Six Lockheed Martin F-16A Fighting Falcons, assigned to the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF, Taiwan Air Force) 21st Fighter Squadron Gamblers ('LF') based at Luke AFB (AZ), returned to Taiwan on 13 May 2021. The aircraft landed at Hualien air base (Taiwan) around 15:30 hrs (LT).
The six F-16s, serials 6604, 6605, 6606, 6607, 6608 and 6621, will be upgraded to the F-16V variant in the near future. Already upgraded F-16s will soon be delivered to the 21st FS. According to unconfirmed information, the upgraded aircraft will be named F-16AM and F-16BM.
On 17 November 2019, Scramble Magazine reported on the USD 3.7 billion contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade a total of 144 F-16A/B Block 20s to the latest F-16V variant. On 14 August 2020, Lockheed Martin received a contract for 66 new built F-16 Block 70 fighters. See the Scramble Magazine news item on the new built F-16s.
The 21st FS is part of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB. It is a US Air Force squadron that operates Taiwanese-owned F-16s conducting fighter and maintenance training for the pilots and maintainers of the RoCAF. The squadron was reactivated in August 1996 to train RoCAF F-16A/B crews.
By January 1997, several F-16A/B block 20s had been delivered and the first training flights began for the RoCAF crews. The programme became known as Peace Fenghuang which is Chinese for 'Phoenix.' Twenty F-16s were initially made available, but the numbers have fluctuated over the years, mostly less aircraft for training.
The US based training squadron is scheduled to be relocated to Tucson International Airport (AZ) to make room for the expanding F-35 fleet. According to a spokesman of the RoCAF, the transfer should be finished somewhere this year, but this might shift to next year. The original plan was that the transfer should have been completed by 31 December 2019.
Photos by Joost de Wit (Scramble Archive) and Taro