TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan is preparing to receive a few new pieces of military hardware over the coming year.
An announcement from the Ministry of National Defense earlier this week indicated that the US is expected to begin deliveries of the newest fifth generation AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAMs) in early 2018.
Reports note that 140 missiles as well as 56 training missiles will be delivered in batches, with the order completed by March 2019.
Anticipating the missile delivery, officials from the ministry indicated that Taiwan’s Air Force was preparing their newest F-16V jets to be fitted with the new missiles, and to be combat ready for 2018.
The pilots will also be using the new AN / APG-83 AESA radar and helmet set, which will allow the air force to utilize a top of the line infra-red precision guidance system to ensure the missiles reach their targets.
The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile systems are a mainstay among the US air force fleet of active F-15C and the F / A-18C jets, as well as the F-22 and F-35 model fighter aircraft, according to the report from The Storm Media.
The acquisition of the missiles will supplement the current air-to-air defense systems of the AIM-9P / M sidewinder missiles, equipped on Taiwan’s F-16A/B fighter aircraft. The AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder missiles dramatically improve Taiwan’s mid-air defense capability in the event that any hostile aircraft enter Taiwan’s airspace.
The effectiveness of the AIM 9X series missiles were proven in the field most recently when Turkish aircraft shot down a Russian jet over Syrian airspace in Nov. 2015. Reportedly, the Turkish fighter jet was equipped with an AIM 9X Block I Sidewinder.
Equipping the AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder (Image: Raytheon)
According to the article from Storm Media, the differences between the Block I and Block II models includes a wider range of motion after launch, and an increased propulsion distance from 30km to 35km.
The Block II also includes a state of the art data link to the pilot’s helmet guidance system which will allow pilots to immediately re-adjust the missiles trajectory even after launch.
With a Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), a missile already launched can be assigned a new target mid-flight if another target happens to appears in the pilot’s field of operation.
News of the anticipated delivery comes ahead of a report set to be published in the Asia Weekly (but already available online) that outlines an imminent air defense crisis facing Taiwan.
Even though the new sidewinder missiles won’t completely remedy the situation, they are a step in the right direction, and will certainly bolster Taiwan’s strategic position should it be necessary for Taiwan's Air Force to confront invading aircraft.