While the military in Taiwan prefer US-built F-16 fighters, another delay in delivery from the US might force the island to build its own fighters without US approval, writes defense expert Wendell Minnick on his weblog.
The state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) has produced two prototypes of the new F-CK-1C/D Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF). AIDC spent roughly $230 million from 2001 to 2007 under the Hsiang Sheng (Soaring Upgrade) program to develop a new fighter based on the IDF A/Bs built during the 1990s.
Since October 2006, the C/Ds have completed 400 flight tests. The fighters are outfitted with two conformal fuel tanks that enhance combat radius and endurance, a digital glass cockpit, and an enhanced Golden Dragon 53 multimode radar, based on the Lockheed Martin AN/APG-67 radar.
The C/Ds can carry 771 kilograms more fuel and payload than the A/Bs. AIDC strengthened the structure of the landing gear and incorporated a digital anti-skid system to prevent accidents during takeoff and landing, an AIDC official said.
The C/D doubles the load of Tien Chien 2 (Sky Sword) air-to-air missiles to four, and modifications allow it to carry the new Tien Chien-2A anti-radiation missile and the Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) cluster bomb, both in development by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology.
Taiwan’s Air Force initially rejected the C/D option in favor of pushing for new F-16s. However, AIDC was able to persuade the service in 2009 to go forward with a midlife upgrade package for 71 of the 126 IDF A/Bs. Minus conformal fuel tanks, the upgraded IDFs include many of the same improvements of the C/D variant. The first six upgraded IDF A/Bs were handed over to the Air Force on June 30.
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