TAICHUNG, Taiwan --- Seeking to revive its long-dormant aerospace industry, Taiwan on Tuesday launched a $2.1 billion investment in the production of air force jet trainers to be designed and manufactured on the island to counter Chinese military and diplomatic pressure.
President Tsai Ing-wen presided over a ceremony in the central city of Taichung to inaugurate the project, which she hopes will aid Taiwan's security and stem the flow of engineering talent overseas. The push to develop new homemade equipment is seen as growing more urgent against the backdrop of rival China's increasingly rigid approach to Tsai's independence-leaning government.
"Building fighters locally is not a dream, it is an action. We not only want the fighter to take off, but also want the industry to upgrade and take off as well," Tsai told participants.
Taiwan has largely abandoned the aircraft industry since it developed its Indigenous Defense Fighter, or IDF, in the 1980s following difficulties in obtaining military hardware abroad as a result of pressure from China.
Although Taiwan has since bought fighter jets from the U.S. and France, Tsai said failure to develop the domestic industry would be a "major disaster" for the island democracy's security. She said the project would also help upgrade the high-tech island's precision industries.
"Taiwan's locally made fighter industry has been stagnating for almost 30 years. Not only has our aerospace industry been outperformed by other countries that had lagged behind us, but we also suffered serious brain-drain," Tsai said. "We do not have another 30 years to waste. Now, the government is adamant in leading its people to regain the prestige of its defense industry." (end of excerpt)
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