NORTHROP GRUMMAN is negotiating a partnership agreement with Taiwan's Aero Industry Development Centre (AIDC) for the upgrade surplus F-5E/Fs for resale on the international market.

The company is seeking foreign partners to participate in its F-5 Tiger IV modernisation programme. The US manufacturer is hoping that international tie-ups will create opportunities to sell its F-5 upgrade package.

AIDC at the same time is looking for new programmes to sustain activity and employment at the company's Taichung plant after production of the Ching-Kuo Indigenous Defence Fighter (IDF) is completed in 1997. Taiwan's economics ministry has been given responsibility for restructuring the military-run AIDC plant into a commercial venture.

The Taiwan air force operates around 250 F-5E/Fs, but has abandoned plans for a comprehensive avionics and structural upgrade of the aircraft after ordering Lockheed F-16A/Bs and Dassault Mirage 2000-5s.

Taiwan plans to retain 90 F-5s to supplement its new frontline fleet of IDFs, F-16s and Mirage 2000-5s. The air force is keen to upgrade the F-5 as a lead-in fighter trainer, but is short of funds.

One proposal under consideration is to finance the upgrade by modernising and selling its surplus F-5s. The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand all have requirements for additional aircraft to bolster existing F-5 fleets

A similar scheme has been proposed to South Korea, which operates around 250 F-5s. Its air force is expected to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to extend the operational life of 38 two-seat F-5Fs. An earlier plan for a structural upgrade of 27 older F-5B two-seaters has been dropped.

Northrop Grumman has teamed with Samsung Aerospace to bid for the South Korean contract and other international F-5E/F upgrade projects. Similar industrial agreements have been reached with Bristol Aerospace for the F-5E/F and with CASA for the F-5A/B.

Bristol, however, continues to compete against Northrop Grumman/CASA for F-5A/B work. The Canadian company has also just signed an agreement with the Canadian Government to sell surplus CF-5A/Bs and spares.

Brazil is expected to be the next F-5 user to issue an RFP to modernise its 52 aircraft, while Turkey is in negotiations with Northrop Grumman for an upgrade of 60-70 F-5A/Bs.

Northrop Grumman's Tiger IV test aircraft - a modified US Air Force F-5E - was flown for the first time in late April.

It is planned to complete 30 test flights, before the aircraft is demonstrated, at the next F-5 user technical coordinating group meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in October.

The company is offering a modular four-level Tiger IV upgrade package, based around a 1553B digital databus.

Source: Flight International