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Upgraded IDF jets to boost Taiwan's air defense

2014/01/16 18:43:04

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) The first batch of upgraded indigenous defense fighter (IDF) jets and the installation of a new weapons system on the locally developed fighters will boost Taiwan's air defense capabilities, the Air Force said Thursday.

The mid-life upgrade program, conducted by the Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corp., has improved the radar, avionics, weapons, flight control and monitoring systems of the IDF.

The IDF C/D is also capable of launching the Wan Chien bomb, which was researched and produced by the military-run Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Air Force officials said at a ceremony to mark the completion of the upgrading of the IDFs at an air base in Tainan, southern Taiwan.

Similar to the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon employed by the U.S. military, the Wan Chien can strike targets from a distance to take out an enemy airfield without exposing the IDF to anti-aircraft fire, the officials said.

With a turbine engine and a GPS guidance system installed, the Wan Chien can be launched from the air to attack military air bases in southeastern China, the officials added.

The purpose of the weapon is to hinder enemy fighters from taking off and landing by destroying their air bases, said Lt. Col. Chen Kuo-hua, an IDF pilot of the 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing at the Tainan base.

Declining to reveal the range of the cluster bomb, Chen said it is greater than that of the Russian-made S300 PMU2 surface-to-air missile used by the Chinese military. The S300 PMU2 missile has a range of 200 kilometers, longer than any other anti-aircraft missile deployed by the Chinese military, he added.

An upgraded IDF armed with Wan Chien bombs was on display at the ceremony.

The weapon has been tested successfully but has not yet been put into mass production, Chen said.

Lawmaker Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang, an expert on defense affairs, said recently that mass production of the Wan Chien bomb will begin next year, citing information provided by the Ministry of National Defense.

Thursday's ceremony was presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou and attended by Defense Minister Yen Ming, Air Force Commander Gen. Liu Chen-wu, other government officials and lawmakers.

A fleet of 56 IDF fighters at the Ching Chuan Kang air base in Taichung are set to be given the upgrades later this year.

The single-engine IDF has been in service for around 20 years.

All of Taiwan's IDFs are estimated to be capable of carrying the Wan Chien system by early 2017.

(By Elaine Hou)