The Brave Eagle prototype was escorted by two examples of the two-seat F-CK-1D chase planes upon which the AT-5 is based. Credit: Handout.

Taiwan’s indigenous aircraft industry has taken a big step forward, as the prototype of the nation’s AT-5 advanced jet trainer (AJT) has flown for the first time, AINonline reported.

The maiden flight of the first of two flying prototypes took place on June 10 at Ching Chuan Kang air base, perfectly in tune with the development schedule announced last year, the Ministry of National Defense announced.

Built by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, the AT-5 prototype flew for around 20 minutes, with its undercarriage extended throughout the flight, the report said.

It was escorted by two examples of the two-seat F-CK-1D chase planes upon which the AT-5 is based.

According to the state-owned Central News Agency, the flight was “the first of three days of tests being conducted by the air force before an official test flight is held on 22 June at the air base.”

CNA further reported that “[the air force] has previously said the AJT has already cleared the required pre-flight dynamic and static tests,” the report said.

Those static tests were conducted by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology on two static test airframes.

The Republic of China Air Force is to procure 66 AT-5s to equip two units.

One is currently based at Kangshan flying the AT-3 advanced trainer, and the other is at Taitung flying Northrop F-5E/Fs on weapons/fighter lead-in training, the report said.

Both types are nearing the end of their service lives.

Taiwan committed to the development of an indigenous aircraft to fulfill its trainer needs in February 2017, having earlier flirted with acquiring either the KAI T-50 or Leonardo M-346.

At the time the new Taiwanese trainer was known as the Blue Magpie.

Aircraft A1 was unveiled in a ceremony on September 24, 2019, in which it was named Yung Yin (Brave Eagle) by President Tsai Ing-wen, the report said.

At that time, Su Tzu-yun, a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told media the aircraft could be quickly converted, if necessary, into a warplane.

Su said the supersonic jet trainer could carry out air-to-ground attack missions overland and at sea in the event of a war. 

However, sources said 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.

Development of the AT-5 was led by NCSIST, which engineered a simplified version of the two-seat F-CK-1D Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter.

Compared to the F-CK-1, Brave Eagle has 80% of new components including a more advanced composite and avionics body. It also has higher fuel capacity and is slightly larger than the IDF, reported.

The aircraft is powered by two Honeywell/ITEC F124-200TW turbofan engines without afterburner.

Production of 66 jets for ROCAF is expected to begin in November 2021 and will run for six years.

Meanwhile, the decision to equip Taiwan’s recently purchased F-16V fighters with an advanced electronic warfare system has been finalized, Taiwan News reported.

All of Taiwan’s F-16 C/D block 70 (Viper) fighters will be equipped with the L3 Harris ALQ-256 electric warfare system.

According to Up Media, those familiar with the matter said the ALQ-256 is an upgraded version of the AN/ALQ-211 A(V)4 system. In addition to a reduction in size and weight, this new system has improved navigation, tracking and calibration, electronic countermeasures, and other functions.

It can directly interfere with enemy radars and render weapons uncontrollable.