Friday, December 8, 2023

Taiwan is also developing a new fighter inspired by the American F-35

Whether we like Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter or not, it is clear that the American aircraft has inspired numerous programs around the world since its entry into service. We already knew the South Korean K-FX program with the KF-21 Boramae presented last year , the Turkish TF-X program which is now encountering significant difficulties following Western sanctions, or the Japanese FX, which today seems to be getting closer to the British Tempest . Beyond the Western sphere, there is little doubt that the Lighting II inspired the future Chinese J-35 which will equip Beijing's aircraft carriers , while the Russian Su-75 checkmate program with its uncertain future has clearly was designed to provide a response to the American offer in this area. A new program has just joined this list of fighter aircraft inspired by the F-35, this time on the island of Taiwan, the Next Generation Main Fighter Development Project.

Taipei had made no secret of its intention to develop a new combat aircraft, after the F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo derived from the F-16 . But until now, we did not know which axes would be followed by the Taiwanese engineers. We now know more since the publication of several pieces of information by the Up Media website , and in particular concerning the desire of the Taiwan authorities to equip themselves with a device offering capabilities similar to that of the Lockheed plane, of which it is would inspire at least as much as the South Korean KF-21. In addition, the program will rely largely on imported (read American) technologies, particularly with regard to its turbojets and avionics. Finally, Taipei intends that the prototype of the device will make its first taxi before the end of President Tsai Ing-Wen's mandate, in May 2024, and its first flight the following year.

KF21 presentation
The connection between the South Korean KF-21 Boramae and the American F-35 Lighting II is obvious

According to the website, if initially the Taiwanese engineers thought of using a solution based on an evolution of the Honeywell/ITEC F125-GA-100 turbojet which equips the F-CK-1, it now seems that the General Electric F-414, which powers already the American Super Hornet , and which has achieved significant international success for equipping numerous programs such as the Swedish Gripen E, the South Korean KF-21 Boramae or even the Tejas Mk2 and the Indian AMCA, is preferred. This suggests that as for the KF-21 and the T-FX, the new Taiwanese fighter will also be twin-engined, just like the F-CK-1 already is, a configuration better suited to naval aviation missions, and above all imposed to power a medium fighter while the overpowering but fragile F-135 turbojet of the F-35 is not offered for export either. The avionics would be mainly supplied by L3 Harris and BAE, while the AESA radar model and the human machine interface in the cockpit will be announced before the end of the month.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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