A/Bs into F-16Vs, which are equipped with more advanced avionics, including APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a Helmet Mounted Cueing System, and other flight management and electronic warfare systems.

The Air Force said Wednesday that it has already successfully upgraded 64 of the total 141 F-16 A/B jet fighters to the new F-16V standards.

During Thursday's commissioning ceremony, over 15 fighter jets took part in aerial maneuvers, performing formation flying, while a F-16V solo demonstration was held to highlight the capabilities of the upgraded fighters.

In addition, the nation's Thunder Tigers aerobatic display team also put on a show to mark the occasion.

On the ground, the Air Force loaded 12 F-16Vs with AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, the AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, GBU-10 Paveway high-explosive laser-guided bombs, to showcase the fighter's combat capabilities.

Commenting on the upgraded jets, F-16V pilots, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Lin Hsuan-chi (???) and Major Hu Cheng-yu (???), both praised the newly installed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which gives them edge when detecting enemy aircraft earlier, as it is capable of detecting and track targets at long range.

Hu also noted that F-16A/B could only choose on combat mode, either on the ground or in air, but the F-16Vs can track multiple targets at a time.

According to Chieh Chung (??), an associate research fellow with local thinktank National Policy Foundation, the core of the F-16V configuration is an AESA radar, which provides multimode surveillance capability and has improved all-environment precision strike capability compared with the radar for the older F-16s.

The multifaceted F-16V is highly maneuverable as it integrates advanced capabilities, said Su Tzu-Yun (???), a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

The F-16Vs, widely regarded as having the same "DNA" as that of advanced F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, are expected to boost the nation's air defense and combat capabilities in the future, he added.

In addition to the retrofit program that is still ongoing, Taiwan has also purchased 66 new F-16Vs from the United States, with delivery expected to start in 2023.

The 66 F-16Vs will be deployed at the Taitung Air Base in eastern Taiwan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel