Indigenous jet trainer one of most advanced: Taiwanese analyst

06/21/2020 07:32 PM
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File photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense.
File photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense.

Taipei, June 21 (CNA) Taiwan's first indigenous advanced jet trainer (AJT), the Brave Eagle, is considered one of the most advanced fifth-generation trainer aircraft in the world, a Taiwanese defense analyst said Sunday, ahead of the AJT's inaugural flight the next day.

"This is due to its advanced digital hardware and flight simulation software," Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told CNA.

The inaugural flight of the Brave Eagle is scheduled for June 22 at Ching Chuan Kang air base in Taichung, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expected to attend, according to military sources.

The Brave Eagle is equipped with a fully digitized cockpit and its software is capable of simulating both the flight of an AJT and a lead-in fighter trainer capable of firing missiles, he added.

The new designs and technologies used in the Brave Eagle enable it to calibrate its training courses more precisely, making it more capable than China's JL-10, JL-9 and JL-9G, even though they are are considered in the same class by some military analysts, Su added.

The manufacture of the Brave Eagle, dubbed project XAT-5, was launched by the government-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) in 2017 with a budget of NT$66.8 billion (US$2.23 billion).

According to the AIDC, all the software programs needed by the Brave Eagle are fully developed by local teams, allowing for easier upgrades in the future. In terms of structure, the plane is made using composite materials for a lighter and stronger body, and has larger landing gear for a more stable ground run.

Its first official test flight was conducted on June 10, 2020 at the Ching Chuan Kang base, eight months after the prototype was unveiled.

The AIDC plans to begin mass production of the Brave Eagle in March 2022, with the aim of delivering 66 units by 2026 to replace the country's aging AT-3 and F-5 trainer aircraft, which have served the military for over three decades.

Meanwhile, according to retired Air Force Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Chang Yen-ting (張延廷), the Brave Eagle is capable of providing air support against hostile targets at sea and on land due to its ability to carry missiles and bombs.

Aside from that, the birth of the Brave Eagle is expected to simplify the pilot training process and save on training costs, Chang said.

Benefiting from its fully digitized cockpit, pilots who complete their training in the Brave Eagle can seamlessly switch to training for the F-16Vs, 66 of which Taiwan has purchased from the United States and are expected to be delivered in batches from 2023, Chang said.

(By Matt Yu and Emerson Lim)

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