Taiwan - F-16V Phoenix Rising
Taiwan is expected to become the first country in the world to operate an F-16V fleet. The defense ministry aims to complete a comprehensive upgrade of its entire F-16 fleet by 2023. Instead of meeting Taiwan's request to purchase 66 new F-16s to replace its aging fleet, U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011 decided to offer an upgrade to their existing aircraft as a modicum of improved defense but that would not flare tensions with Beijing. No president since George H.W. Bush has sold advanced fighter jets to Taiwan.
F-16 mechanically-scan radars have limited target handling capacity because existing mechanical scanning methods are inherently slow and require large amounts of power in order to respond rapidly enough to deal with large numbers of high-speed maneuvering targets. The F-16 Radar Modernization Program [RMP] is a risk mitigation effort designed to deliver fully-developed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars for integration on Foreign Military Sales and U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft. AESA radars are known for their superior capability than current operational radars. With mechanically-scanned systems, antenna inertia and inflexibility prevent employment of optimum radar beam positioning patterns that can reduce reaction times and increase target capacity. With electronic scanning, the radar beams are positioned almost instantaneously and completely without the inertia, time lags and vibration of mechanical radar systems.
The AESA could enable Taiwan’s F-16A/Bs to engage more hostile threats much farther out, thereby improving exchange rate and enhancing survivability, while increasing operational availability and significantly reducing support costs due to its much longer mean-time between failure (MTBF) performance.11 Finally, since electronically-scanned active arrays represent the future of airborne radars, adopting it within the next few years would ensure that the technology could remain viable for many years to come. This last point is particularly important, as adoption of AESA technology would permit the use of the new generation of network-enabled weapons (NEWs), which could give Taiwan an affordable means for precision engagement of large numbers of mobile surface targets (such as landing craft).
The RMP flight test efforts directly affect the AESA radar development for the F-16 Phoenix Rising Project for Taiwan, slated to begin at the end of 2015.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States requested September 21, 2011 a retrofit of 145 F-16A/B aircraft that includes sale of: 176 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars; 176 Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation Systems; 176 ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management systems; upgrade 82 ALQ-184 Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) pods to incorporate Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology or purchase new ECM pods (AN/ALQ-211(V)9 Airborne Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDEWS) with DRFM, or AN/ALQ-131 pods with DRFM); 86 tactical data link terminals; upgrade 28 electro-optical infrared targeting Sharpshooter pods; 26 AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER Targeting Systems or AN/AAQ-28 LITENING Targeting Systems; 128 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems; 128 Night Vision Goggles; 140 AIM-9X SIDEWINDER Missiles; 56 AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles; 5 AIM-9X Telemetry kits; 16 GBU-31V1 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) kits; 80 GBU-38 JDAM kits; Dual Mode/ Global Positioning System Laser-Guided Bombs (16 GBU-10 Enhanced PAVEWAY II or GBU-56 Laser JDAM, 80 GBU-12 Enhanced PAVEWAY II or GBU-54 Laser JDAM, 16 GBU-24 Enhanced PAVEWAY III); 64 CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapons with Wind-Corrected Munition Dispensers (WDMD); 153 LAU-129 Launchers with missile interface; upgrade of 158 APX-113 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe Combined Interrogator Transponders; and HAVE GLASS II applications. Also included are: ammunition, alternate mission equipment, engineering and design study on replacing existing F100-PW-220 engines with F100-PW-229 engines, update of Modular Mission Computers, cockpit multifunction displays, communication equipment, Joint Mission Planning Systems, maintenance, construction, repair and return, aircraft tanker support, aircraft ferry services, aircraft and ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support, test equipment, site surveys, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $5.3 billion.
Replacing the Block 20’s existing F100-PW-220 turbofan engines (23,930-lb thrust) was originally proposed as part of the upgrade, and the Congressional Notification even included an engineering study for a power plant upgrade using the F100-PW-229 (29,160-lb thrust) engine. But Taiwan decided not to go ahead with an engine upgrade for the F-16A/B fleet, at least for the time being, mainly out of cost considerations. The engine replacement, together with several other minor upgrade items, would have cost an additional US$1.8 billion (NT$52.95 billion), beyond the originally estimated US$5.3 billion (NT$156.38 billion) in the September 2011 Congressional Notification. upgrading the existing F100-PW-220 engine to a new, higher-thrust, and more efficient power plant would have allowed TAF to extend the useful service life of the upgraded Block 20 fleet well into the 2030s.
A total of 144 "F-16A/B" fighters will be upgraded to "F-16V". The first aircraft will be modified by Hanxiang Company starting in January 2017. In Taichung, in August 2018 the Ministry of Defense (MND) started testing on the air force’s newest F-16 Viper fighter jets that have undergone modernization upgrades as part of the “Phoenix Rising Project.” The F-16 is produced by Lockheed Martin, and the F-16V possesses several modifications implemented by Taiwan’s own state-backed Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC).
Reports state that the planned modernization of Taiwan’s fleet of 143 F-16A/Bs into F-16Vs includes updated radar, computer components, and modified landing gear. The computer components involve weapons systems that improve search, tracking, and targeting capabilities of the F-16V’s integrated AN/APG-83 radar system. The retrofit kit, dubbed V for "Viper," the F-16's nickname, will include Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modern avionics subsystem, a high-resolution screen, Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, and advanced weapons, among other features. The radar’s detection range on the modernized fighters is increased by 30 percent. Target detection capability is increased 220 percent, and the self-protection capability of the F-16V is increased by 180 percent.
