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.