By Roy Choo/Taipei

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has unveiled the prototype of a new indigenous Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) at the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) facility in Taichung, christening it the “Yung Yin” or Brave Eagle.

Designated “A1”, the prototype is one of four that will be produced for ground and flight tests.

Previously named the XT-5 “Blue Magpie,” the program is a joint collaboration between the state-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) and AIDC.

Blue Magpie

The trainer is based on the F-CK-1 fighter

Republic of China Air Force

The contract to develop the trainer was first signed between the government and NCSIST on 7 February 2017 at a cost of US$2.2 billion. The first flight is slated for June 2020 with limited production beginning in November 2021. The project ultimately aims to produce 66 aircraft over a six-year period, replacing the AIDC AT-3 and Northrop F-5E/F which are utilised as advanced trainers and lead-in fighter trainers (LIFT) respectively.

The Brave Eagle design is based on the twin-seater version of the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo Indigenous Defence Fighter (IDF), but with the incorporation of 80% new components.

Among changes are the increased use of composite materials to reduce weight, greater fuel capacity, a different wing profile for slower, more stable low-level flight, removal of the gun, as well as the use of the non-afterburning Honeywell/ITEC F124-200TW.

It is understood that local company Pyras Technology has been contracted to supply the radar and communications antenna fit. Development of the Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) has been led by NCSIST, comprising flight training devices, full-mission simulators and mission-planning and debriefing systems.

The Brave Eagle is the cornerstone of President Tsai administration’s policy to boost development of homegrown defence systems in order to increase self-sufficiency and reliance in its defence efforts.

“Since the development of the IDF, our fighter development knowledge has steadily atrophied due to a lack of investment by the Defence Ministry,” she says. “Hence we have decided to pursue the local development of the Advanced Jet Trainer to provide a boost to our defence industry”.