TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A photograph of what appears to be a small-scale model of Taiwan’s newest jet aircraft was released online a day before the opening of the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which is taking place this week from Aug. 14 to Aug. 17 at the Nangang Exhibition Center.
The aircraft designated the AIDC XAT-5 Blue Magpie is being produced by Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC). The model surfaced just weeks ahead of the expected unveiling of the first complete Blue Magpie prototype, which is scheduled for September.
The Blue Magpie program was launched in February 2017 with an NT$68.6 billion (US$2.2 billion) investment to provide the Taiwan Air Force with a fleet of supersonic trainer aircraft. The AIDC is expected to begin flight tests of the aircraft sometime in 2020 and has been contracted to produce 66 of the jets.
If the model on display at the TADTE is an accurate representation of the XAT-5, then the jets will not serve a front-line combat role, as the model’s wings do not have any missile launch rails equipped. However, there is still the possibility that some models may be equipped with combat upgrades during the production phase.
According to previous statements from the Ministry of National Defense (MND), regular production of the trainer jets will not begin until 2021, with 66 to be completed over a six-year period. The Blue Magpie was designed in cooperation with several U.S. firms, including General Dynamics Corp., Hughes Corp., and the Westinghouse Company, reports the National Interest.
The new plane’s designation is a reference to a bird species endemic to Taiwan. However, in November 2018, the MND announced that it would be holding a public competition to rename the new aircraft.
The MND has been accepting public entries for the competition since December 2018. No new name or contest winner have been officially announced yet.