Tue, Jul 30, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Unwanted fighter jet takes to the air in first test flight

FLIGHT OF FANCY The Tiger 2000, which the AIDC has been working on for the past four years, had its first test flight last week, but the air force doesn't seem interested in the fighter any more

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A fighter plane being developed by the state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) that is years behind in its development and has lost the interest of its only potential buyer was test-flown for the first time last week, the AIDC said yesterday.

Wednesday's test flight of the Tiger 2000 prototype, an upgraded version of the US-made F-5E fighter, was a success, according to its makers.

The prototype will be test-flown several more times starting in the middle of next month, the AIDC said.

The Tiger 2000 prototype took off from CCK Air Base near Taichung at 3:10pm on Wednesday.

Retired air force pilot Wu Kang-ming (吳康明) flew the plane.

Wu was also the first to test fly the prototype of the domestically-built Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) in 1989.

"The test results were satisfactory," an official with the AIDC said.

"But more tests are needed to make sure that the capabilities of the plane will be as good and reliable as expected."

Although the test flight was a big step in the development of the Tiger 2000, the AIDC official said, it is not known whether the plane will go into production as initially planned.

"The test-flight of the prototype of the Tiger 2000 was conducted in the absence of the company's leader, Huang Jung-teh (黃榮德), an ex-deputy chief of the air force," the official said.

"We have yet to find out how Huang will handle the Tiger 2000 project. We can not be sure whether the project will continue, or end with the flight tests," he said.

The uncertainty stems from lack of interest in the plane shown by the air force, the only potential buyer of the Tiger 2000.

The air force originally intended to buy the plane, which was named after the year in which its development was scheduled to be completed.

But now the air force is planning to replace the Tiger 2000 purchase plan with another upgraded version of the F-5E that is cheaper and takes less time to build, sources said.

The fighter the air force is looking at would be largely the same as the original F-5E but with a modern radar system installed.

In comparison, the Tiger 2000 is much more difficult to construct since it requires a complete renewal of the plane's avionics and fire-control system.

The Tiger 2000 was aimed as an equivalent to the IDF, capable of carrying and firing the locally-developed medium-range Tien Chien-II air-to-air missile.

But the project, which originally seemed straightforward for the AIDC following its experience in developing the IDF, turned out to be a nightmare for the company.

The AIDC has spent the past four years overcoming problems in replacing the plane's complicated wiring systems and fixing the plane's engine.

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