Taiwan is planning to purchase advanced trainers to replace its aging fleet of F-5E/F jet fighters and AT-3 jet trainers, Defense Minister Yen Ming said Thursday.
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 Legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang before the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Yen also confirmed that the trainers will be multi-functional — meaning that they can be used for routine flight training missions but will also be capable of use in combat missions in time of war.
Currently in Taiwan, fighter pilots have to complete their training in the T-34 trainer, the AT-3 trainer and the F-5E/F jet fighter before they can receive training in the second-generation F-16 A/B, the Mirage 2000-5 or the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), the Air Force said.
After Taiwan acquires the advanced trainers, fighter pilot training will involve the T-34 trainer, the newly acquired trainers and finally, the second-generation jet fighters, the Air Force said.
Yen’s remarks came two days after the pilot of an AT-3 jet trainer, Lt. Col. Chuang Pei-yuan, was killed after his aircraft apparently collided with another AT-3 trainer during a routine aerobatic training mission and crashed in a field in Zihguan District in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.
The planes belonging to the Air Force Academy in Kaohsiung were trainers used by the Air Force’s Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team and were on routine training when the collision occurred, the Air Force said Tuesday.
As the ministry is planning to further cut the size of the military, Lin had asked whether the Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team will be disbanded.
In response, Yen said the aerobatics team will remain, but the military will review the necessity of retaining some of the maneuvers performed by the team that involve higher risk and pose greater threats to pilot safety.
The exact cause of the deadly crash is still under investigation.