Aerial Warfare

Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp Develops New Trainer Aircraft

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Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp Develops New Trainer Aircraft

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Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corp Develops New Trainer Aircraft
Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corp Develops New Trainer Aircraft

Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) has announced the completion of the first design phase for a cutting-edge military trainer aircraft. This strategic move aims to replace the aging 36 Beechcraft T-34C Turbo-Mentor trainers, which have faithfully served the nation for nearly four decades but are now approaching the end of their service life. With the completion of the initial design phase, AIDC is poised to move forward into the second stage, contingent upon the air force’s initiation of the development and production process for the new trainer jet. AIDC envisions a prototype ready for testing by 2028, with mass production set to commence in 2031, marking a crucial milestone in Taiwan’s aerospace capabilities.

The ambitious plan involves the development and production of 45 domestically manufactured trainers at an estimated cost of NT$21.4 billion (US$690.3 million). AIDC emphasizes that although acquiring the same number of planes from foreign sources would be marginally cheaper at NT$18.6 billion, the long-term benefits of investing in domestically produced jets far outweigh the initial cost difference. One compelling factor is the potential savings in maintenance fees over a 25-year lifespan. AIDC estimates that maintaining domestically built planes would amount to NT$52 billion, a figure notably lower than the NT$52.9 billion required for maintaining aircraft procured from abroad.

Beechcraft T-34C Turbo-Mentor trainers
Republic of China Air Force Beechcraft T-34C Turbo-Mentor trainers. (Photo by oCAF)

AIDC contends that investing in domestically produced jets will generate substantial spillover effects, potentially infusing nearly NT$39 billion into the economy. With approximately 200 domestic companies poised to participate in the development process, and over 70% of the components expected to be locally sourced, the initiative promises to stimulate various sectors, fostering economic growth and technological advancement. The urgency for this development stems from the air force’s acquisition of 49 Beechcraft T-34C trainers in 1985, 40 of which are still in service. However, as these trainers lack ejection seats crucial for pilot safety in emergencies, legislators and military sources have advocated for their phased replacement. The T-34Cs are expected to be gradually phased out, starting in 2033.

Furthermore, AIDC underscores the strategic importance of building a new trainer jet domestically. Not only does it address the immediate need for modernizing the air force’s training fleet, but it also positions Taiwan’s aerospace sector to enhance its capabilities in manufacturing high-end aircraft systems and spare parts. This, in turn, prepares the nation for the future development of next-generation fighter jets. In essence, AIDC’s endeavor to develop a new trainer aircraft marks a crucial step towards ensuring the security of Taiwan’s airspace while concurrently bolstering its aerospace industry. The initiative stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to self-reliance and technological advancement in the defense sector.

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