Tag: Taiwan

Taiwan Achieves F-16V Full Operational Capability

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Taiwan Achieves F-16V Full Operational Capability
The line-up of Vipers at the ceremony for the induction into active service of the F-16V (image via Taiwan president Twitter account). In the box: Flag bearers parade the Taiwanese flag in front of one of the upgraded F-16Vs. The aircraft can be seen loaded with three GBU-12s on the Triple Ejector Racks. (Photo: Tsungfang Tsai via scramble.nl)

Taiwan becomes the first operator to field operationally the F-16V, the upgraded variant of the “Viper”.

On November 18, 2021 Taiwan has become the first operator to achieve the Full Operational Capability with the upgraded F-16V Block 72. The milestone was celebrated with the official induction into service of the aircraft in the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Republic of Air Force at Chiayi Air Base, at the presence of the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen.

“These aircraft symbolize our close cooperation with the US and are equipped with advanced technology that will substantially strengthen our national defense”, said the President. In the photos published by the Associated Press, the President is seen inspecting the aircraft on the flight line, as well as taking photos in the front seat of two-seater F-16 accompanied by a pilot.

The F-16s on exhibit were configured with live weapons loadout for different types of mission. One of the aircraft was loaded for maritime missions with two AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM and two AIM-9X Sidewinder (these two were inert, as shown by the blue stripes) air-to-air missiles, two 370 gal external fuel tanks and an ALQ-184 ECM pod. Taiwanese F-16s are among the few with the Harpoon capability, which was recently showed off in an attempt to deter activities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the Taiwan Strait.

Another configuration visible in the images taken at the presentation of the F-16V was dedicated to pure Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missions, with the Viper showing a full load of six AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, in addition to the two 370 gal external fuel tanks and ALQ-184 ECM pod, the AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) and another previously unseen interesting pod on the other chin hardpoint. This pod, while not clearly visible, is almost externally identical to the FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) section of the AAQ-13 LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) pod, with the Terrain Following Radar (TFR) removed.

The last configuration visible in the photos was dedicated to air to ground missions, with two AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM and two AIM-9X Sidewinder (again inert) air-to-air missiles, two 370 gal external fuel tanks, ALQ-184 ECM pod, AAQ-33 Sniper ATP and, interestingly, Triple Ejector Racks (TER) with three GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs each. Even if the TER is rated for three weapons, when it comes to Paveway bombs it is usually seen loaded with just two bombs, as the third one would reportedly have clearance issues between its tail fins (once they open when the weapon is released) and the external fuel tanks.

- Taiwan Achieves F-16V Full Operational CapabilityFlag bearers parade the Taiwanese flag in front of one of the upgraded F-16Vs. The aircraft can be seen loaded with three GBU-12s on the Triple Ejector Racks. (Photo: Tsungfang Tsai via scramble.nl)

The Taiwanese F-16s have a wide array of weapons at their disposal, with all the weapons that we just listed, as well as some others that were not shown but were already in the inventory, as the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground guided missile, AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Mk-82 and Mk-84 “dumb” bombs, GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. In addition to these, AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) and Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) sales were later approved by the USA.

- Taiwan Achieves F-16V Full Operational CapabilityAn upgraded F16V in full air-to-air configuration, with a previously unseen FLIR pod under the chin station opposite to the Sniper ATP. (Photo: Tsungfang Tsai via scramble.nl)

Taiwan signed a contract to upgrade the fleet of F-16A/B Block 20 fighter jets in 2012, with the program dubbed “Peace Phoenix Rising”. Initially, it was decided to upgrade 144 Vipers (as the F-16 is dubbed by the pilots), but three of those were later lost in mishaps and thus the final number of jets to be upgraded is 141, of which 64 have already completed the upgrade process and have been handed over to the RoCAF. It is not known if all 64 aircraft are currently based at Chiayi, but it is expected that the 5th TFW at Hualien Air Base, another F-16 Block 20 base, will receive the upgraded F-16V too.

Among the new systems installed during the upgrade we can find the APG-83 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD), Link 16 datalink, full NVIS (Night Vision Imaging System) and JHCMS II (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System II) compatibility, a new Embedded GPS/INS (EGI), a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a high-volume, high-speed data bus.

The first jet was upgraded as a prototype by Lockheed Martin at their facilities in Fort Worth (Texas) and flew for the first time in 2015, with Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) taking over a year later the works to upgrade the F-16 locally. The work started slowly, with the first four F-16Vs delivered only in 2018, but then proceeded at a rhythm of at least 24 aircraft per year once all problems were solved. The retrofit of the whole fleet is planned to be completed by 2023.

In the meanwhile, Taiwan also acquired in 2019 66 newly built F-16V Block 70 that are expected to be delivered from 2023 to 2026. The new aircraft will reportedly be assigned to the 7th TFW at Taitung Air Base. Earlier this year, the “Peace Phoenix Rising 2” was announced, with the intent of fielding new capabilities for the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS), AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-radiation Missile), radar software improvements and an Advanced Identification Friend or Foe in addition to the already planned upgrades.

