Taiwan Shows New Fighter Capability, but Upgrades Are Slowed

 - September 17, 2007, 6:06 AM

The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) of Taiwan recently displayed during public days at several ROCAF bases a new configuration of its Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), with three 250-pound bombs on the centreline. Taiwan wants to upgrade the ROCAF to meet a growing military threat from mainland China, but progress has been slow. The ROCAF currently has six wings: two flying IDFs, two with F-16A/Bs, one with Mirage 2000s and one with F-5s for fighter lead-in training. Taiwan’s state-owned Aero Industry Development Company (AIDC) has flown two IDFs with new avionics, but funding to upgrade the entire IDF fleet of more than 100 jets has not yet been forthcoming. One hundred thirty IDFs were built in the 1990s, after covert U.S. assistance with the design. Washington has deferred a request by Taiwan for 66 more F-16s, this time C/D models. The U.S. first wants Taiwan to approve an arms package on offer since 2001, and comprising submarines, Patriot PAC-3 antimissile systems, and 12 refurbished P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. After lengthy and complicated domestic political wrangling, Taiwan has sanctioned only the P-3s. A Lockheed Martin spokesman told AIN last week that delivery of these could still be 18 months away. Lockheed Martin faces competition from L-3 Integrated Systems for the contract, which would be placed via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales system.