TAIPEI --- Mirage fighters purchased from France have superb performance and Taiwan has no plans to decommission them ahead of schedule, Deputy National Defense Minister Lee Hsi-ming said on Monday.
The Apple Daily, a local newspaper, reported that 19 years have passed since Taiwan began to take delivery of Mirage fighters in 1997.
Taiwan has been asking France to upgrade the performance of the 56 Mirage fighter jets since 2012, but Paris has been dragging its feet, and even gave an "exorbitant" price tag, which resulted in the MND not accepting the deal, the report said.
There are worries that if parts and components of the fighters become unavailable, the Air Force could decommission them before the scheduled time, the report said.
Lee on Monday dismissed such a report at the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee. "Mirage fighter jets have superb performance," he said, adding that the Air Force is making efforts to maintain their performance.
On the supply of parts and components from France, he said there were no major problems.
The Air Force has meanwhile asked National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology to help extend the lifespan of the MICA missiles installed on Mirage fighters, Lee said, adding that the institute is capable of doing so.
Lee, however, acknowledged that the delivery of parts and materials needed for the maintenance of Mirage fighters and the price are indeed higher than two other types of aircrafts – the indigenous defense fighters (IDFs) and F-16 fighters – in the Air Force.
But the Air Force has been able to maintain the Mirage at an adequate level as required by the Ministry of National Defense, he said.
The Apple Daily has also reported that a fighter jet is generally designed to be used for 30 years, but 15 years after it rolls out of a plant, it will have to be upgraded to maintain its performance and to ensure flight safety. If there is no upgrade, the lifespan is about 20 years.
The report said that Taiwan has upgraded its other fighter jets. The IDF A/B has been upgraded to C/D, while the upgrade of F-16 A/B to F-16V will begin early next year.