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AIDC F-CK-1 (Ching-Kuo) / (Indigenous Defence Fighter) Lightweight Multirole Fighter (1994)

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 2/10/2015

The F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo represents a largely indigenous Taiwanese fighter development with capabilities comparable to that of the F-16 Fighting Falcon line.

The AIDC F-CK-1 ("Fighter, Ching-Kuo 1") is a modern lightweight fighter developed by Taiwanese aerospace industry - the most ambitious internal development for the small island nation to date. The type serves as an air defense fighter intended to counter aggression from neighboring China and has become a capable indigenous platform comparable to the General Dynamics (now Lockheed) F-16 Fighting Falcon and Northrop F-5 Tiger fighter series. The F-CK-1 maintains an active - albeit limited - presence in the Republic of China Air Force (RCAF) amongst a stable of other Western aircraft lines. The aircraft was named after former Taiwanese president Chiang Ching-Kuo who served in that role from 1978 into 1988 and was the son of President Chiang Kai-shek of World War 2 fame.

The F-CK-1 was born out of an indigenous initiative when sales of American General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop F-20 Tigersharks were blocked by the US government (then attempting to improve their relations with Asian powerhouse China, Taiwan's natural enemy). Ironically, it was the Northrop F-20 - an improved form of the F-5 Tiger - that was specifically developed to help supplement the existing stable of Taiwanese fighters including the F-5. With little option, Taiwanese aerospace industry began research into a in-house solution intended to break the reliance on Western parties for future military needs. The program became the "Indigenous Defence Fighter" (IDF) which netted a first flight, of what would become the F-CK-1 "Ching-Kuo", on May 28th, 1989. Production of the aircraft was handled by Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) with initial deliveries beginning in 1994. Despite an initial requirement for several hundred aircraft, only 130 of the type would be produced into 1999.

For the island nation, the F-CK-1 endeavor was a very far-reaching program involving all manner of participants. Design work began in May of 1982 and, despite the US government's stance against direct sales of fighters to Taiwan, American companies were still free to offer the much-needed technical assistance required in bringing an advanced airframe online - from avionics software to aerodynamic challenges and armaments integration to powerplant development. A primary US defense contractor became General Dynamics which was already the brand label of the heralded F-16. As such, the F-16 influence was clear in the finalized F-CK-1 form particularly in the use of blended wing root/fuselage design concept, general wing shaping (complete with wingtip launchers) and the use of a single vertical tail fin.

AlliedSignal (now Honeywell) assisted the International Turbofan Engine Company (ITEC) in designing and developing a suitable powerplant for the new fighter. As in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the F-CK-1 featured a cockpit with HUD (Head-Up Display) and HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle and Stick) controls. The radar system (housed in the nosecone) was an evolved version of the APG-67 series that was to be fielded in the F-20 Tigershark (while also being related to the APG-66 utilized in the F-16). The X-band pulse Doppler system (designated as the "Golden Dragon 53" or "GD-53") allowed for accurate tracking and engagement of targets oversea and overland with a range of 35 miles, optimized for use with the locally-developed "Skysword I" and "Skysword II" missiles - each (respectively) mimicking the American AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range and AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air-to-air missiles. The missiles were developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST).

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Specifications for the
AIDC F-CK-1 (Ching-Kuo) / (Indigenous Defence Fighter)
Lightweight Multirole Fighter

Focus Model: AIDC F-CK-1A (Ching-Kuo)
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Manufacturer: Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) - Taiwan
Initial Year of Service: 1994
Production Total: 130

Crew: 1 or 2

Length: 46.62 ft (14.21 m)
Width: 31.04 ft (9.46 m)
Height: 14.50ft (4.42 m)
Weight (Empty): 14,330 lb (6,500 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 26,896 lb (12,200 kg)

Powerplant: 2 x ITEC (Honeywell/AIDC) TFE1042-70 (F125) turbofan engines generating 9,500lbs of thrust with afterburner.

Maximum Speed: 1,379 mph (2,220 kmh; 1,199 kts)
Maximum Range: 684 miles (1,100 km)
Service Ceiling: 55,118 ft (16,800 m; 10.4 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 50,000 feet-per-minute (15,240 m/min)

Hardpoints: 4 (including wingtips)
Armament Suite:
1 x 20mm M61A1 six-barreled Gatling internal cannon.

Mission-specific ordnance can include:

Air-to-air/air-to-surface guided/homing missiles and guided/freefall bombs.

F-CK-1 "Ching-Kuo" - Base Series Designation

A Series - Four prototypes from A-1 to A-4

F-CK-1A - Initial single-seat air defence fighter.

F-CK-1B - Initial twin-seat strike fighter.

F-CK-1C - Upgraded single-seat air defence fighter

F-CK-1D - Upgraded twin-seat strike fighter

IDF "LIFT" - Lead-In Fighter Trainer; proposed two-seat advanced trainer with full-strike capabilities.