Minister says air force looking into replacing aging jets

By Rich Chang  /  Staff reporter

Tue, May 07, 2013 - Page 3

The military said yesterday that the air force’s aging F-5 jets will be decommissioned in 2019 and replacements are being sought.

“Currently F-5s are being used in a training capacity, and the air force is seeking new aircraft,” Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) said during a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said that although the F-5 fighters are being used as jet trainers, they still have combat capability.

As the jets are to be retired in 2019, the air force should look for advanced training aircraft to replace them, with the new jet trainers capable of performing combat operations if necessary.

Lin added the new training aircraft should be produced by the domestic Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.

Kao said the air force currently possesses AT-3 jet trainers that can also serve as combat aircraft.

“Whether it be the development of a new type of jet trainer or retrofit work on F-16A/B fighter aircraft, the ministry hopes the work will be carried out by the domestic defense industry in Taiwan,” Kao said.

Lin asked whether the ministry was still interested in buying F-16C/Ds from the US, to which the minister replied that standard F-16C/Ds do not match current defense requirements.

He said the ministry originally wanted to procure F-16C/Ds, but instead it was only able to be granted retrofitting of 146 F-16A/Bs currently in service. The upgraded F-16A/Bs are equipped with a new radar system, while standard F-16C/Ds use an older type of radar system and so do not match defense requirements.

According to the ministry, retrofit work on the F-16A/Bs is scheduled to begin in 2016 and last until 2028, with the first upgraded aircraft to be delivered in 2021.