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Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

Chinese H-6 Bombers Heard On Radio Confirming Orders For Simulated Attack On U.S. Aircraft Carrier Near Taiwan

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Chinese H-6 Bombers Heard On Radio Confirming Orders For Simulated Attack On U.S. Aircraft Carrier Near Taiwan
An H-6 taking off during Aviadart 2019 in Russia (All images: Giovanni Colla)

Unsurprisingly, the package of 13 Chinese combat aircraft, (including eight H-6 bombers) entering Taiwan’s ADIZ last Saturday were carrying out a mock attack on USS Theodore Roosevelt.

As already reported in detail, a total of 28 aircraft, including as many as eight PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) H-6 bombers, “intruded” into Taiwan’s ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) between Jan. 23 and 24, 2021.

In particular, we noticed that the mission on Saturday Jan. 23, was conducted as the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), led by USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier entered the South China Sea (SCS) “to conduct routine operations”.

At this respect, here’s the comment this Author made in a previous story on the spike in PLA activity near Taiwan as the U.S. flattop entered the same area of operations: “The simultaneous presence of the Chinese Xian H-6K in the region as the TRSG entered the SCS is particularly interesting, if we consider the role of the PLAAF bomber. The H-6K is a highly modified variant from the original H-6 bomber (itself a Tu-16 derivative), designed for long-range/stand-off maritime or land strike capability with long-range anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. In short, it is capable of attacking U.S. carrier battle groups or other priority targets with up to six YJ-12 ASCM (Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles) and 6/7 KD-20 ALCMs.”

Dealing with the YJ-12, it has a range of 400 km, can reach speeds of up to Mach 3, and is capable of performing airborne evasive maneuvers approaching the target: these features make this ASCM (Anti-Ship Cruise Missile) difficult for Aegis Combat Systems and SM-2 surface-to-air missiles that protect U.S. carrier strike groups.

A confirmation that the mission flown on Jan. 23 was simulating an air strike on the U.S. aircraft carrier comes from the Financial Times, that on Jan. 29, 2020 reported: “People familiar with intelligence collected by the US and its allies said the bombers and some of the fighter aircraft involved were conducting an exercise that used a group of US Navy vessels led by the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the same area as a simulated target. Pilots of H-6 bombers could be heard in cockpit conversations confirming orders for the simulated targeting and release of anti-ship missiles against the carrier, the people said.”

While not reported to be part of the mission last week, it’s worth mentioning that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force‘s has also developed a further variant of the H-6K, designated H-6N which was specifically designed as a ballistic missile launcher. Its primary weapon should be the CH-AS-X-13, also known as DF-21D, the air launched version of the DF-21 “Carrier Killer” Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (AShBM), reportedly with a range of 1450 km (780 NM), Mach 6 speed (some sources state even Mach-10) and a 600 kg (about 1300 lbs) payload.

Here’s what we wrote about the DF-21 in a previous article:

“The first reports about the existence of the DF-21D in 2010 sparked some concerns as Pentagon officials stated that, if the claims about the missile’s capabilities are true, the United States may not have a defense against it, as the maneuverable re-entry vehicle (MaRV) and the high speed could complicate the interception by air defense weapons. This led the U.S. Navy to potentiate the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System aboard ships in the Pacific Ocean while new advanced systems are developed. China reportedly test-fired two AShBM in the South China Sea in late August, one of them being a DF-21D.”

H 6K landing Aviadart 2019 - Chinese H-6 Bombers Heard On Radio Confirming Orders For Simulated Attack On U.S. Aircraft Carrier Near Taiwan
PLAAF H-6K taking part in Aviadart 2019.

Along with the H-6K/N, the Su-30 (and according to some sources also the J-16) multirole aircraft are able to carry out maritime strike missions using the Kh-31P and the YJ-91A anti-ship missiles.

The YJ-91, in particular, is an indigenous development of the Russian Kh-31P anti-radar missile. The YJ-91A (one of the two variants of the missile, the other one being an anti-radiation missile for SEAD missions), with sea-skimming capability: it cruises at no more than 20 metre above sea level and drops to lower altitude (7 metre) at the terminal stage. This attack altitude can be further reduced to just 1.2 metre above sea level, when the sea state allows. Its estimated range is about 50 km (31 miles). According to the book “Modern Chinese Warplanes” by Andreas Rupprecht, as an alternative to the YJ-91, Naval Aviation uses also the Russian original Kh-31P, which was acquired as part of the Su-30MKK’s weapons package.

By the way, the missions like the one flown by the Chinese H-6s are done by Russia, U.S. and NATO forces, regularly. “Train as you fight, fight as you train”.

H/T Ryan Chan for the heads up!

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