Taiwan, U.S. companies to ink pact on F-16 maintenance center

Taiwan is in the process of procuring 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets, known as the F-16Vs, from the United States. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) and U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. are to sign a strategic partnership agreement Tuesday to promote the establishment of an F-16 fighter jet maintenance center in Taiwan, according to AIDC.

Taiwan is in the process of procuring 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets, known as the F-16Vs, from the United States, which, in addition to a NT$110 billion program to have the Air Force’s existing fleet of 142 F-16 A/B fighters upgraded to the same specifications as the F-16V, is expected to bring the country’s F-16 fleet to over 200, which will make Taiwan the largest F-16 user in the Asia- Pacific.

AIDC is therefore seeking to collaborate with the U.S. defense contractor to build a regional F-16 maintenance repair and overhaul center in Taiwan, AIDC said.

The agreement will be signed at AIDC premises in Taichung’s Shalu District, witnessed by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and attended by Lockheed Martin representatives, Taiwanese defense and economics officials, and test pilots from the U.S. company and Taiwan’s Air Force, according to AIDC.

AIDC said the pact is aimed at responding to the government’s desire to have maintenance work carried out locally, in addition to the hope of boosting industrial upgrades.

During a visit to AIDC in November to gain a first-hand understanding of the F-16Vs retrofit program, Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said the AIDC is estimated to complete upgrades of all of Taiwan’s F-16s by 2023.