TAIWAN MAY cancel plans for Singapore Aerospace (SAe) to convert ten Northrop F-5Es to reconnaissance aircraft, in response to opposition from local industry.

The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) is hoping to modify the fighters to the RF-5E TigerEye configuration, as replacements for its elderly Lockheed RF-104Gs. SAe has already converted six TigerEyes for the Singapore air force.

Awarding the contract to SAe, however, has prompted criticism from Taiwan's aerospace industry, according to local sources.

The Chung Shan Institute of Science & Technology, ( CSIST) had been proposing the development of an indigenous reconnaissance pod.

Both CSIST and the state-owned Aero Industry Development face a shortage of work because of increased foreign weapon purchases.

Production of the Ching-Kuo Indigenous Defence Fighter has already been cut to 130 aircraft, following Taiwan's order for 150 Lockheed F-16s and 60 Dassault Mirage 2000-5.

Opposition to the TigerEye deal comes at a critical time for the Government, with the country's Legislative Yuan due to debate the next defence budget shortly. Funding for the RF-5E programme is included in the budget.

Source: Flight International