Sat, Jun 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

US should focus on stated goal of closing Taiwan’s fighter gap

By Dean Cheng

The F-16C/Ds, after all, are not intended to augment the F-16A/Bs, but to replace the F-5Es, which at this point are wholly outmatched.

The constant delay in acquiring the F-16C/D means that, as the F-5Es — which represent 20 percent of Taiwan’s combat aircraft inventory — are withdrawn from service, the total number of ROCAF aircraft is falling.

Similarly, the Obama administration does not appear to have any interest in replacing the obsolescent Ching-kuo fighters or even improving their performance with better engines.

F-16C/D Capabilities

Seven years ago and many times since, the Taiwanese government has expressed interest in the F-16C/D as a replacement for the F-5.

In some quarters, however, it has been suggested that the ROCAF would be “settling” for an aircraft no more capable than what it already has.

Such a judgement would be badly mistaken. In the first place, as has already been noted, the F-16C/D is intended not as a replacement or supplement to the F-16A/B fleet, but as a replacement for the F-5s.

There can be no question that the F-16C/D is substantially more capable than the F-5E, which is not only physically quite old, but is an older, much more basic design.

In addition, the F-16C/D is also more capable than the A/B models it will supplement. The F-16C/D, ever since the Block 30 upgrade, has had improved air-to-ground weapons delivery capability.

The F-16C/D’s electronics are designed to support a variety of ordnance (JSOW, the JDAM, and the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser), which allows for improved delivery of submunitions.

This will significantly enhance the ability of the ROCAF to conduct close air support operations.

Furthermore, if the ROCAF were to acquire the F-16C/D Block 52 or better such as Block 52+ or Block 60, the new aircraft would be equipped with superior performance capability.

The F-16C/D Block 52+ can also be equipped with conformal fuel tanks, which extends range without sacrificing weapons carriage or performance.

The F-16C/D Block 52 and 52+ has, as standard equipment, a radar that is an improvement on the original radar fitted to the F-16A/B.

However, it is probably no better than the AESA radar currently planned for the F-16A/B upgrades. Yet, there are already AESA radars designed for the F-16C/D Block 52.

South Korea has selected an advanced radar for its F-16C/D upgrade, while defense technology company Northrop Grumman has supplied a beam radar to a number of current F-16C/D operators.

Consequently, any F-16C/D acquisition could be structured to have the improved electronic suites.

Taiwan could access an even better F-16C/D variant if it acquires the equivalent of the F-16C/D Block 60.

This is a private venture funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was the first to incorporate an AESA radar.

It uses a different engine, which has 10 percent more thrust than the earlier F-16C/D fighters. It also incorporates a different electronic warfare suite and provision for the carriage of several additional weapons, such as an advanced short-range air-to-air missile and a land attack missile.

To guide these weapons, the F-16C/D Block 60 has an Integrated Forward Looking Infrared and Targeting System (IFTS), reducing drag and radar cross-section.

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