Taiwan has showcased an upgraded version of one of its key fighters and the only indigenous combat aircraft design in air force service at the present moment.
The AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo air superiority fighter is second-only to the F-16 in terms of numbers operated by the Republic of China Air Force (Taiwanese Air Force). First flown in 1989, it joined the RoCAF in 1994 and, to date, 130 examples have left the local production line.
The upgraded version is the result of an apparent failure to acquire similarly-upgraded F-16s from the US a little less than two years ago. While not officially confirmed, it seems US lawmakers weren't prepared to export certain arms to the country, in case China reacted badly.
Taiwanese Fighter Upgrades
The Taiwanese fighter upgrades will give these aircraft a new avionics package, including more advanced mission computers and radar features.
They will also augment the weapons capability of the Indigenous Defence Fighters, giving them a total of four, not two, equally indigenous Tien Chien 2 (Sky Sword) AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles) and a redesigned glass cockpit.
The initial six upgraded AIDC IDFs have now been supplied to the RoCAF and, while not all serving airframes will be retrofitted with new features, 71 will, over the coming four years.
Upgraded Taiwanese Fighter Jets
Ultimately, the upgraded Taiwanese fighter jets will be operated by three Tactical Fighter Groups, the 1st, the 3rd and the 9th. All form part of the Republic of China Air Force's 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Tainan Air Base.
In a News Item published last year, Armed Forces International covered the then-state of China's airpower.
This included mention of a report issued by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, which referred to Taiwan's restricted airpower capabilities. "Although Taiwan has nearly 400 combat aircraft in service, far fewer of these are operationally capable", it wrote.
Earlier that year, the US and Taiwan had agreed a major new arms deal. This majored on Patriot missiles and associated systems, but excluded fighter aircraft.
Image copyright Chang-Song Wang - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons