The Taiwanese Government has committed NT$1 billion ($32 million) in the 2001 defence budget to begin the development of an upgraded variant of the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) Ching Kuo Indigenous Defence Fighter (IDF).

The upgraded aircraft are expected to have greater range and improved weapons and avionics systems (Flight International, 15-21 August). Entry into service is planned for 2010, in response to the strengthening of the mainland Chinese air force.

The overall defence budget for the 2001 financial year has been increased NT$1.6 billion to NT$271.9 billion - well short of the NT$324.2 billion required by the defence ministry.

Taiwan's air force originally planned to buy 250 IDFs, but cut this to 130 after ordering 150 Lockheed Martin F-16s and 60 Dassault Mirage 2000-5s.

The new upgrade programme will come as a reprieve to AIDC, which has suffered a slump in workload since the completion of the IDF programme.

AIDC has also proposed a trainer version of the IDF with simplified avionics and downgraded armament but the ability to carry more fuel

Source: Flight International