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US approves F-16 IRST sale to Taiwan

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense has said the new IRST pods will be fitted onto its Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter aircraft. (Lockheed Martin)

The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of F-16 infrared search and track (IRST) systems to Taiwan.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said on 23 August that the potential deal, which needs Congress approval, is worth USD500 million.

The deal involves an unspecified number of IRST systems and associated equipment and support services. Lockheed Martin is the principal contractor.

“The proposed sale will improve the recipient's capability to meet current and future threats by contributing to the recipient's abilities to defend its airspace, provide regional security, and increase interoperability with the United States through its F-16 program,” said a DSCA press release.

The type of IRST systems to be procured by Taiwan was not identified.

However, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) said the IRST systems that it intends to procure are the “latest models” developed for the Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 fighter aircraft.

The MND said the new IRST systems on the F-16Vs will “further enhance the fighter aircraft's ability to detect and track long-distance targets and greatly improve the effectiveness of air combat”.

It said the IRST systems were necessary in response to increasing Chinese military aircraft incursions into its air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

Lockheed Martin had not responded to Janes request for comment at the time of publication.

Taiwan ordered 66 F-16V fighters in 2019 for USD8 billion, with deliveries of these aircraft initially scheduled to start before the end of 2023. Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said in May that deliveries had been delayed until 2024.

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