The Ministry of National Defense should continue upgrading the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) aircraft on schedule to maintain its air defenses even as it tries to acquire F-16C/Ds from the US, a lawmaker said yesterday.
Alleging that a plan to upgrade the IDFs was facing administrative delays, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the military should not shelve the project because it would take years to acquire F-16C/D aircraft if Washington agreed to sell them.
According to the Air Force, the plan to upgrade 56 IDF aircraft based in Greater Taichung is set to be carried out between 2014 and 2017 at a cost of NT$15.4 billion (US$524.52 million). In all, there are 127 IDFs in service in the air force.
“As far as I’m concerned, there has been no change [in project plans],” Deputy Minister of National Defense Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) said in response to questions from Lin at a hearing of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
Noting the US approval of an upgrade package for Taiwan’s F-16A/Bs in September last year and the possibility that the White House might consider selling it F-16C/Ds, Chao said the ministry would take every factor into consideration to ensure defense budgets are well spent.
Asked by Lin how long it would take to receive the first F-16C/Ds if the US agreed to the sale, Air Force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Chang Huey-zon (張惠榮) said it would take six to eight years to get the first plane.
Because Taiwan cannot obtain the F-16C/Ds in the next couple of years, Lin urged the ministry to continue the IDF upgrade program as scheduled to maintain Taiwan’s air defenses.
The military received the first six upgraded IDFs in June.