Taiwan boosts domestic defence development plan with new jet
By Ann Wang
TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) - Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen oversaw the first public test flight of a new locally designed and advanced jet trainer on Monday. This was part of her government's plan to strengthen defense in the face of a growing challenge from China.
Taiwan's armed forces are largely equipped by the United States, but Tsai has made the development of a self-grown advanced defense industry a priority, especially as China, which claims the island as its own, is stepping up military modernization efforts.
The new AT-5 Brave Eagle, manufactured by the state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp with a budget of T $ 68.6 billion ($ 2.32 billion), is the first domestic jet since the launch of the F-CK -1 Ching-kuo hunter than three decades ago.
At an air base in downtown Taichung, Tsai said the new planes refuted naysayers who believed Taiwan had no technology and should focus on meeting its foreign defense needs.
"The new trainer aircraft has not only created more than 2,000 jobs, but will also pass on experience and promote a new generation of technical talent in the aerospace industry," she said.
The single AT-5, flanked by a Ching kuo fighter, made a 12-minute flight in front of Tsai. The first official test flight took place earlier this month, less than a year after the prototype was unveiled.
The trainer can be equipped with weapons. Taiwan's Air Force plans to take 66 units by 2026 to replace aging AT-3 and F-5 training aircraft.
The test flight took place amidst an increased Chinese military presence near the democratic island. According to Taiwan, China's Air Force has flown nearby at least seven times in the past two weeks, at the latest on Sunday.
Taiwan has announced its biggest increase in defense spending in over a decade in the past year, and the government is also developing new domestic submarines.
(Reporting by Ann Wang; writing by Ben Blanchard; editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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