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Taiwan to begin production of jet trainer aircraft

By Elizabeth Shim
Taiwan to begin production of jet trainer aircraft
Taiwan’s air force is to replace all trainer jets with a newly built domestic aircraft by 2026. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

April 26 (UPI) -- Taiwan has begun to manufacture next-generation trainer jets as it militarizes an island in the South China Sea in response to Chinese buildup in the Spratly Islands.

Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times reported Wednesday that Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology president Chang Guang-chung signed a contract, on behalf of the government to produce 66 advanced jet trainers with the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation.

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The policy measure is being taken as part of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's initiative to domestically develop the country's fighter aircraft, according to the report.

Taiwanese Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan, Mayor of Taoyuan Cheng Wen-tsan, and Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin were in attendance at the signing ceremony.

A briefing session on the future aircraft's engine, system parts and auxiliary systems was held for potential contractors.

The air force's older F-5 fighters are in service but are to be gradually phased out, while the advanced jet trainer AT-3 Tzu Chung has been in service for more than 30 years.

Taiwan plans to replace all trainer jets with the domestic aircraft in 10 years, according to the press report.

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Taiwan has previously stated the F-5 and AT-3 aircraft will be decommissioned in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The defense ministry is to allocate $2.8 billion until 2020 to develop the advanced trainers, and begin testing the jets until 2026, when 66 units are planned for deployment.

Militarization of China-claimed islands in the South China Sea is ongoing, but international interest has waned in Beijing's actions with the recent escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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