Taiwan unveils upgraded fighter jet

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Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou gives a thumbs-up from the cockpit of the newly upgraded Taiwanese IDF, Indigenous Defense Fighter jet at the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), in Taichung, Taiwan, Thursday, June 30, 2011. Local reports have said that the military will upgrade 71 aircraft to enable them to carry more different types of missiles, including an anti-radiation missile. The Indigenous Defense Fighters entered service in 1992 and have been widely regarded as a relatively unsophisticated. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan has unveiled an upgraded version of its Indigenous Defence Fighter, a modest military jet that went into service 19 years ago.

President Ma Ying-jeou gave a thumbs-up Thursday from the cockpit of one of six aircraft already refitted with improved electronics, avionics, and the ability to carry better weapons.

The upgrade program involves 71 of the approximately 130 IDFs in Taiwan's air force. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2012 at a cost of $588 million.

Despite the upgrade, Taiwan's air force is continuing to fall behind its counterpart in rival China, which is developing a stealth fighter and aircraft carriers.

Taiwan is seeking relatively advanced F-16 fighters from the United States but has been turned down three times.