The total modernization program of Taiwan’s F-16 fleet is estimated to cost about US$5.3 billion and is expected to be completed in 2022 or 2023. Asia Times reported that Taiwan already allocated US$4.2 billion to the project in January 2017. The MND expected that the first squadron of F-16V fighters will be combat ready by early 2019.
According to Taiwan News in November 2018, the Republic of China Air Force would replace its fleet of F-5 fighters at the Zhi-Hang Air Base with an F-16V procurement. In addition to the 66 jets, Taiwan is also considering an order of six F-16Vs to replace its crashed F-16A/B Block 20s, the National Interest reported, noting that the purchase could also include stipulations for "co-production and performance-based logistics (PBL)." Should the Taiwanese government decide to go forward with the F-16V purchase, first requesting a quote for the load, it is expected that the US will settle on a price sometime in mid-2019, Taiwan News reported, adding that the estimated price for the 66 jets is roughly $10 billion. Taiwan submitted an official request to the United States to purchase a fleet of new fighter jets to beef up its air defense capability, the Air Force confirmed 06 March 2019. The Air Force declined to say when the request was made, what model planes it was hoping to buy from the US, or how many. Asked to comment on an exclusive report published in the Apple Daily earlier in the day, the Air Force confirmed that it had made the request to the US via an official channel and said that its budget would be open to negotiation and would depend on what model aircraft the US decided to sell Taiwan.
According to the Apple Daily, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) on 27 February 2019 made a request to the US to purchase a fleet of 66 F-16V Viper fighter jets at a cost of US$13 billion, which would include missiles and related logistics and the training of pilots and maintenance personnel. Several sources familiar with the matter told CNA that the F-16V would be the preferred model to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-5A.
In response to media reports that “The electronic warfare system for 66 F-16C/Ds were not finalized in February so the initial delivery will not take place on schedule in 2023,” Air Force Headquarters issued a statement 21 March 2020 denying the report. The procurement of the new F-16V (BLK-70) fighter is proceeding in accordance with the schedule set by the US military and delivery time has not been affected. Air Force Headquarters added that the electronic warfare system for the F-16V (BLK-70) fighter is undergoing cost and performance analysis in the US. All items that fall under the scope of Special Act for New Fighter Acquisition are part of the Air Force procurement program and the media should not report pure guesswork.
On 23 September 2020 Taiwan's defense minister said that the U.S.-made F-16V fighter jet can outclass China's Chengdu J-20 in a dogfight. Yen De-fa made the comment at a hearing of legislative Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, which completed a preliminary review of a draft bill that would allow the government to create a special budget of up to NT$250 billion (US$8.07 billion) to buy 66 of the F-16V fighters from the US. the F-16V is a much more capable weapon due to its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which provides long-range search and track capability against airborne targets.
Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang on 12 November 2019 reported on the budget for the country's acquisition of 66 F-16V Block 70/72 fighter aircraft at the Legislative Yuan, according to Liberty Times. During the consultation for the "Special Regulations on the Purchase of New Types of Aircraft," People First Party (PFP) Legislator Chou Chen Hsiu-hsia inquired about the 56 single-seat fighters and ten two-seat fighter delivery schedule. Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa said that the first two, a single and a double-seater, will be delivered in 2023 and tested. From 2024 onwards, the F-16V Fighting Falcons will arrive in Taiwan in stages, with all orders expected to be delivered by 2026. With the expected completion in 2023 of upgrades to Taiwan’s existing 142-strong fleet of F-16A and F-16B fighter jets, the island expects to have a total of 208 F-16Vs by 2026.
The Pentagon reported that Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $62,000,000,000 ten-year, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity (IDIQ), fixed-price-incentive contract on 14 August 2020 for new production of F-16 Foreign Military Sale (FMS) aircraft. Surely the Pentagon had the numbers wrong, it could not be $62,000,000,000 for 66 aircraft, which is a billion a pop - easily 10 times the unit cost. Some of it is spares and maintenance and doo-dads, and it is an IDIQ contract, so maybe there are more planes.
But probably it is $6.2 billion contract that gets to 8 billion with training, maintenance, spare parts, etc. The total value for the initial delivery order is $4,941,105,246 and will be awarded on the same date. The initial delivery order is for 90 aircraft, including both the pre-priced recurring core configuration costs at $2,862,797,674 and the engineering change proposal/undefinitized contract action for the non-recurring costs not-to-exceed $2,078,307,572 obligated at approximately $1,018,370,710. Work will be primarily performed in Greenville, South Carolina; and Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed Dec. 31, 2026. This contract involves 100% FMS to FMS partner nations and is the result of a sole-source acquisition. FMS funds in the amount of $3,881,168,384 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (Basic IDIQ: FA8615-20-D-6052; initial delivery order: FA8615-20-F-0001).
Underscoring the sensitivity of the transaction, the Pentagon announced the contract without specifying the buyer, but a source familiar with the matter confirmed to AFP that it was Taiwan. The F-16V fighters, once purchased, will be stationed at Zhihang Air Base in Taitung County.
The deal involving 66 of the F-16V, the latest version of the F-16 fighter jet, would cost $8 billion, reports said at that time the deal was initially approved. The exchange rate to convert New Taiwan Dollar (TWD) to United States Dollar (USD) is about NT$29.40 = US$1.00.
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