Taiwan successfully test fires AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles locally for the first time

ROCAF F-16s with AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Photo c/o Taiwan government/The War Zone.

The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) has successfully test-fired the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) in local conditions for the first time.

The test was conducted on 10 May 2021 in south-eastern Taiwan by two newly-upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16B Fighting Falcon fighters upgraded to F-16D Block 70 Viper standards, while supported by two other similar fighters as back-up.

Two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles were launched, one missile from each aircraft, and both have successfully hit the target drones.

The US Government has previously prevented the ROCAF from conducting local tests of the AMRAAM missile due to concerns on China’s potential reactions. 

According to a report by The Warzone, another reason was due to the missile’s sensitive nature, and the US Government trying to avoid leak of measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) on the missile’s capability to China. 

An approval to conduct the test locally was given to Taiwan due to serious incursions by Chinese military aircraft to Taiwan’s south-western airspace, and the situation in the South China Sea.

All AIM-120 AMRAAM tests conducted by the ROCAF were previously in the US, while ROCAF F-16 pilots are trained on the missile using simulators. 

Previously, Taiwan’s possession of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile was even limited as the US Government. The ROCAF was only able to order the missile in 2000, but under arrangements that the missiles would be stored in US facilities in Guam, and would only be delivered to the ROCAF when actual combat occurs.

This was changed in 2002 when China started tests of the Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder) medium range air-to-air missile. 

Currently, Taiwan only has a small stock of AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, with the ROCAF relying heavily on the older AIM-7 Sparrow missile. Only the ROCAF’s fleet of F-16 fighters are capable of firing the AIM-120 AMRAAM, with the French Mirage 2000 using the MBDA MICA missile, while the F-CK-1 Ching Kuo fighter using the indigenous Tien Chien 2 missile.

The modernization of the ROCAF’s F-16A/B Block 20 fighters to C/D Block 70 standard, as well as the approval to test fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM locally, are said to be signs of the US Government’s support to Taiwan as tensions with China arises.

[1] The Drive – The War Zone

[2] Liberty Times

Taiwan successfully test fires AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles locally for the first time  Taiwan successfully test fires AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles locally for the first time Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on May 13, 2021 Rating: 5

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