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XAT-5 AJT Advanced Jet Trainer

The new DPP government of president Tsai Ing-wen wanted to build a completely indigenous trainer, dubbed the XAT-5 AJT. By 2015 the Air Forces AT-3 and F-5 training jets were nearing the end of their respective service life and in critical need of upgrades. Taiwans AT-3 aircraft were built in the 1980s and built by AIDC with foreign assistance. The replacement will be fielded to two bases: one in Taitung to replace the aging F-5E/F Tigers and the other in Kangshan to replace the AT-3s.

To replace the aged AT-3 advanced trainers and F-5E/F fighters currently used to train fighter pilots, the ROC Air Force planned to allocate a budget of about USD 2.1 billion for 66 new advanced trainers, which were expected to be delivered starting in 2019. To meet this need, the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) offered the AT-3 MAX (resembling the AT-3 but with upgraded avionics and increased thrust) and XAT- 5 (a simplified version of the IDF fighter), and hoped to win over the ROCAF. Models of both trainers were on display on the exhibition. The AIDC was also working with Italys Alenia Aermacchi to participate in the bid with the Italian-designed M346, which provided the ROCAF with another option.

From a readiness and capabilities perspective, domestically developed jet trainers boast a high degree of compatibility and carry the advantage of being able to be rapidly used in combat missions or to supplement depleted first-line aircraft. Development would require 2-3 years and an additional upfront R&D expenditure of approximately NT$45 billion. President-elect Tsai Ing-wen pledged that Taiwan would develop its own advanced trainer aircraft during her recent 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 Taiwans own advanced trainer aircraft and the importance of the aerospace industry. Tsai stated that Taiwans aerospace industry was facing a crisis due to a lack of talented and experienced professionals, so Taiwans 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 Forces fleet. 2) The development of the advanced trainer aircraft must pave the way for Taiwans 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.

  1. 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.
  2. The second proposal would be for AIDC to build the Aermacchi M346 Master advanced trainer locally.
  3. 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 Fighters (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.

On 28 March 2016, Tsai Ing-wen Visiting Taichung Hanxiang Aviation Industry Co., Ltd., launched a self-developed self-made plan for Hanxiang's advanced trainer machine. 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 Taiwans 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 Taiwans 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.

Taiwan's Air Force signed an agreement 07 February 2017 to commission a domestic military-run institute to build 66 advanced trainer planes, signaling a step forward in the government's efforts to develop the local defense industry. At the signing ceremony, President Tsai Ing-wen said the deal signaled that Taiwan's self-reliance in the area of national defense had moved past the planning stage.

Under the terms of the agreement signed by Air Force Commander Shen Yi-ming and National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) President Chang Guan-chung, the first prototype of the trainer aircraft is expected to be completed in 2019 and test flights a year later.

Under the pacts, which pertain to an NT$68.6 billion (US$2.2 billion) MND program, 66 XT-5 Blue Magpie trainers will be designed and built by Taoyuan City-headquartered National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology [NCSIST] the main R&D arm of the MNDin conjunction with Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. [AIDC], a state-owned firm overseen by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. A prototype is scheduled for completion in 2019, with test flights expected to take place the next year. By 2026, the full complement of aircraft will replace the Republic of China (Taiwan) air forces aging fleet of AT-3 trainers and F-5 fighters.

The initial concept of the "Blue Dragonfly" higher education machine is 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 2026, the fleet of 66 advanced trainers will be delivered to seamlessly replace the military's AT-3 trainer aircraft and F-5 fighter jets, which are over 30 years old, the institute said. The Ministry of National Defense (MND), which has allocated a budget of NT$68.6 billion (US$2.21 billion) to build the new aircraft, decided to adopt the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.'s (AIDC) XT-5 "Blue Magpie" design for the trainers.

Han Xiang Airlines signed a contract with the Zhongshan Academy of Sciences on 25 April 2017 for a new type of training aircraft. After one year of planning and contracting procurement operations, Han Xiang executives revealed that on 01 June 2018 the assembly ceremony was held and the goal of the first flight in 2020 was fully pursued. The Air Force planned to compile NT$68.6 billion from 2017 to 2028 to build 66 new high-education machines. It is expected that the first prototype will be shipped in 2019 and the first flight in 2020.

Hanxiangs self-developed high-education machine will be named after the unique species of Taiwans blue dragonfly, because the blue dragonfly special protection nest represents the determination of self-defense. Taiwan Blue Dragonfly was voted "National Bird" by Internet in 2008. It has two characteristics: First, to protect the energy of the home when seeking survival. Second only to the Israeli national bird "Hai Sheng", if it is due to the breeding season, if there is an invasion by foreign enemies, it will immediately fight back, "declaring the determination of self-defense." Secondly, Liao Rongxin emphasized that blue dragonfly is a group of animals. If food is scarce, it will help to feed non-self-generated children, symbolizing team spirit, and also cooperate with Taiwan National Aerospace Industry policy.

XT-5 Blue Magpie XT-5 Blue Magpie XT-5 Blue Magpie XT-5 Blue Magpie
XT-5 Blue Magpie

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