TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Monday that the launch of Taiwan’s first indigenous advanced jet trainer (AJT), codenamed Brave Eagle, signified the development of the country’s aerospace industry.
The inaugural flight of the Brave Eagle was also a validation of the government’s policy of strengthening indigenous defense, Tsai said at the launch ceremony at Ching Chuan Kang air base in Taichung.
Despite doubts in its conception stage, the indigenous military hardware program has created more than 2,000 jobs and cultivated talent for Taiwan’s aerospace industry, said Tsai, who introduced the policy in 2016.
The Brave Eagle took off from Ching Chuan Kang air base at 9:20 a.m. Monday, carrying out a series of tests that included its ground run, high speed rolling take-off, airborne performance, final approach, and landing.
“The inaugural flight has again created history, 31 years after the maiden flight of the Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF),” Tsai said, when the Brave Eagle completed its 12-minute inaugural test, accompanied by a Ching-kuo IDF, the first fighter jet built by Taiwan.
The launch of the Brave Eagle also signified the growth of Taiwan’s aerospace industry and the government’s commitment to safer training for the men and women of the country’s Air Force, Tsai said.
According to retired Air Force Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Chang Yen-ting (張延廷), the Brave Eagle is capable of providing air support against hostile targets at sea and on land, as it can carry missiles and bombs.
Pilots who train on the Brave Eagle, which has a fully digitized cockpit, will be able to switch seamlessly to training on the F-16V, Chang told CNA Sunday, noting that Taiwan will be taking delivery of 66 F-16Vs from the United States over the next three years.
Meanwhile, Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said Sunday that the Brave Eagle is one of the most advanced fifth-generation trainer aircraft in the world, with its state-of-the-art digital hardware and flight simulation software.
The Brave Eagle was built by the government-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) over three years, at a cost of NT$66.8 billion (US$2.23 billion), and is expected to go into mass production by March 2022.
At the unveiling of the prototype last September, the AIDC said it aimed to deliver 66 units by 2026, as the government plans to replace Taiwan’s aging AT-3 and F-5 trainer aircraft that have been in service for more than three decades.