President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) praised the first batch of upgraded Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) jets and the installation of a new weapons system at a ceremony held at an air base in Greater Tainan yesterday.
Ma, who presided over the ceremony to mark the upgrading of the locally developed IDFs that was conducted by the Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corp, praised the improvements in the aircraft’s radar, avionics and weapons systems.
The mid-life upgrade has also improved the braking system in the IDFs, providing better protection for pilots, Ma said.
The new digitalized braking system is said to give more control to the pilot and therefore makes landings safer.
With the upgrade, the IDF’s capabilities are close to those of the F-16, the president said, adding that some new functions of the 71 upgraded fighters — called IDF C/Ds — are even better than those on the US-made fighter jets, which the Republic of China Air Force also operates.
Ma also touted the Wan Chien bomb that can be carried by the IDF C/Ds. The cluster bomb was researched and produced by the military-run Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology.
Similar to the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon employed by the US military, the Wan Chien can strike targets from a distance to take out an enemy airfield without exposing the IDF to anti-aircraft fire.
Without confirming its reported range, an air force officer said it is greater than that of any Russian-made surface-to-air missiles used by China.
According to local media reports, Wan Chien has a range of more than 200km and mass production of the bombs is to start in the next year.
With a turbine engine and a GPS guidance system installed, the Wan Chien can be launched from the air to attack airports in southeastern China, the air force said.
Ma also took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of the military remaining on guard even though ties across the Taiwan Strait have improved.
“With efforts over the last five years, cross-strait ties are at their best in 60 years, but we still have to remain vigilant in maintaining the military’s defense capabilities,” Ma said.
In addition to the IDF upgrade program, Taiwan has since November last year begun taking delivery of P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the US, Ma said.
“This shows that our military continues to advance its training and bolster its combat readiness,” he said.
Another 56 IDF fighters at the Ching Chuan Kang air base in Taichung are set to be upgraded later this year.
It is estimated that all of Taiwan’s IDFs will be able to carry the Wan Chien systems by early 2017.