Taiwan has placed the value of its Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B upgrade programme at NT$110 billion ($3.7 billion) and said talks with the US government about the upgrade are going smoothly.

In a statement on its website, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense added that it has yet to firm up a detailed list of the upgrade's contents. The upgrade will ultimately affect about 152 Republic of China Air Force F-16 A/Bs.

The ministry issued the statement to rebut local media reports that Taiwan's military had cut NT$50 billion from other programmes to pay for the upgrade.

The NT$110 billion figure is lower than the $5.3 billion figure stated by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) when it announced the upgrade had been approved in September 2011.

If implemented as per the DSCA announcement, the package would make Taiwan's F-16s among the most capable in the world. It envisaged 176 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, 176 Terma ALQ-213 electronic warfare management systems, 128 joint helmet-mounted cueing systems and several other avionics and systems upgrades.

Weapons included in the package were the Raytheon AIM-9X air-to-air missile as well as several surface attack weapons.

In November 2011, regional neighbour South Korea kicked off a competition to upgrade its 134 F-16s with AESA radars.

The AESA competitions in both countries are of intense interest to the US, which has yet to announce a formal upgrade programme for its large fleet of F-16s.

At the August 2011 Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition and the October 2011 Seoul Air Show, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon promoted their F-16 AESA options, the Northrop scalable agile beam radar (SABR) and the Raytheon advanced combat radar (RACR).

Industry observers are all but unanimous that the first company to win an AESA upgrade competition will be able to establish a de facto monopoly in the F-16 AESA market.

Source: Flight International