Taiwan to Develop 5th-Gen Fighter Jets 9 March, 2019

Taiwan is building its own next-generation fighter jets while seeking to acquire the latest fighters from the United States, Taiwanese Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Wu Pao-kun, director of the ministry's Department of Strategic Planning, told a press conference that the next-generation aircraft must possess stealth characteristics and be capable of short take-offs, without elaborating.

Maj. Gen. Tang Hung-an, head of the air force command's planning division, told the same press conference that the plan to build the next-generation fighters at home is "going as scheduled."

In addition to designing and building its own fighter jets, the ministry is also seeking to acquire next-generation jets from the United States, which is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to sell Taiwan defence articles and services necessary to enable the self-ruling island to maintain a sufficient self-defence capability.

The United Daily News reported Thursday that if Washington refuses to budge on the price, the ministry might purchase, or rent, F-15s or F-18s instead.

The F-16 is one of mainstay fighters of Taiwan's air force. The other two are the Indigenous Defence Fighter, or IDF, and the Mirage 2000.

Taiwan previously made an official request to purchase F-16 C/D from the United States, but Washington never replied. Instead, it agreed to upgrade the island's fleet of around 140 F-16A/B to the level of F-16V, with the first batch of four under testing. The air force hopes to upgrade at least 24 annually.

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