TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan unveiled its new, domestically-developed trainer jets on Tuesday (Sept. 24), with one scholar saying the aircraft could be used for combat if there was a war with China.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) unveiled the prototype of Taiwan’s advanced jet trainer (AJT), named "Yung Yin" (勇鷹) or "Brave Eagle," in Taichung. The same day, Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told CNA the aircraft could be quickly converted, if necessary, into a warplane.
Su said the supersonic jet trainer, also known as XAT-5, could carry out air-to-ground attack missions overland and at sea in the event of a war. Ma Wan-june (馬萬鈞), president of the government-funded Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), told CNA that for confidentiality reasons, he could not confirm whether the plane had combat capabilities.
A person familiar with the matter told the news agency it "would not be difficult for the new advanced jet trainer to carry weapons." However, the source added that due to engine thrust factors and since the aircraft does not have an afterburner, the amount of ordinance the plane could carry was limited, compared with other warplanes in Taiwan’s arsenal.
Su added that production of 66 AJTs would help augment Taiwan’s fighter jet fleet, as out of the 250 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs) originally slated for production, only 131 were actually built. Although AJTs bear a strong resemblance to IDFs, Ma said 80 percent of the components are newly designed, such as the cockpit, electronic system, and TFE1042 turbo-fan engine.
Su anticipates the new jets may have an international market as worldwide demand for AJTs could reach 400 by 2030, representing a market value of US$7 billion. Su predicted that even if there were diplomatic difficulties, discreet cooperation with global manufacturers could reap benefits for Taiwan’s aircraft industry.