Taipei-An agreement signed between a state-run aircraft builder and a U.S. defense contractor Tuesday to turn Taiwan into a maintenance hub for F-16 fighter jets will be a win-win for both parties, according to Premier Su Tseng-chang (???).
Speaking at the ceremony where Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) and Lockheed Martin Corp signed the MOU to set up a strategic alliance, Su praised the partnership, calling it a win-win.
He said a nation's defense needs air defenses, air defenses need fighter jets, and fighter jets need maintenance, and the MOU paves the way for the two sides to establish an F-16 fighter maintenance center in the future.
AIDC Chairman Hu Kai-hung (???) said his company has been working closely with the defense contractor to have it transfer more aerospace technology to Taiwan and allow more F-16 parts to be produced locally before ultimately making Taiwan a regional hub for the aircraft's repair and overhaul.
AIDC has now being authorized by the U.S. company to produce 23 parts that are used in F-16s, and it already has 800 Lockheed Martin certified technicians responsible for a project to retrofit F-16 A/B fighter jets with advanced technology, he said.
According to AIDC, Taiwan is qualified to serve as a maintenance base in Asia-Pacific region for F-16s because its Air Force has an existing fleet of 142 F-16 A/B fighters.
It is in the process of procuring 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets, known as F-16Vs, from the U.S. and it is also currently upgrading its 142 F-16 A/B fighters to the same specifications as the F-16V.
After taking delivery of the new F-16Vs, Taiwan military will have an F-16 fleet of over 200 planes, making the nation the largest F-16 user in the Asia-Pacific.
AIDC President Ma Wan-june (???), meanwhile, would not give an exact timetable when the F-16 maintenance center will be realized, saying only that the company is currently focused on upgrading F-16/ABs into F-16Vs.
Ma said the upgrading process is on schedule and should be completed by 2023.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's military has said previously that Taiwan and U.S. will soon finalize the F-16V purchase deal.
The U.S. is expected to take two years to make preparations before officially beginning mass production of the jets, and delivery of the 66 aircraft is scheduled to take place between 2023 and 2026.
Also present at Tuesday's ceremony held at AIDC's headquarters in Taichung's Shalu District was Randy Howard, Lockheed Martin's vice president for Global Pursuits.
AIDC built the nation's first locally-built fighter jet, the Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), that has served Taiwan's Air Force since 1992.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel