A short take-off fighter would allow air superiority even if runways were destroyed

The Taiwanese air force is developing a potential requirement for a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) fighter which could allow Boeing to extend AV-8B Harrier production beyond 2004.

Taiwan may consider acquiring 60-100 Harrier II Plus fighters from 2005 if it decides to pursue a requirement for a STOVL fighter capable of achieving air superiority without the need for runways, Boeing officials said at last week's Taipei Aerospace Technology Exhibition (TATE).

US Marine Corps AV-8Bs are being equipped with new fuselages under a remanufacturing programme due to be completed in 2004. The composite wings - designed to last 20,000h - are retained.

If Taiwan buys Harriers, one option would be to continue producing the fuselages beyond 2004 and transfer production tooling for the wing to Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, says Boeing AV-8 business development manager Jeff Maxwell.

Studies by the Taiwanese military have not progressed beyond the "analysis of alternatives" stage, he says, although "I think they are serious about STOVL".

The US Government supplied Taiwan with AV-8B performance data earlier this year, and the military has been given an "informational briefing" by Boeing. A team of Taiwanese officials was also given access to an AV-8B in the USA as part of a USMC briefing.

In an attempt to reduce costs, Boeing is considering offering Taiwan a version of the AV-8B equipped with an avionics suite based around the Lockheed Martin F-16's Northrop Grumman APG-66 radar rather than the existing Raytheon APG-65, which is also used in US Navy Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornets. Taiwan has a large fleet of F-16s but the country is not an F/A-18 customer.

The Joint Strike Fighter, a variant of which will be capable of STOVL operations, is unlikely to be considered for export to Taiwan before 2020.

The first two of nine Boeing CH-47SD Chinook transport helicopters ordered by Taiwan are due to be delivered in November and will be used for training. Boeing anticipates follow-on orders for forward area re-arming and refuelling point (FARP) tanker variants of the CH-47 from Taiwan if the country gains approval to buy modern attack helicopters. The US Government recently turned down Taiwan's request for Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbows.

Source: Flight International