The Air Force of the Republic of China, together with scientific and design organizations, continues to work on the advanced combat training aircraft XT-5. The design was completed, the first flight prototype was built, and on June 10 it made its maiden flight. It is expected that in a few years the new UBS will go into production and will be able to replace the outdated equipment.
Project for the competition
Work on the future XT-5 Yongying (“Yongying” – “Brave Eagle”) began in 2013 as part of a new program of the Ministry of National Defense. The Air Force needed a promising UBS to replace obsolete samples, and they were ready to consider domestic or foreign proposals.
The local aircraft manufacturer Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), in collaboration with the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), has proposed two UBS options. The first, called the AT-3 MAX Advanced Trainer, involved a deep upgrade of the existing training AT-3. The second XAT-5 project was carried out on the basis of the F-SK-1D Ching-kuo fighter. The possibility of purchasing imported equipment was also considered.
In 2016, work on the modernization of the AT-3 was stopped in favor of the XAT-5, renamed the XT-5. Soon, the Air Force made their choice, and in February 2017, a contract was signed with AIDC and CSIST to complete the design, construction and testing of a prototype. Plans for further serial production were also identified.
Presentation of the first experimental X-5, September 2019 Photo by the Ministry of Defense of Taiwan / air.mnd.gov.tw
In 2017, it was reported that flight tests of the promising UBS will begin in 2020. In the early twenties, it was planned to start mass production and by 2026 to transfer 66 aircraft to the unit. The total cost of the program is Taiwanese $ 68.6 billion (approx. US $ 2.2).
The XT-5 Yongying combat trainer was developed on the basis of the F-CK-1D fighter, which was built until the end of the nineties. In order to optimize for solving new problems, the base aircraft was changed, simplified and re-equipped. As a result of this, the fighter lost some of its combat qualities, but received expanded opportunities for training pilots.
The XT-5 is a swept-wing twin-engine high-wing aircraft with high flight performance. The airframe retains the basic features of the basic design, but differs in the widespread use of composite materials, which has a positive effect on the weight. The available and released volumes are given for additional fuel tanks. Reworked chassis for increased durability.
The radio-electronic complex has undergone significant processing. The UBS does not have a bow radar station, but it receives advanced systems that provide training for pilots. The equipment allows you to practice the conduct of air combat, the use of weapons, etc. The aircraft is controlled from two fully equipped cabins.
View from a different angle. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of Taiwan / air.mnd.gov.tw
The XT-5 power plant corresponds to the previous project and includes two Honeywell / ITEC F125 turbojet engines with an afterburner thrust of 4310 kgf each. By lightening the design and preserving the engines, the aircraft can perform supersonic flight.
The F-CK-1D fighter is equipped with a 20 mm M61A1 automatic cannon. Points are provided for the suspension of weapons at the wing tips, under the wing and under the fuselage. The combat training aircraft at its base is not equipped with a cannon. The first prototype, recently released for testing, does not have pylons under the wing. Perhaps they will be installed later for appropriate tests.
The performance characteristics of the promising XT-5 have not yet been fully published, but in general they should correspond to the parameters of the basic F-CK-1D. Thus, the Taiwan Air Force will be able to obtain a supersonic combat training aircraft with sufficiently high flight characteristics, broad training capabilities and reduced combat potential.
The first flight
Construction of the first prototype XT-5 began in the spring of 2018 and took quite a long time. It was completed only at the beginning of September 2019. A few weeks later, on September 24, AIDC Corporation held a solemn presentation of an experimental vehicle. Due to the high importance of the project, the country’s leadership was present at the event. In the near future, the plane was promised to be transferred for testing, according to the results of which all other issues should be decided.
XT-5 in maiden flight, June 10, 2020 Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com
By the beginning of this summer, Taiwanese aircraft manufacturers have completed the bulk of the ground tests. On June 1, the first runs were held at Qingquangang Air Base. Then they completed the final preparations for flight tests.
The first flight of the XT-5 took place on June 10. The combat training aircraft took off, spent approx. 20 minutes and after completing a simple flight program, he successfully sat down. It was announced that new flights will take place on June 11 and 12.
The purpose of the first three days of flight testing is to determine the overall parameters and capabilities of the aircraft. In addition, they are being carried out in preparation for a new official event. On June 22, a ceremony will take place during which the XT-5 flight will be shown to the country’s military and political leadership.
Under the terms of the existing contract, four experimental UBS will be involved in flight tests. One is ready, others are at various stages of construction. Most likely, they will be transferred for testing no later than 2020-21. Several prototypes will speed up the testing, thanks to which serial production will begin in the coming years. It is planned to be completed in 2026 with the delivery of 66 aircraft.
It is easy to calculate that in order to fulfill the existing order, the AIDC corporation will have to establish a fairly fast production of equipment. If the tests of the experienced XT-5 can be completed next year, and the series begins in 2022, then 13-14 aircraft will have to be produced annually. The start of production in 2023 increases the required rates to 16-17 vehicles annually.
The prototype aircraft received a spectacular color. Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com
Place in the troops
At the moment, the Air Force of the Republic of China uses a three-stage pilot training system, for which several types of aircraft are used. Initial training is carried out on turboprop Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, then the cadets switch to the jet AIDC AT-3. The subsequent stages of training are carried out using training modifications of combat aircraft F-5, F-16, etc.
With the help of the new XT-5, they plan to rebuild this system. It will remain in three stages, but basic and advanced training will be carried out using one UBS of the new model. It is expected that this will simplify and speed up the process of training flight personnel, as well as reduce the dependence of the Air Force on obsolete equipment, incl. foreign production.
First of all, the XT-5 will replace the outdated AT-3 and F-5, which have exhausted most of their resource. The T-34 initial training aircraft will not be affected by this upgrade. In addition, several dozen training modifications of imported aircraft will remain in service for the time being. Plans to replace them remain unknown.
The promising combat trainer aircraft AIDC XT-5 “Yongying” only a few days ago went for flight tests. He still has to go through a full range of checks and confirm the calculated characteristics, after which he will be able to go into series and get into training units.
The new aircraft will only begin service in a few years, but Taiwan already has cause for optimism. Its aviation industry has once again shown its ability to develop and build advanced aviation equipment of various classes required by the national air force.
However, it is too early to be proud of the successes – by 2026, tests will have to be completed and 66 production aircraft will be built. Such plans do not leave a large margin of time and require the mobilization of forces. Time will tell whether AIDC and its subcontractors will be able to cope with the order within the specified time frame.