Taiwan may convert retired fighter jets into drones

Taiwan’s defense industry is considering converting its aging F-5 fleet into Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) as constant provocations by the Chinese military puts pressure on air force manpower, it was revealed in Taiwan’s legislature today.

Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng met with the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan today, May 4, to report on a range of issues, including the Naval and Air Combat Power Enhancement Plan and F-16V(Block 70) procurement progress.

Democratic Progressive Party legislator Wang Ting-yu said that the frequent incursions of Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) by Chinese military aircraft is time-consuming for air force pilots and reduces the available time for training young pilots. In addition, there are fuel costs and safety considerations, so would it be possible to convert the retiring F-5 fighters into UAVs.

President of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) Art Chang answered the question, and said that indeed, NCSIST is willing and able to convert the retiring jets into unmanned vehicles. The Institute has been conducting research in the direction of using the F-5s as UAVs and target drones, and definitely has the technology to do it.

The MND recently reported that the F-5 aircraft are expected to be fully phased out by the end of 2024, as the domestically developed AIDC T-5 “Brave Eagle” replaces them in their capacity as combat capable trainer jets.

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