Taiwan unveiled its new, domestically-developed trainer jet this week with one expert saying the aircraft could be used for combat if there was a war with China, Taiwan News reported.

President Tsai Ing-wen unveiled the prototype of Taiwan’s advanced jet trainer (AJT), named “Yung Yin”or “Brave Eagle,” in Taichung. The same day, Su Tzu-yun, a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told CNA the aircraft could be quickly converted, if necessary, into a warplane.

Su said the supersonic jet trainer, also known as XAT-5, could carry out air-to-ground attack missions overland and at sea in the event of a war. Ma Wan-june, president of the government-funded Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), told CNA that for confidentiality reasons, he could not confirm whether the plane had combat capabilities, the report said.

A person familiar with the matter told the news agency it “would not be difficult for the new advanced jet trainer to carry weapons.” However, the source added that due to engine thrust factors and since the aircraft does not have an afterburner, the amount of ordinance the plane could carry was limited.

Su added that production of 66 AJTs would help augment Taiwan’s fighter jet fleet, as out of the 250 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs) originally slated for production, only 131 were actually built.

Taiwanese officials said that production of 66 AJTs would help augment Taiwan’s fighter jet fleet. Credit: aagth1.blogspot.

Although AJTs bear a strong resemblance to IDFs, Ma said 80% of the components are newly designed, such as the cockpit, electronic system, and TFE1042 turbo-fan engine, the report said.

Su anticipates the new jets may have an international market as worldwide demand for AJTs could reach 400 by 2030, representing a market value of US$7 billion. Su predicted that even if there were diplomatic difficulties, discreet cooperation with global manufacturers could reap benefits for Taiwan’s aircraft industry.

Su added that production of 66 AJTs would help augment Taiwan’s fighter jet fleet, as out of the 250 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs) originally slated for production, only 131 were actually built.

Although AJTs bear a strong resemblance to IDFs, Ma said 80% of the components are newly designed, such as the cockpit, electronic system, and TFE1042 turbo-fan engine, the report said.

Su anticipates the new jets may have an international market as worldwide demand for AJTs could reach 400 by 2030, representing a market value of US$7 billion. Su predicted that even if there were diplomatic difficulties, discreet cooperation with global manufacturers could reap benefits for Taiwan’s aircraft industry.

Flight testing is expected to start in June 2020, and the 66 AJTs are scheduled to be delivered by 2026, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

After years of reluctance to sell new, advanced fighter jets to Taiwan, the United States finally decided last month to sell F-16 Block 70 fighter jets worth US$8 billion, Kyodo News reported. The last sale of US fighter jets to Taiwan took place in 1992 under the George H.W. Bush administration.

The move drew strong protests from China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting unification, by force if necessary.