That mysterious bulge on Taiwan’s IDF

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Last week Taiwanannounced an upgrade to 71 of its 130 AIDC Ching Kuo Indigenous DefenseFighters (IDFs) – pictured above. The upgrade included colour screens in thecockpit, improved avionics, and the ability to carry four Tien Chien 2 (SkySword) missiles, up from two previously.  

Despite its modest nature the upgrade was celebrated withmuch fanfare, including a visit by President Ma Ying-jeou to AIDC.

The pictures provided on AIDC’s web site were somewhatconfusing, because they showed the upgraded IDF, as well as another IDF with a mysterious bulge on its fuselage that is clearly a conformal fuel tank- pictured below. Had Taiwan put conformal tanks on its IDFs? A conformal fuel tank would doubtless increase the IDF’s range, but would be bad news for this under-powered aircraft’s speedand maneuverability, especially with extra missiles.

A quick call Monday to my Taiwan-based counterpart at Defense News cleared things up. He had attended theceremony, and said that two aircraft were on display, the IDF and a prototype of the IDFGoshawk, essentially the IDF Mk II. AIDC failed todistinguish between the two variants in its media communications. 

According to analysts cited by Defense News the Goshawk programme only moves ahead if Taiwan fails to obtain the F-16C/Ds it has been seeking from the USA since 2006.  



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