Taiwanese Jet Trainer Due To Fly In June 2020
Taiwan’s air force should be a little less anxious. Needing to replace worn out jet trainers as soon as possible, the service is seeing Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) execute the replacement program approximately on schedule. The company plans to fly its Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) in June 2020, following a rollout last month.
The manufacturer is applying a variety of carbon-fiber technologies from its commercial-aircraft programs to the design of the AJT, which is in turn providing an opportunity for AIDC to begin using 3D-printed parts.
The AJT, a twin-engine subsonic aircraft, is distantly derived from AIDC’s supersonic FC-K-1 fighter of the 1990s, which it much resembles. The size and configuration are the same, but 80% of the parts are different. In addition, its aerodynamics have been modified to suit the training role. The engine type is the Honeywell F124, a nonafterburning derivative of the TFE-1042-7 of the F-CK-1.
The Taiwanese government put AIDC under considerable pressure in 2017 with an AJT development and production contract that required deliveries to begin within four years—that is, in 2021. The first of two prototypes had to be rolled out in 2019 and fly in 2020. It will indeed fly in June 2020, AIDC’s director of strategy Jennifer Chuang said before the rollout.
Moves for a replacement began long before Taipei finally launched AJT development. In 2008, AIDC negotiated with Alenia Aermacchi, now Leonardo, to develop an aircraft based on that company’s M346 trainer. That twin-engine aircraft is also powered by the F124. Before those discussions, AIDC talked to Korea Aerospace Industries about a Taiwanese adaptation of the T-50. A few AIDC engineers took part in the original development program of that type.
China might have punished Italy or South Korea if either of those projects had gone ahead. The U.S. cares much less about Chinese retaliation, but it had no jet trainer in production when Taiwan finally decided, in 2017, it could wait no longer for an AT-3 replacement. The T-7 Red Hawk, under development by Boeing and Saab, is not due to be initially operational with the U.S. Air Force until 2024.
Currently, trainers make up 17.2% of Taiwan's defense fleet.