Taiwan has bolstered its defense capabilities by arming its F-16s with new air-to-air missiles: The ROC Air Force announced that AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder missiles have been assigned to its F-16 Viper squadrons, deployed to respond to the increasing overflights of the PLA.
According to the plan, AIM-9X Block II missiles have been successfully installed on Taiwan’s 64 F-16Vs at Chiayi 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, an air force spokesperson said in a report. From the South China Morning Post. This facility complies with the air force’s combat readiness regulations, requiring all reserve planes monitoring the People’s Liberation Army warplanes to be armed. By incorporating AIM-9X Block II missiles, the Taiwanese fleet’s F-16Vs from Chiayi’s 4th Tactical Fighter Wing have significantly improved their precision strike and tracking capabilities.
In addition, a confidential air force source revealed that, along with the AIM-9X missiles, one wing of the fighters has been equipped with an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile. Retrofitting with AIM-9X missiles is also underway for the F-16Vs stationed at the Hualien 5th Tactical Fighter Wing, located in the eastern part of the island.
The AIM-9X missiles grabbed attention earlier this year when the United States used them to intercept a suspected Chinese spy balloon within its airspace. In 2016, Taiwan purchased 140 AIM-9X Block II missiles from the United States as part of a collaborative upgrade program with defense contractor Lockheed Martin aimed at improving the capabilities of its 141 F-16A/B versions.
The fighter conversion process is expected to be completed by the end of this year. It has been reported that the F-16 squadrons in Hualien have received more than 40 of these upgraded aircraft. In 2019, the United States approved the sale of another 66 F-16Vs to Taiwan, with delivery scheduled for 2026.
AIM-9X Block II
Testing of the AIM-9X Block II version began in September 2008. Block II adds the ability to lock the missile after launch with a data link so that the missile can be launched first and targeted later by an aircraft with the proper equipment for 360-degree engagements, such as the F-35 or F-22. As of January 2013, the AIM-9X Block II was in the middle of its operational tests, and its performance was better than expected. NAVAIR reported that the missile was exceeding performance requirements in all areas, including lock-on after launch (LOAL).
One area where Block II needs improvement is the performance of the helmetless high off-boresight (HHOBS) system. It works well on the missile, but its performance is inferior to that of the Block I AIM-9X. The HHOBS deficiency does not affect the performance of the AIM-9X. The HHOBS deficiency does not affect any other Block II capabilities and is scheduled to be improved through a cleanup build of the software. The operational test targets were to be completed by the third quarter of 2013. On June 18, 2017, after an AIM-9X failed to successfully track a targeting Syrian Air Force Su-22 Fitter, Lt. US Navy Commander Michael “Mob” Tremel, flying a F/A-18E Super Hornet, used an AMRAAM AAM to destroy the enemy aircraft successfully.
In February 2015, the US Army successfully launched an AIM-9X Block II from the new Multi-Mission Launcher (MML), a truck-mounted missile launch container with a capacity of 15 missiles. The MML is part of Incremental Indirect Fire Protection Capability 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I) to protect ground forces against cruise missile and UAV threats. The Army has determined that the AIM-9X Block II is the best solution against cruise missile and UAV threats thanks to its passive imaging infrared seeker. The MML complements the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air defense system.
Alain Henry de Frahan