Taiwan Begins its F-16 Upgrade Process


Taiwanese defense has become an even more significant factor as the PRC reaches out deeper into the Pacific.

A key element of the effort to enhance Taiwanese defense capabilities is the process of upgrading its legacy F-16s.

In so doing, a key element of the upgrade process is the incorporation of the Northrop Grumman SABR radar, a major enhancement which enables their F-16 force to work more effectively with coalition fifth generation aircraft as well.

According to an article by Yiu Kai-hsiang and Evelyn Kao published on October 3, 2018 by the Taiwanese Central News Agency:

The Taiwanese Air Force is scheduled to take delivery of its first four upgraded F-16 fighter jets in the next six months, a military official said Wednesday during a legislative session.

The first of the four upgraded F-16s has completed combat flight-testing and all four aircraft in the first batch to be delivered in six months are currently undergoing ground testing by state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC), said Liu Jen-yuan (劉任遠), chief of staff of the Air Force.

Liu was responding to a lawmaker’s question about progress in the upgrading of the Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) 4 F-16 A/B jets into F-16Vs.

The fighters are part of a NT$110 billion (US$3.64 billion) government program to launch a domestic upgrade that transforms Taiwan’s 144 F-16 A/B jets into F-16Vs, the largest and most important upgrade ever undertaken by the Air Force.

In order to carry out the upgrade locally, the manufacturer of the jets — Lockheed Martin in the United States — sent engineers to Taiwan last year to help train local personnel at AIDC on how to perform the upgrades.

According to AIDC, the retrofit program includes installing advanced equipment in the fighters, including the AN/APG active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, currently used in U.S. F-22 and F-35 fighters.

And an article by Andrew McLaughlin published on October 22, 2018 by our partner Australian Defence Business Review added further details as well.

The first of about 140 considerably upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16Vs has been re-delivered to the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) in Taiwan.

The RoCAF F-16 fleet are F-16A Block 20s built in the early 1990s, but will be substantially upgraded to the F-16V configuration with the addition of an AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, large-format high-resolution cockpit display, a high-volume high-speed data bus, and a Link-16 datalink. 

Also included in the F-16V upgrade is a Sniper advanced targeting pod, the AIM-9X AAM, conformal fuel tanks, precision GPS navigation, a modular mission computer, a Terma ALQ-213(V) electronic warfare suite, automated ground collision avoidance system, new heavier-gauge landing gear and other structural modifications, and a helmet-mounted cueing system.

The upgraded aircraft was the first performed by AIDC in Taiwan from a kit supplied by Lockheed Martin, and AIDC is expected to conduct up to 28 upgrades per year from kits until the fleet is complete in late 2022. The aircraft will be based at Chiayi and Hualien bases.

A training detachment of RoCAF F-16s is currently based at Luke AFB is Arizona, and is scheduled to soon relocate to Davis Monthan AFB as Luke transitions to an all-F-35 facility.

A key element of the upgrade is the new Northrop Grumman SABR Radar, which is also part of the Block 70 offering to India.


According to Northrop Grumman, the new SABR radar provides “fifth generation fighter radar capability for 4th generation aircraft.”

The APG-83 is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fire control radar.

Building on Northrop Grumman’s 40-year legacy producing radars for the F-16, it integrates within the F-16’s current structural, power and cooling constraints without Group A aircraft modification.

The capabilities of this advanced AESA are derived from Northrop Grumman’s family of highly successful 5th generation fighter AESA radars, the F-22’s APG-77 and F-35’s APG-81.