The US Air Force wants to assess sources that can provide spare parts for Taiwan’s fleet of Northrop F-5E fighters.

The Proven Aircraft Office of the Air Force Materiel Command has issued a list of 37 separate F-5 parts required, ranging from windshield panels and fuel tanks to air data computers.

Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows that the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) has 56 in-service F-5s, all produced locally by AIDC. These comprise 20 single-seat F-5Es, 31 two-seat F-5Fs, and five RF-5E reconnaissance jets. The average age of the fleet is 36.8 years.

In addition, Taiwan has 142 examples – 123 F-5Es and 19 F-5Fs – listed as stored.

A local media report last year suggested that Taipei was looking for a way to use the General Electric J85 engines from retired F-5s in a cruise missile. Such a weapon would be useful in a conflict with China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Taipei is eager to modernise its ageing air force out of concern for Beijing’s growing military might, which includes new fighter types such as the Chengdu J-20, as well as continued modernisation of existing types such as the J-10 and Shenyang J-11.

Taipei is in the process of upgrading 113 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/Bs to the F-16V standard, and is hopeful of obtaining new-build F-16Vs from the USA.

Globally, there are 498 F-5s still in service, including Taiwan’s fleet. Other major operators of the Cold War type include South Korea (133), the USA (55), Brazil (47), Switzerland (36), and Thailand (34).