The military unveiled a prototype of its new domestically made Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) named “Yung Ying” (勇鷹) — or “Brave Eagle” — on Sept. 24.
The initial flight test of the new plane is scheduled for next year, and a total of 66 AJTs are expected to be delivered by 2026. However, for Taiwan, is the birth of Brave Eagle a dream come true, or is it closer to a nightmare?
According to the Legislative Yuan’s data, the hourly cost of a US-made F-16 fighter jet is over NT$110,000, and that of a Taiwan-made Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) can go as high as NT$250,000.
Since there are only 130 IDFs in the world, the logistics maintenance of the jets is certainly expensive when the production volume is so low. If the Taiwanese manufacturer only produces 66 Brave Eagles — dubbed XAT-5 AJTs — to be honest, the hourly cost of an XAT-5 is doomed to be more expensive than that of an IDF.
The Achilles’ heel of the policy is that is the government cannot increase the production volume, the logistics cost of XAT-5 AJTs would surely become a heavy burden.
More seriously, if the cost of a single weapon cannot be lowered in the face of limited defense resources, it may no longer win the favor of government agencies in their future proposals.
It seems predictable that some legislators will definitely question in the foreseeable future why XAT-5 AJTs are more expensive than F-16 jets in terms of their hourly operating costs.
As a matter of fact, XAT-5 AJTs enjoy a major advantage in the international market, because they would be the only US-style twin-engine AJTs in the 21st century. South Korea’s T-50 AJTs and the Boeing T-7 Red Hawks, originally known as the Boeing T-Xs (which won the contract of the US Air Force) are both single-engine AJTs.
However, for the sake of flight safety, many countries insist on purchasing AJTs that are powered by twin engines. As an example, after the German Air Force decommissioned its twin-engine Alpha Jets completely, it has been searching for AJTs powered by twin engines as replacements.
Even during the current transitional period, Germany has continued its insistence on renting 35 twin-engine T-38 AJTs that are made by the US, and even the tails of the trainers still bear the US military emblem.
Since Taiwan’s Brave Eagles are not warplanes to be operated at the battlefront, there is no confidentiality at all, and the government could even consider taking production authorization as a purchase incentive.
The operating cost of Brave Eagles would only go down when the production volume goes up. The increase of production volume can then sustain the “talent pool” built for the Brave Eagle in the long run, so the local industrial chain brought by the AJTs would not collapse within a short time.
In an interview on Sept. 24, Aerospace Industrial Development Corp general manager Ma Wan-june (馬萬鈞) said that the “local content rate” of the Brave Eagle is 55 percent, which is probably the highest among the world’s AJTs.
He said that, as the manufacturer of Brave Eagles, the company is fully confident of mass production and eventual export of the aircraft.
Hopefully, the government can assist the country’s advanced aerospace industry to export its AJTs. By doing so, the industry might just have a chance of taking root in Taiwan.
Chang Feng-lin is a doctoral student.
Translated by Eddy Chang
Having returned to the UK late last year and with a Taiwanese spouse remaining in Taiwan, I have been afforded the chance to compare and contrast the UK and Taiwanese governments’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. My early conclusions are that Taiwan benefits from a rational, competent government, which quickly recognizes, adapts to and confronts large-scale disasters. It is led by a government that does more than just talk of respecting democracy and human rights, one that is scrutinized and responds to criticism, one that is concerned about public opinion, and one that is used to dealing with emergencies on
The “Wuhan pneumonia” outbreak has become a pandemic, but many countries have yet to come to grips with the worsening severity of this medical crisis. Historian Robert Peckham has studied how the ecology of deadly diseases has changed from the late 19th century until today and, in his 2016 book titled Epidemics in Modern Asia highlights the intrinsic link between global connectivity and emerging infections. The frequency of outbreaks — from SARS in 2003 to swine flu in 2009 and today’s COVID-19 — and their rapid rate of transmission owe much to globalization. Better and cheaper transportation and communications technology have empowered
Early last month, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) was elected party chairman, winning with a seven-to-three majority over pro-Beijing former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), a two-time KMT vice chairman. Chiang’s victory has been interpreted as a generational change and the beginning of major party reform. In his inauguration speech on March 9, Chiang did not mention the so-called “1992 consensus.” Analysts believe that his most urgent task is to attract more young people to the party and win voter trust, and that he does not care about Beijing’s reaction. After joining the party chairmanship by-election, Chiang made his