Taiwan new fighter jet to heavily rely on foreign parts: report
To fast-track the development of its next-generation fighter jet, Taiwan is planning to heavily rely on foreign parts and designs.
According to local outlet Up Media, the Next Generation Main Fighter Development Project is set to be launched in 2023 by the Ministry of National Defense, and involves Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), the country's main aerospace manufacturer.
The Ministry initially considered updating the Honeywell/ITEC F125-GA-100 engine, which powers Taiwan’s indigenous AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo fighter based on the F-16. But eventually, a request was sent to General Electric to procure the F414-GE-400 instead. This powerplant already equips the F-18E/F Super Hornet. South Korea also chose the engine for its Korea Aerospace Industries KF-21 Boramae, itself still under development, and India for the upcoming LCA Mk II program.
The new jet’s configuration will take inspiration from the US-made Lockheed Martin F-35, meaning it will resemble the KF-21, which also heavily references the US fighter.
L3 Harris is set to provide the avionics, though BAE Systems is still under consideration, according to Up Media. A decision on the suppliers of the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system and cockpit displays will be made public by the end of May 2022, as per the report.
The program has an ambitious roadmap, provided that all these foreign procurements come to fruition. The prototype rollout is scheduled for before May 2024, when current President Tsai Ing-Wen will leave office. The maiden flight is due to take place the following year. Taiwan hopes for the fighter to reach initial operational capability (IOC) by the end of the decade.
This fast-track development of a new fighter jet is likely associated with increased Chinese military aircraft activity within Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). In 2020, the Taiwanese defense ministry reported that the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew about 380 sorties into the country’s ADIZ, the highest number since 1996.
Currently, the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF) operates over a hundred F-16, 52 Mirage 2000, and 128 F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo. Roughly 20 F-5Es are also used as trainers. In August 2020, Taiwan placed an order for 66 new F-16 fighter jets for a total of $62 billion.
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