By Joseph Yeh
The China Post–Taiwan’s military yesterday was urged to speed up the process to build its own fighter jets instead of relying on imported ones that will not begin service for local forces for another decade. During a legislative session yesterday, ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang accused the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of delaying in carrying out its scheduled plan to upgrade locally built fighters. Lin alleged that the postponement means a change in the MND’s original plan to upgrade its Indigenous Defensive Fighters (IDF) after the United States recently implied that it could sell Taiwan new F-16C/D jets that Taiwan has being requesting for years. The KMT lawmaker said it would at least take 10 years before the Air Force can receive the first batch of the advanced fighters even if Washington ultimately agrees to the sale.
“We should not delay the upgrading project so that the country’s air defense capability can be sustained before the arrival of U.S. advanced fighters,” Lin said. In response, Deputy Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋), who fielded questions in the legislative session, said the IDF “Ching-Kuo” (經國號) fighter upgrade scheme is moving forward on schedule. ”As far as I’m concerned, there is no change (in the upgrading project),” Chao said at a hearing at the Legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee. But Chao also said the MND could rearrange the overall budget to finance the F-16A/B retrofit package approved by the U.S. last year and a possible F-16C/D sale that could be announced by Washington in the near future.
According to the Air Force, the plan to upgrade 56 IDF fighters based in Taichung is set to be carried out between 2014 and 2017 with a budget of NT$15.4 billion. The Air Force currently has 127 IDFs as one of the main types of jet fighters in the nation’s armed forces.