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DEFENSE/Air Force facility launched to train F-16V pilots

12/01/2023 09:01 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (standing). CNA photo Dec. 1, 2023
President Tsai Ing-wen (standing). CNA photo Dec. 1, 2023

Kaohsiung, Dec. 1 (CNA) The Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) Air Force Flight Training Command was launched Friday in Kaohsiung's Gangshan District with the aim of facilitating the training of pilots for the country's flagship F-16V fighter jets.

The launch marked the promotion of the command, formerly known as the Flying Training Command under the ROC Air Force Academy, into an independent facility.

With the launch of the command, an overhaul of the current pilot training system is to be introduced. This will see domestically built T-BE5A "Brave Eagle" advanced jet trainers assigned the role of combat training aircraft, replacing the AT-3 advanced jet trainers and as lead-in fighter trainers, replacing F-5 E/F fighter jets, which will be completely phased out next year, according to the ROC Air Force.

Meanwhile, basic flight training will continue being conducted on T-34 jet trainers, according to the Air Force.

That means the pilot training system which used to involve three types of aircraft will rely on just two aircraft -- the T-34 and the Brave Eagles.

T-34C (front) and AT-3 jet trainers are displayed with "Brave Eagles" jets at the newly established Air Force Flight Training Command in Kaohsiung Friday. CNA photo Dec. 1, 2023
T-34C (front) and AT-3 jet trainers are displayed with "Brave Eagles" jets at the newly established Air Force Flight Training Command in Kaohsiung Friday. CNA photo Dec. 1, 2023

However, as there is no timetable for retiring the AT-3 trainers, the Brave Eagles will only act as lead-in flight trainers for now, according to the Air Force.

Air Force Major Wang Tzu-hung (王次宏), a flight instructor, said one less type of aircraft in the training process means one less adaptation period for cadets, which will reduce the time they have to wait before receiving training on combat and flying skills for piloting F-16Vs.

The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump approved the sale of 66 F-16Vs to Taiwan in 2019.

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Huang Wen-hsuan (黃文軒), also a flight instructor, said cadets will learn how to carry out basic defense and offense and tactical formations in basic flight training before moving onto more advanced skills such as interception and air combat maneuvering.

An AT-3 jet trainer lands in the air base in Kaohsiung's Gangshan District on Friday. CNA photo Dec. 1, 2023
An AT-3 jet trainer lands in the air base in Kaohsiung's Gangshan District on Friday. CNA photo Dec. 1, 2023

At the launch ceremony of the Kaohsiung facility, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed hope the pilot training facility will provide an "iron-clad defense" for the country.

The incorporation of the Brave Eagle jet trainers into the pilot training process is expected to streamline efforts to train pilots and make the process more comprehensive, Tsai said.

She underlined the importance of a swift transition from basic flight training into training geared toward flagship aircraft, noting that fighter jet pilots have an important mission to mount an "iron-clad defense" for the country given the volatility of geopolitics.

The command and the ROC Air Force Academy are both located at the Air Force's Gangshan base, and Tsai said she hopes the two facilities will work closely to improve the safety of flight training and maximize its efficacy, thus bolstering national defense.

(By Matt Yu and Sean Lin)

Enditem/AW

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