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Indigenous V/STOL Fighter
Vertical/Short Taking-off and Landing

Many experts believe Taiwan should buy or develop a VSTOL fighter because China will try to destroy runways early in a conflict. Air superiority is a basic element of Taiwan’s defense, yet the fragility of Taiwan’s runways is the Air Force’s greatest vulnerability. Intensive anti-air missile, emergency runway repair gears or using civilian roadways for takeoff and landing are expedient work-arounds that address the symptoms but not the root cause of the issue, and could well be ineffective under conditions of unexpected high-density bombardment by the People’s Liberation Army.

Advanced vertical/short taking off and landing [V/STOL] jets are therefore a defense necessity. V/STOL fighters could represent Taiwan’s last manned fighter jet as Taiwan moves toward a completely unmanned air fleet (similar to the Eurofighter TYPHOON for several European countries). A few options are available, including the eventual release of the F-35B, the transfer of an existing Vertical and/or Short Take-Off and Landing (VSTOL) design, such as the AV-8B, or the initiation of design work on a VSTOL-capable advanced indigenous defense fighter. Some see the probability of acquiring the U.S.-made F-35B within the next ten years is quite low.

The air force is preparing to build a new fighter that has vertical/short taking off and landing (VSTOL) capabilities. "Because of the strong likelihood that landing strips at air bases will come under intensive missile attack and be destroyed during a war with China, the air force considers fighters with VSTOL capabilities to be most suitable for Taiwan's defense," air force Commander Liu Kui-li told the Chinese-language China Times daily 23 January 2006. "The air force is open to any kind of VSTOL fighters, and is not necessarily aiming for the US' Joint Strike Fighters [JSF] that are in development," he said. Liu said the air force hoped to create the new fighter force by 2020. He said the upgrading of the fleet was necessary to counter Chinese military spending.

The efficiency of a propulsion system for an aircraft increases as the exhaust velocity is reduced. Thus, during takeoff, landing and hovering, it is obvious that a helicopter, which provides a small incremental velocity to a large mass of air, is more efficient than a jet aircraft, which provides a large incremental velocity to a small mass of air. However, a helicopter, because of its very large diameter rotor, has a limited forward velocity, certainly not much over two hundred miles per hour. Thus, most V/STOL aircraft are compromises. For example, the AV-8A Harrier V/STOL aircraft utilizes a turbofan engine for both hover and cruise propulsion. As with a helicopter, the large fan provides significant thrust for vertical lift in hover, but its correspondingly large frontal area increases the drag of the aircraft and limits its maximum speed to subsonic speeds.

The “National Defense Policy Blue Paper” was released by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party on 03 October 2014. It proposed that Taiwan indigenously develop advanced V/STOL fighter jets. The time frame for indigenous development from conceptualization to completion of the prototype is approximately seven years, with an upfront development cost of between NT$80-100 billion (approximately NT$11.4-14.3 billion per year), and mass production can begin approximately nine years after the development program is initiated. The development of a V/STOL advanced fighter jet could be the flagship project for the revitalization of the aerospace sector under a new DPP administration, one which would require the MND to play a major supporting role by assisting the contractors to acquire key technologies and component sets (such as thrust vectoring rudder control and high speed propulsion systems).

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Page last modified: 06-10-2021 12:15:06 ZULU