Singapore Air Show

Taiwan’s Good Technical Offer Is Affected By Politics

 - February 13, 2016, 10:37 AM

Taiwan’s two major aerospace manufacturing organizations are renewing their marketing efforts abroad, following their change of status in 2014. The Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) was privatized, with the government retaining just 39 percent. The previously-secretive National Chung-Shang Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) was made an administrative corporation by the government, and given the freedom to export and forge foreign partnerships. Both AIDC and NCSIST have attractive technology to offer at competitive cost–but their ambitions are inevitably affected by Taiwan’s complicated cross-straits relationship with mainland China.

AIDC now has several private shareholders, and the employees also took up a stake. It is still best known for producing 130 Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDFs) in the 1990s, and has now completed an upgrade program on half of the fleet. But it subsequently diversified into subassemblies for offshore programs, and built an advanced composite manufacturing center near to its other main facilities in Taichung.

AIDC’s most significant current contract is with Mitsubishi for the MRJ Regional Jet. It has designed as well as manufactured the MRJ’s rudders, elevators, slats, inboard and outboard flap and track fairing, ailerons, spoilers, belly fairings and support structure. AIDC also produces belly fairings for the Airbus A320 series.

In its engine facility near Kaohsiung, AIDC built many parts for the Honeywell F124 jet engines that power the IDF. Today, it manufactures a wide variety of aero engine cases using five-axis machining and a variety of other advanced equipment. It also produces blades, vane airfoils, tooling and sheet metal parts. It signed new long-term contracts with GE and Rolls-Royce last year.

AIDC officials are looking for work from two new procurements by the local air force. They have long proposed an indigenous development for the Republic of China Air Force’s new advanced jet trainer. But if–as seems likely–the military and government prefers the Alenia Aermacchi M346, AIDC expects a 20 percent workshare.

The ROCAF’s forthcoming F-16 upgrade is an important project. AIDC did not previously play any part in major overhaul work on the 150-strong fleet. But it will be involved in the upgrade, and is building a new hangar at Chin Chuan Kang (CCK) airbase to handle the work.

At the Paris Air Show last year, NCSIST displayed some of the weaponry and avionics it has developed to ensure that Taiwan enjoys a measure of self-reliance in defense. The Institute is best-known for the ground- or ship-launched Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) anti-ship cruise missiles including the supersonic Mk III; the Sky Sword air-to-air missiles that equip the IDF; and the Sky Bow surface-to-air missile system. It has also designed various satellites.

 In the course of its development, NCSIST gained expertise in active radar seekers; high-resolution medium-wave thermal imaging (MWIR); flight control computers; electronic warfare; shipborne command and control systems, and so on. Some of these were displayed at Paris and offered for sale or collaboration. Also on display: a truck-mounted 3D rotating phased array radar that uses commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, can detect small targets, and is easily customized by the user, according to NCSIST.

NCSIST is also offering a jet-powered target drone that is catapult-launched, and a hand-launched UAV named Cardinal II that runs for 60 minutes on electrical power and recovers by parachute. Alternatively, it offers an air-cooled rotary engine running on unleaded gas as a UAV engine, for its high horsepower-to-weight ratio and low frontal area.

Neither AIDC nor NCSIST is exhibiting here at the Singapore Airshow.