23:28 GMT09 May 2021
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    Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft receiving upgrades on the island have been delivered to the Taiwanese air force for the first time as the country begins a massive overhaul of its F-16 fleet, according to local media reports.

    Taipei contracted Lockheed Martin to upgrade the 144 F-16 A/B Fighting Falcons into the most advanced configuration Lockheed has made commercially available, the Viper package. Taiwan's state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) is intensively involved in the modification of the aircraft as well.

    The Viper package adds a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, high-resolution displays, the Link-16 theater data link, targeting pods and the automated ground collision avoidance system, according to Lockheed Martin. The AESA system is the AN/AGP-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, produced by Northrop Grumman.

    The Viper configuration enables the F-16s to carry more advanced weapons, too.

    Installing these systems onto the F-16s started in January 2017 at AIDC's plant in Taichung. While just four jets were transferred to the Taiwanese air force's custody this week, eventually all 144 F/16 A/B variants will be reconfigured as Vipers, perhaps as soon as 2023. Some of the F-16s will fly to Texas to be upgraded at Lockheed facilities as well. IHS Jane's has reported that at any given point during the upgrade cycle, approximately 79 F-16s will be available for air operations.

    The first batch of upgraded Vipers was slated to number 10 aircraft, but "delays in software testing in the United States reduced the number to four," The Diplomat reported Tuesday.


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