Taiwan test fires AIM-120 AMRAAMs locally for the first time

The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) has reportedly performed the first local live-firing of the US-made Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs).

Local media reported that four RoCAF F-16s, understood to be recently upgraded F-16V models, launched from Chiayi Air Base on 10 May and travelled to the southeast side of the island, away from the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) that has seen repeated incursions by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft in recent months.

Each RoCAF F-16V was reportedly armed with two AMRAAMs and two short-range AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, with the first and third aircraft each launching an AMRAAM which successfully engaged target drones.

While the RoCAF regularly conducts live-firing trials, the AMRAAM test was the first of its kind within Taiwan airspace. The medium-range missile had previously only been used by the service in exercises within US airspace such as Arizona and Guam, largely due to fear of provoking China and compromising the missile’s technical capabilities by exposing it to potential Chinese intelligence gathering operations.

Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) is in the process of upgrading the RoCAF’s fleet of 141 F-16A/B aircraft to the F-16V standard with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin under the Peace Phoenix Rising (PPR) programme, with work scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Additional upgrades have also been announced under a recent US$138 million contract modification for the Peace Phoenix Rising 2 (PPR2) programme, comprising the development and fielding of Lockheed Martin’s Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) and the Raytheon AGM-88 High Speed Anti-radiation Missile (HARM).

The contract also calls for improvements and updates to the aircrafts’ radar software and Data Acquisition System, as well as advanced Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems. Contract work is expected to be completed by September 2022.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s National Chung‐Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) has also developed an indigenous medium-range air-to-air missile called the Tien Chien 2 (Sky Sword 2). The missile is carried by its locally manufactured F-CK-1 Ching Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs).

by Jr Ng