The AIDC T-5 advanced jet trainer is prepared to fully replace the Northrop F-5 in Taiwanese service, but the RF-5E reconnaissance version will remain operational until Taipei receives new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
According to a report in the Taiwan News outlet, the F-5s will depart Republic of China Air Force service by the end of 2024, as the locally produced T-5 gradually replaces them.
The F-5s could be used for training duties or serve is decoys near airports. Cirium fleets data indicates that Taiwan’s remaining F-5E/Fs serve in both the training and air defense roles. The T-5s are restricted to training work.
Meanwhile, ROCAF RF-5Es will remain in service until Taiwan receives the Collins Aerospace MS-110 multispectral airborne reconnaissance pod, and the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9B Reaper.
Cirium indicates that the ROCAF operates five RF-5Es, which have an average age of 40 years. While the baseline F-5 has a pair of 20mm cannons in the nose, the RF-5E sees one cannon replaced with camera equipment.
The US government cleared the sale of six MS-110s in 2020. The system can be deployed on various aircraft types, including the Lockheed Martin F-16, of which Taiwan is a major operator, and the MQ-9B. The pod collects multi-band infrared imagery that can help discriminate between targets, detect changes on terrain, see camouflage, concealment or deception, claims Collins Aerospace, a unit of RTX.
In May, the US government awarded GA-ASI a contract to produce four MQ-9Bs for Taiwan.
Both systems are seen as use useful ISR capabilities to monitor China, which has ratcheted up military threats against its neighbor in recent years. Beijing deems the democratically run island as part of its sovereign territory, and routinely conducts air and sea incursions against the country.