AT-5 AJT Advanced Jet Trainer - Background
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen pledged that Taiwan would develop its own advanced trainer aircraft during her Presidential campaign. On 29 March 2016 Tsai visited Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), the state-owned aerospace company under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Tsai reiterated her determination to develop Taiwan’s own advanced trainer aircraft and the importance of the aerospace industry. Tsai stated that Taiwan’s aerospace industry was facing a crisis due to a lack of talented and experienced professionals, so Taiwan’s future aerospace industrial policy would put the cultivation of talents as a top priority. Tsai said she had three expectations for the advanced trainer aircraft: 1) The trainer aircraft must meet the expectations of the Air Force and AIDC should increase the proportion of locally-developed and manufactured aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet. 2) The development of the advanced trainer aircraft must pave the way for Taiwan’s next generation fighter jet. 3) The sooner AIDC could conduct the first flight test of the advanced trainer aircraft the better.
The Air Force was to purchase 66 advanced training planes as part of a plan to phase out all of its F-5 fighters and AT-3 training planes, Air Force Command Headquarters said in a statement released 06 September 2016. The procurement project had been approved by the Executive Yuan, the statement said, noting that the purchase is expected to meet the need for basic flight training missions and improve the efficiency of such training. The statement was issued after Chiang Chi-chen, an opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislator and convener of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, wrote of his fear that under the government's policy of having military aircraft built locally, there will not be sufficient time for local companies to build enough new aircraft to meet demand. Chiang said the Air Force planned to decommission all its F5 fighters in 2020 and its AT-3s in 2021, but some media reports have said that if the government insists on the implementation of self-sufficiency in aircraft production policy, the country will only see the release of a prototype aircraft in 2020.
The biennial Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) took place 13-16 August 2015 at the Taipei World Trade Center. This year, a total of 126 domestic and international exhibitors participated in the event, which represented a 27% increase compared with two years ago. With restrictions on what it can import and with the ever-present shadow of its large neighbor (and their turblent relationship) previous TADTE's have perhaps unsurprisingly mostly focused on the island nation's indigenous military capability.
At the show this year State-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) revealed three options for the RoCAF's pending requirement for around 66 advanced jet trainers. These were an upgraded AT-3 trainer — called the AT-3 MAX, a simpler IDF named the XAT-5, and a partnership with Alenia Aermacchi to locally build the M346 in Taiwan.
- The AT-3 MAX sees the twin engines uprated from 3,000lb thrust each to 5,000lbs to provide extra power, while the structure would be lightened through use of composites. Meanwhile the avionics would also be overhauled with options such as a glass cockpit, synthetic radar and an integrated training system. Hanxiang has 400 engineers and has experience in manufacturing military aircraft. Some people suggest that AT-3 should be used as the basis for the development of a new generation of higher education. However, the AT-3 configuration is 40 years ago and must be redesigned.
- The second proposal would be for AIDC to build the Aermacchi M346 Master advanced trainer locally.
- The third option would be using a twin-seat F-CK-1 fighter as the basis for an advanced trainer. The XAT-5, a twin-engine trainer that could be based on the Indigenous Defense Fighter’s (IDF) airframe, would see the IDF modified with extra fuel, its engines derated to remove the afterburner and a redesigned landing gear. The main equipment system remains unchanged, but the warplane radar is dismantled, machine gun and tail pipe, the fuselage will use composite materials to reduce weight, and modify the IDF landing problem, reduce aircraft approach and landing speed.
The initial concept of the "Blue Dragonfly" higher education machine was to partially modify the IDF two-seat aircraft. The main equipment system remains unchanged, but the aircraft radar, the cannon and the tail pipe will be dismantled, and the fuselage will be composited to reduce the weight; the main landing gear position is slightly Make external expansion and modify, and reduce the speed of landing and landing.
By August 2016 Leonardo-Finmeccanica had launched a massive public relations effort in Taiwan to save an agreement with a local aviation company to honor a 2014 deal to co-build the M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) for filling Taiwan’s air force requirement for 66 aircraft to replace aging AT-3 Tzu Chung attack/trainers. AIDC is the local partner for the Honeywell M-346's engines, assembled in Taiwan by the ITEC [International Turbine Engine Company] consortium. Considering that, the Taiwanese M-346 version would have at least 50 percent of its content made in Taiwan. Within that, part of the scope of the collaboration between Leonardo and AIDC is to guarantee to the transfer of competences to AIDC to perform possible customizations and/or upgrades to the aircraft configuration.
Leonardo said 06 August 2016 it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Taiwan’s state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation to supply 66 M-346s to the Republic of China Air Force. Giovanni Timossi, a sales manager with the company, said he traveled to Taiwan numerous times to discuss the contract and it was agreed that Italy would build the first 4-6 aircraft and the rest will be assembled in Taiwan with 50% components made in Italy. Italy also agreed to transfer relevant technology to Taiwan for the program.
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