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Taipei (AFP) Dec 31, 2012
Taiwan plans to complete the first stage of an ambitious plan to upgrade its fighter jet force by the end of 2013, in an effort to maintain a credible deterrent against China into the 2030s.
Some 60 of Taiwan's Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDFs) will be upgraded and ready for deployment within 12 months, according to a report submitted to parliament by the defence ministry.
The aircraft will be equipped with enhanced radar, avionics and electronic warfare capabilities, along with a locally-produced cluster bomb, according to the report.
The remainder of the country's 127-strong fleet of IDFs will be upgraded by 2017, the report said.
Taiwan deployed the IDFs in 1992 and the upgrade, which kicked off in 2009, will extend the service life of the aircraft for about another two decades according to the report, which was submitted to parliament last week and made available to AFP by a legislator on Monday.
The United States last year agreed to equip Taiwan's 146 ageing US-made F-16 A/B jets with new technologies in a $5.85 billion deal that irked China.
Beijing still sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has governed itself since 1949.
China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should the island declare formal independence, prompting Taipei to develop more advanced weapons or seek to buy them from abroad.
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