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Updated May 22nd, 2023 at 22:30 IST

Taiwan equips fighter jets with new air-to-air missiles amidst heightened PLA activity

Taiwan has bolstered its defense capabilities by arming its most advanced fighter jets with new air-to-air missiles.

Digital Desk
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Image: AP | Image:self
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Taiwan has bolstered its defense capabilities by arming its most advanced fighter jets with new air-to-air missiles as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) continues its regular sorties near the self-ruled island. The Taiwanese air force announced that the AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles, procured from the United States, have been allocated to its F-16 Viper squadrons, which are deployed to respond to PLA fly-bys.

According to an air force spokesperson cited in a South China Morning Post report, the recently delivered AIM-9X missiles have been installed as per the scheduled plan. It is a part of the air force's combat readiness regulations that all aircraft on standby to track PLA warplanes must be equipped with weapons. The AIM-9X Block II missiles, installed on Taiwan's 64 F-16Vs at the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing in Chiayi, enhance their tracking and precision-strike capabilities.

Jets are also being equipped with AIM-120 advanced medium range missile

Furthermore, a source within the air force revealed that alongside the AIM-9X missiles, one side of the fighter jets has also been mounted with an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile. The retrofitting of AIM-9X missiles is also underway for the F-16Vs at the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing in Hualien, located on the island's eastern side.

The AIM-9X missiles gained notoriety earlier this year when the United States employed them to shoot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon within its airspace. In 2016, Taiwan purchased 140 AIM-9X Block II missiles from the US as part of an upgrade program in collaboration with defense contractor Lockheed Martin for its 141 F-16A/B versions.

The conversion of the fighter jets is expected to be completed by the end of this year. As of now, the F-16 squadrons in Hualien have reportedly received more than 40 of the upgraded jets. In 2019, the United States approved the sale of an additional 66 F-16Vs to Taiwan, scheduled for delivery in 2026.

Taiwan's move to enhance its defensive capabilities comes amidst heightened PLA military activity near the island. These developments indicate Taiwan's commitment to bolster its security and readiness to protect its airspace. The United States has been a key partner in Taiwan's defense modernization efforts, facilitating the procurement of advanced weaponry and strengthening their strategic alliance.

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Published May 22nd, 2023 at 22:30 IST

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