Is Taiwan Getting Ready to Build a New Fighter Jet?
How will China respond?
A scale model has appeared in public depicting Taiwan’s newest warplane.
Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp, or AIDC, built a model of the Blue Magpie for the 2019 Taipei Aerospace & Defence Technology Exhibition, photos reveal.
The $2.2-billion Blue Magpie program, which aims to build 66 high-performance training planes for the Taiwanese air force, could help to sustain the island country’s aerospace industry as it struggles to maintain a large and aging fleet of fighters.
Diplomatic pressure from China complicates Taiwan’s efforts to acquire warplanes from foreign manufacturers. Taipei for years has asked to buy new F-16s from U.S. firm Lockheed Martin, but the administrations of several U.S. presidents have rejected the request.
The Taiwanese air force in 2008 first proposed to buy new training jets to replace decades-old AT-3 and F-5 lead-in fighters. The air arm considered several foreign designs. But Pres. Tsai Ing-wen, who won election in 2016, made it her policy to develop the local defense industry.
The air force pivoted to the Blue Magpie, a development of AIDC’s Indigenous Defense Fighter, which entered service with the Taiwanese air force in 1997.
ADIC reportedly assembled a team of 300 people to develop the new trainer. “AIDC is to design models to undergo wind tunnel testing in the US and other tests in Taiwan, with the first Blue Magpie prototype to be built by 2019 and the first trial flight set for 2020,” Taipei Times reported.
Blue Magpie indirectly benefits from American help. “The IDF was produced with the technical assistance of several U.S. companies, including General Dynamics Corp., which helped with the frame; Hughes Corp., which designed the engine; and Westinghouse Co, which produced the avionics system,” Taipei Times noted.
If the scale model is accurate, the Blue Magpie will lack an internal cannon as well as wingtip rails for air-to-air missiles. Those design choices point to an unarmed trainer that might not have a front-line role during wartime.
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