The new trainer for the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) was rolled out in a ceremony at the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) factory in Taichung today. The Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) was unveiled in an event presided over by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, and received the name Yong Ying. The trainer – powered by a pair of non-afterburning Honeywell/ITEC F124-200TW engines – is expected to make its first flight in June next year.
The ROCAF’s search for an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) ended in February 2017, with the XT-5 announced as the future training platform. A contract worth $2.2bn, awarded to the military-run National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), was signed on February 7.
As a subcontractor, AIDC has developed and constructed the airframe which will be based on the dual-seat F-CK-1 fighter. Sixty-six AJTs will be built for the ROCAF, with deliveries of final production aircraft scheduled for 2026.
The aim is to develop the new trainer with a minimum of technical support from abroad. Compared to the F-CK-1, the XT-5 AJT features an improved fuel system and revised avionics. Lighter materials should increase the thrust-to-weight ratio, while a thicker aerofoil will offer a better lift/drag relationship, resulting in lower approach and landing speeds.
Taiwan’s current government – formed after Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential elections in January 2016 – places a heavy emphasis on development of local aerospace and defence industry. The ultimate selection of the XT-5 was, however, still controversial: the ROCAF’s required in-service date of no later than 2019 cannot be met and development of a new aircraft will inevitably lead to much higher costs.
The ROCAF evaluated both the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 and Leonardo M-346 as part of the AJT competition, which led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between AIDC and (the then) Finmeccanica in 2014 for 66 M-346s.
At least 60 were to be produced under licence by AIDC in Taiwan, with half of all components made in Italy. Finmeccanica agreed to the transfer of relevant technology, provision of technical assistance and support of a locally designed avionics suite if desired.
But the political winds of change in Taiwan in 2016 strongly favoured development of an indigenous AJT, and M-346 procurement fell by the wayside – despite a price reduction of about 25% off the original $2.1bn price tag.
The pro-independence government justifies heavy investment in its own defence industry as reducing reliance on foreign military purchases; and to gain expertise in building a future combat aircraft.
In the future, the new Advanced Jet Trainer will replace the AT-3 and F-5E/F for advanced flight training and tactical flight training. Peter Ho