TADTE attendance reflects China fear factor

2011-08-11_14-29-22_244.jpgTaiwan‘srequirement for 66 new F-16 C/Ds is no diminutive affair. Regional requirementsfor fewer aircraft such as Malaysia‘snew fighter (16-18 aircraft), Japan‘sFX-II (42), and Korea‘sFX-III (60) have attracted intense interest from the heavy hitters: Boeing,Lockheed Martin, Rafale, Eurofighter, Saab, and even the Russians.

In such competitions the biggies spend small fortunes onelaborate stands at local air shows. They wine and dine defence bigwigs inpalatial chalets that would do most five star hotels credit. Selling fightersinvolves not only the companies, but their governments, who fight hardfor jobs at home and national prestige.

One testament to China‘sgrowing power – and more particularly western countries’ fear of offending Beijing – is the modestoutlay western firms have made at the Taipei Aerospace & Defence Technology Exhibition(TADTE – pictured above). This despite a massive requirement here for new fighter aircraft and technology.

The only big western makers here are Lockheed Martin,Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman. Lockheed has a big stand by TADTE standards (picture below),but it is a tiny affair compared with that firm’s efforts at shows such as AeroIndia or Singapore.There is not a single F-16 model in sight. At Aero India, by contrast, Lockheedflew in two F-16 Block 60s, one for media flights and one for flight demos. Italso had a huge stand an palatial chalet – all this a few months before theF-16, F/A-18 E/F, and MiG-35 were bumped from the MMRCA competition.

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Raytheon and Northrop, who could have a chance to installtheir competing RACR and SABR AESA radar upgrades on Taiwan’s 166 F-16 A/Bs,also have modest stands. Their presence here is not at all commensurate withthe size of the potential contracts.

Boeing, no doubt mindful of its commercial aircraft businesson the mainland, has not had a stand for two shows running. Air show stalwartsfrom Russia and Europe are also nowhere to be found.

The real value of the show, of course, is to showcase thesurprisingly vibrant local aerospace industry. Taiwanese companies have come up witha number of innovative small UAVs. There are also major programmes like theindigenous defence fighter (IDF) (model pictured below), which would have beena more advanced system had Taiwan not received F-16 A/Bs in the earlynineties. Taiwanalso has big plans in the UAV and UCAV spaces.

Nonetheless, it is somewhat surreal to wander the halls ofthe show and reflect on the major opportunities western countries and firms areforgoing on behalf of China‘ssensitivities.

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