TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Since Chinese fighter jets were reported to have crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Monday (Aug. 10), news has surfaced that some of the over 20 warplanes were likely intercepted by Taiwanese F-16s armed with six AIM-120C air-to-air missiles each.
On Monday, China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) dispatched several batches of fighter jets to engage in training exercises over the Taiwan Strait near the median line, the unofficial boundary between the two countries. In a rare move, one batch of Shenyang J-11 and Chengdu J-10 fighter jets crossed the median line, before being driven away by Taiwanese F-16 Fighting Falcons.
On Friday (Aug. 14), Liberty Times cited military sources as saying that over 20 Chinese warplanes had engaged in combat maneuvers over the northern and southwest ends of the median line. They reportedly took off from PLAAF bases in Fujian Province's Zhangzhou, Wuyishan, and Shuimen.
The majority of the communist warplanes performed their drills to the west of the median line, but one batch flew east and crossed over it. After Taiwanese aircraft swiftly intercepted the PLAAF planes and drove them from Taiwan's airspace, the remaining Chinese jets continued their exercises to the west of the line.
AIM-120 AMRAAM mounted on wingtip launcher of F-16. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
The Air Force stated that the "PLAAF jets' deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait have seriously undermined regional security and stability." The Air Force then emphasized that it was fully aware of the dynamics of the territorial sea and airspace around the Taiwan Strait and "can respond appropriately to changes in the enemy's disposition to maintain the security of the homeland."
In recent days, Taiwanese military enthusiasts have captured photos of several F-16 fighters taking off from Taiwan's Chia Yi Air Base, each of them loaded with six AIM-120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM). Military officials on Friday did not directly confirm the specific weapons being carried, but they did say that the F-16s' weapon-carrying capabilities have been enhanced.
In 2017, Taiwan's aging F-16 fighter jets began undergoing the F-16V upgrade program, which will enable them to counter many of the capabilities of China's advanced J-20 stealth fighter jet. The Air Force F-16V fighter performance improvement program, codenamed "Phoenix," will retrofit the existing fleet of 145 F-16A/B fighters at a total cost of NT$110 billion yuan (US$3.46 billion) and will be completed by 2023.
The retrofit kit, dubbed V for "Viper," includes active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a modern avionics subsystem, a high-resolution screen, a Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, and advanced weapons, among other features.