Taiwan has commenced local work to upgrade 144 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B fighters to the new F-16V standard.
Four aircraft were flown to the Taichung production facility of Aerospace Industry Development Corporation (AIDC), according to local media reports quoting the Taiwanese air force.
The upgrade work, which was due to have started in 2016, will see the entire fleet upgraded within five years.
The work will see the implantation of upgrades to the mission computer, airframe, cockpit instruments, and electronic warfare system. The jets will also receive an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar in the form of Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar.
The project involves AIDC essentially installing a kit originally developed by Lockheed Martin.
The upgrade is an important step for Taipei given the age of its fleet as well as the rapid growth of Beijing’s military capabilities in recent years.
Originally, Taipei wanted both the upgrade programme as well as an additional 66 F-16 C/Ds.
The Obama administration ruled out the sale of new aircraft.
President-elect Donald Trump, however, has taken a far more confrontational tone with Beijing, even questioning the sanctity of the ‘One China’ policy, which regards Taiwan as a part of China.