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PARIS AIR SHOW: Taiwan air force okays IDF upgrades, awaits govt approval

Taiwan's air force has decided to go ahead with an upgrade for its indigenous AIDC F-CK-1 Indigenous Defence Fighters to the "Goshawk" standard and is waiting for the government's nod to launch the programme.

Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation unveiled the first two F-CK-1C/D IDF-2 prototypes in 2007 and handed them over to the Taiwan air force for tests. The company proposed upgrades to half of the 130 A/B-model IDFs, the last of which was manufactured in 1999, but this has been put on hold as successive Taiwanese governments have not given their nod.

"The air force has conducted initial operational tests, recording in excess of 100 flights in evaluation of the IDF-2 Goshawk upgrade system. The aircraft has met or exceeded project goals," says AIDC. "Based on their operational requirement, the air force has launched a retrofit programme, the "Xiang Zhan" programme, to upgrade 71 IDFs from 2009 through 2012. While the programme is in government review, AIDC remains confident it will receive the approvals to proceed."

There is some debate within Taiwan about funding the upgrade, especially since Taipei has wanted to buy 66 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters from the USA for several years.

However, both the Bush and Obama administrations have not taken any action on the request and observers believe that it is unlikely to go ahead due to the impact it would have on China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province.

AIDC believes an F-16 sale will not affect the upgrade programme, saying: "The sale of the F-16C/D is expected to complement the IDF-2 upgradeeach aircraft performs different roles in Taiwan's defence".

Apart from the IDF, Taiwan's fighter inventory includes Lockheed F-16A/Bs, Dassault Mirage 2000-5s and Northrop F-5s. Washington has sold refurbished Lockheed P-3C maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and the Boeing AH-64D Apache helicopters to Taipei over the last few years, and is likely to go ahead with a deal for Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.

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