OVER the next two years, Taiwan will receive 66 General Dynamics F-16V Block 70 jets and begin sending pilots to the United States for training this year. As many as 65 Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) pilots will be sent to the US for an entire year of specialised tactical training with the Ministry of National Deefense (MND) budget for 2024. The initial batch of the 66 jets are to be received this year with the order being fulfilled by 2026.
The US agreed to sell the 66 jets Taiwan in 2019 in a programme codenamed ‘Project Soaring Phoenix’ for almost USD8 billion. The original delivery of one single-seater and another tandem-seater was scheduled for 2023, but it was delayed. Despite the delay, the plan to fulfill the order is still unchanged, with the first aircraft expected to be completed and shipped by the third quarter of 2024.
To reinforce the ROCAF’s combat capabilities in the face of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), the MND expended USD4.56 billion to upgrade 140 units of F-16V Block 20 fighters which were completed last year. Additionally, an allocation of USD315 million for six MS-110 reconnaissance pods to equip the F-16V jets with. Simultaneously, five personnel will be sent to US to be trained on the platform, covering all aspects of using, maintaining and training to use the MS-110.
Moreover, to accommodate the new aircraft, the ROCAF made organisational changes last year, with the 7th Squadron which was originally based in Taitung’s Chihhang Air Base has since been reorganised into a tactical fighter wing comprised of three combat teams. At the same time, flight training for F-16V pilots which were previously handled by the Air Force Academy will now be conducted by the newly formed Air Force Flight Training Command (AFFTC) which will be headed by a Major General. The unit will also be responsible for the training and logistical support of other ROCAF aircraft types, ranging from the T-5 Brave Eagle, AT-3 Tzu Chung, and Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor. shp/adj/dl (Pix:ROC Air Force)