Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) and California-based Tiger Century Aircraft (TCA) plan to modify two Northrop F-5Fs into TF-5 Super Talon IIs as part of a demonstration programme that could result in a launch order from Taipei.
TCA expects the Taiwanese air force to loan AIDC two F-5Fs for the project, which includes fitting a new nose cone and cockpit. TCA says it has secured private financing and the first of two demonstrators will fly in the second quarter of 2006. “The demonstrators are a go – I have got the funding,” says TCA president Andrew Skow.
An AIDC source says the company is still negotiating the aircraft loan details with the air force and will present a plan in about two months for its approval. He says AIDC will help TCA modify the two demonstrators, but its workshare in the programme is still being negotiated.
TCA partnered AIDC and Northrop in an F-5 avionics upgrade demonstration project that ended in 2002 after Taipei refused to buy the modification.
Sources say Taiwan may restructure its training courses by replacing its Beech T-34s, indigenous AT-3s and F-5E/Fs with two new platforms. Earlier this year an AIDC-led team evaluated several solutions, including the TF-5, Aermacchi M346, Pilatus PC-21 and Raytheon T-6 (Flight International, 15-21 March), but replacements are not needed in the near term.
TCA says Taiwan is initially interested in upgrading its 60 F-5E/F lead-in fighter trainers rather than replacing the AT3s, which the AIDC source says are now going through a service life extension that will allow them to be operated until 2012.
BRENDAN SOBIE/SINGAPORE & GRAHAM WARWICK/WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International