The Ministry of National Defense Launches Fighter Program
The Air Force commander, General Shen Yi-ming, signed a memorandum with the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology to award the research institute, a unit of the Ministry of National Defense, with a NT$68.6 billion (US$2.22 billion) contract to build 66 trainer fighter aircraft. The program, titled “Blue Magpie,” is considered to be a cornerstone of President Tsai’s plan to develop Taiwan’s defense industry. The trainer aircraft will be designed in conjunction with the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) and are intended to replace Taiwan’s aging fleet of Vietnam War-era F5 fighter jets and AT3 trainers, all of which have surpassed their expected lifespans and are used primarily in a training capacity. The plan calls for prototypes to be developed by 2019 and first trial flights by 2020, with the planes entering service by 2028. The new fighter-trainers are said to be based on Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) that were developed and manufactured by AIDC, with substantial input from international defense contractors, in the 1990s. AIDC was then a wholly owned state enterprise before 54% of the shares were offered to the public in 2014.
Tsai Shuffles Cabinet Roles
The Tsai administration implemented a Cabinet reshuffle effective February 8, with the heads of four ministries replaced. Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien was replaced by former Deputy Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, the first head of the ministry to come from a background in dentistry. Minister of Science and Technology Yang Hung-duen was succeeded by Deputy Education Minister Chen Liang-gee, while Council of Agriculture Minister Tsao Chi-hung was succeeded by Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien, whose seat in Yilan will be filled by Deputy Magistrate Wu Tze-cheng as per local law. Minister of Labor Kuo Fang-yu, who had been at the center of a storm over recent revisions to the Labor Standards Act, was succeeded by Minister without Portfolio Lin Mei-chu, who reportedly was tapped due to her legal expertise and communication skills. Lin’s concurrent role as head of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission will be given to Minister without Portfolio Hsu Chang-yao. Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung noted that all of the outgoing ministers would remain in the government in different capacities.