Fri, Oct 24, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Nation to upgrade training jets: minister

ACCIDENT AFTERMATH:Amid an investigation into what led to a fatal collision this week, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming broached plans to purchase new aircraft

Staff writer, with CNA

Minister of National Defense Yen Ming speaks during a question-and-answer session at the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

The nation is planning to purchase trainers to replace its aging fleet of F-5E/F jets and AT-3 jet trainers, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) said yesterday.

The plans to procure advanced trainers are expected to be included in the Ministry of National Defense budget for 2017, Yen said while fielding questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

Yen also confirmed that the trainers would be multifunctional — meaning that they can be used for flight training or in combat.

Currently, fighter pilots complete their training in T-34 trainers, the AT-3 and the F-5E/F jet, before pursuing instruction in second-generation F-16A/Bs, the Mirage 2000-5 or the Indigenous Defense Fighter, the air force said.

After the nation acquires the advanced trainers, fighter pilot training would involve T-34s, the new trainers and the second-generation jet fighters, it added.

Yen’s remarks came two days after the pilot of an AT-3 jet trainer, Lieutenant Colonel Chuang Pei-yuan (莊倍源), was killed after his aircraft crashed in a field in Zihguan District (梓官) in Greater Kaohsiung, after apparently colliding with another trainer during a training mission.

The aircraft — belonging to the Air Force Academy in Kaohsiung — were used by the Thunder Tiger Squadron and were on a training mission when the collision occurred, the air force said on Tuesday.

As the ministry is planning more military cuts, Lin asked whether the Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team would be disbanded.

Yen replied that the aerobatics team would remain intact, but the military would review whether to retain riskier maneuvers that pose greater threats to pilot safety.

The air force said previously that Chuang twice rejected appeals to bail out as he tried to steer his aircraft clear of residential areas after a midair incident.

Chuang is eligible to be memorialized at a local martyrs’ shrine, Yen said as he expressed sadness over the death of an exceptional pilot.

Initial findings of an investigation into the crash have ruled out environmental factors or mechanical failure, with “human factors” more likely to be the cause of the crash, Yen said, but added that further investigation is needed.

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