The Taiwanese military is considering extending the service life of its Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft as it awaits the delivery of American F-16 jets.
The island nation ordered 66 advanced F-16V combat aircraft from Lockheed Martin after receiving approval from the US State Department in 2019.
However, the initial delivery of two F-16Vs scheduled for 2023 has been postponed until the third quarter of 2024 due to production issues.
With doubts about the remaining aircraft arriving on time, Taiwan’s Air Force tapped the help of French firm Dassault Aviation to assess if nine of its Mirage two-seaters could continue flying for another 20 years.
Taipei is investing 150 million New Taiwan dollars ($4.77 million) in the initiative, which will be completed by July 2026.
Apart from theoretical work, Dassault will reportedly try to partially modernize some of the Mirage 2000-5s to determine its feasibility.
Taiwan started acquiring Mirage fighters in 1997 to improve its combat capabilities amid increasing tensions with China.
The self-ruled nation has more than 50 Mirages now entering the latter stages of their life cycle.
Upgrading some of them could save Taipei money since the obsolete warplanes require costly maintenance and repair.
Also, retiring the aging Mirage 2000-5s without the American F-16s would create a wide capability gap for the Taiwanese military.
F-16 Delivery Delays
Earlier this year, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng revealed that supply chain disruptions are delaying the delivery of F-16Vs to the island nation.
He further stated that the fighter jets are experiencing flight control software issues, making them unsafe for deployment.
Lockheed Martin assured that it is working closely with the US government to address the challenges.
Chiu said that despite the problems, Taiwan’s communication with Washington regarding the aircraft acquisition has been “smooth.”