Taiwan has officially commissioned its first F-16V combat wing as it upgrades its military hardware amid growing threats from mainland China, reported CNN news.
Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its air force, as the self-ruled island steps up its defense capabilities in the face of continuing threats from China, which claims it as part of its territory.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen commissioned into service 64 upgraded F-16V fighter jets at an air force base in Chiayi on Thursday. The aircraft represent part of Taiwan’s total 141 F-16 A/B jets, an older model from the 1990s that will be completely retrofitted by the end of 2023.
Tsai said the upgrade project showed the strength of Taiwan’s cooperation with the U.S. defense industry. It comes at a time the island’s status has become a major point of tension in the U.S.-China relationship.
Beijing has been stepping up its threat by sending fighter jets in combat formations into Taiwan’s buffer zone southwest of the island on a regular basis, along with longer-range missions into the Western Pacific.
The F-16V is the most technologically advanced version of the storied multi-role fighter jet, equipped with highly capable radar, allowing it to track more than 20 targets at a time. It also features cutting-edge electronic warfare systems, along with advanced weapons, precision GPS navigation and a system to automatically avoid collisions with the ground.
Taiwan’s air force also operates French Dassault Mirage 2000 and domestically designed and manufactured AIDC F-CK Chingkuo fighters for a total fleet of around 400.
With the upgrades and the planned delivery of 66 new F-16Vs in 2023, Taiwan will be the largest operator of F-16s in Asia, said Kitsch Liao, a military and cyber affairs consultant for DoubleThink Lab, an organization targeting disinformation. This means the island should invest in repair centers for the jets to improve readiness, Liao said. Previously, Taiwan had to send the jets to other countries for repair.
In Chiayi, pilots in F-16s showed off complex maneuvers on Thursday, flying low across the skies.
Sandra Oudkirk, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S. de facto embassy in Taiwan, was in attendance as well.
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