Lockheed Martin, Taiwan company ink MOU on F-16s

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

The China Post–Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC, 漢翔航空工業) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with one of the world’s largest defense contractors Lockheed Martin to jointly explore opportunities for the Taiwan F-16A/B retrofit program, the AIDC announced yesterday

The signing is expected to expand the bilateral strategic relationship and aid in exploring potential areas of collaboration on F-16 retrofit modifications, F-16 component parts manufacturing and other potential projects, the AIDC said in a released statement yesterday.

The MOU was signed Wednesday at the 2012 Farnborough International Air Show in the United Kingdom.

Butch Hsu, president of AIDC, was quoted in a press release as saying that the cooperation is expected to largely boost the Taiwan Air Force’s defense capability.

The AIDC is also seeking the Taiwan government’s support to establish a maintenance, repair and overhaul center for the F-16 program in Taiwan with Lockheed Martin, it said. The signing of the MOU came after Taiwan and the United States recently agreed to a US$3.8 billion upgrade of the country’s existing F-16A/Bs, the backbone of the nation’s Air Force.

Lockheed Martin is one of the vendors that is currently bidding for the retrofit deal. The AIDC is expected to work with the U.S. company were it to win the upgrade bid, which could create thousands of jobs locally, the AIDC said. In September, 2011 the U.S. approved the sale of a retrofit and training package for Taiwan’s F-16A/B fighters. The AIDC is Taiwan’s leading aerospace company that has designed and built the island nation’s first locally produced jet fighters, the Indigenous Defensive Fighters (IDF).

The locally built IDF “Ching-Kuo” (經國號) fighters were developed and manufactured by the AIDC in 1988. The aircraft was named after the late President Chiang Ching-Kuo. At the ongoing Air Show in the UK, the AIDC also received a NT$1 billion order from Sicamb of Italy to supply composite material parts for the horizontal stabilizers used for the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The Taiwan company also reached a deal with Bell Helicopter on continual supply of H-1 helicopter tail booms.