The F-16 ‘Viper’ fighter jet has received the ‘initial combat capability’ clearance from its first international customer, the Republic of China Air Force (Taiwan).
US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is pitching the same Block 70 variant to India by redesignating it as F-21.
According to reports, Taiwan has successfully completed the upgrade of 42 of its 141 F-16A/B fighter jets to the F-16 V standard. Eventually, all the F-16s in its fleet would be upgraded by 2023, for which work is being carried out by the local company Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation with support from Lockheed Martin.
These fighter jets are stated to be essential for the defensive capabilities of the island nation, which is being constantly threatened by Beijing.
Later this month, a ceremony will be held marking the official induction of these F-16Vs into service. The event is also expected to be attended by President Tsai-Ing-Wen, but in the meantime, it has been deemed fit for limited-scale operations.
While it is still far from getting even close to PLAAF’s might, these planes could prove to be a credible deterrence and ‘put up a good fight’ against the Chinese assets.
Sincere thanks to @StateDept for notifying Congress of the sale of 66 #F16 Block 70 aircraft. The US$8 billion deal is a vote of confidence in #Taiwan–#US relations & will help us maintain cross-strait peace & defend our democracy. JW https://t.co/77e2NlzWLi
(via @LockheedMartin) pic.twitter.com/hHr67tC1Cm
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) ?? (@MOFA_Taiwan) August 21, 2019
More than 60 percent of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing fleet has been upgraded, and the new Vipers would operate alongside Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo to intercept possible aerial incursions made by the PLAAF.
Such incursions had increased last year with China threatening to attack Taiwan as Beijing considers the island nation as part of its territory
In 2019, the RoCAF had requested the United States to supply it with 66 F-16 Block-70 ‘Viper’ fighter jets, following this, the Trump administration approved a whopping $62-billion contract to Lockheed Martin in August last year.
The F-16 ‘Viper’
The F-16 Viper is termed as the ‘most technologically advanced 4th generation fighter jet in the world’ by the parent company Lockheed Martin. It features AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a new mission computer and electronic warfare suite, an automated ground collision avoidance system, and various cockpit improvements.
These additions are offered as options for the current production F-16s and also as upgrade packages, which can be retrofitted into most in-service F-16s.
Lockheed Martin also redesignated the F-16V Block 70 as the ‘F-21’ in its offering for India’s fighter requirement with some additional features.