Military airframer Lockheed Martin will receive $18 million to extend the service life of Taiwan’s legacy Block 20 F-16 fighters.

The Pentagon on 31 August approved a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract on behalf of Taipei for the Taiwan F-16 Block 20 Service Life Extension (SLE) programme, according to a Department of Defense contract announcement. 

Taiwan Lockheed Martin F-16V

Source: Republic of China Air Force

While Taiwan is purchasing the latest F-16V variant of the Lockheed Martin fighter, the country is also upgrading its existing fleet to that standard and extending the jet’s service life

The SLE refurbishment package will restore and strengthen the airframe and wings on Taiwan’s ageing F-16A/B Block 20 jets – adding thousands of hours and decades of service life to each of the country’s multi-role fighters.

When the US Air Force began SLEs on its F-16C/Ds in 2017, service leaders said aerostructure strength improvements would add 4,000h to each aircraft’s service life – increasing that operating threshold to 12,000h, which will keep the jets flying until 2050.

“The programme combines a dozen structural modifications into one repeatable package – from bulkheads to wings and canopy,” the USAF said at the time.

The SLE work on Taiwan’s F-16s is expected to be complete by December 2024.

Taipei is in the midst of a substantial defence build-up, amid rising tensions with neighbouring China over the future of the self-governing island territory – which Beijing claims as its own.

Taiwan plans to upgrade 141 of its F-16A/Bs to the latest Block 70 standard. The Republic of China air force is also in the process of procuring 66 new F-16Vs from Lockheed, although delivery of these has been delayed.

Washington also recently approved a $500 million purchase request from Taipei for infrared search and track sensors to pair with its fighter fleet.