The air force is preparing to test two upgraded versions of its locally developed fighter aimed at increasing the plane's range and firepower, the authoritative Jane's Defense Weekly said.
The two prototypes, being produced by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), are an improved version of the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), the weekly said in an article to be published on Wednesday.
It said both the range and weaponry of the plane were intentionally limited under the US technology-transfer program that was crucial to the IDF's development in the 1980s.
"We are preparing for ground tests. We have only manufactured two prototypes. If everything goes well we can put it into production after the air force approves the prototypes," Sun Tao-yu (
The upgrade allows the IDF to carry an additional 771kg of fuel and includes an improved avionics suite, retrofitted electronic-warfare capabilities and new weapon systems.
The landing gear has been strengthened to accommodate the added fuel and payload, but a plan to include dielectric radar-absorbing properties for a "stealth" fuselage was dropped due to concerns over weight.
The three-phase program was launched in 2001 and recently saw completion of its second phase.
The first phase involved increasing the number of Tien Chien 2 (Sky Sword 2) air-to-air missiles from two to four, as well as integrating the new Tien Chien 2A anti-radiation missile and the new Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) cluster bomb.
The second phase involved the upgrading of mission computers; electronic countermeasures; electronic warfare systems; an advanced "identification friend or foe" system and terrain-following and radar improvements.
Phase three will involve ground and air testing, with service entry scheduled for 2010 if the program is approved.
AIDC produced 130 IDFs during the 1980s to replace the nation's ageing Lockheed F-104 Starfighters and Northrop F-5 Tigers.