The AT-3 is in a special class of aircraft that specialize in both advanced pilot training as well as light combat and includes such mounts as the Czech Aero L-39, British BAe HAWK and the Spanish CASA C-101. These aircraft types are usually designed to be cost-effective, limited multi-role measures that provide some offensive "punch" with a high degree of agility. This allows the aircraft to be used in the training role, close-support role and light strike role as needed. The AT-3 was only the second product of Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) and followed the propeller-driven Chung Tsing - which was nothing more than a local-production version of the North American two-seat T-28 Trojan - and represented a highly-advanced indigenous Taiwanese design for its time.
Design of the AT-3 began sometime in 1975 and its development was subsequently approved by Taiwanese authorities in 1978 to which a pair of prototypes (XAT-3) were unveiled. The initial prototype went airborne for the first time on September 16th, 1980 and trials with the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) ensued. The evaluation period proved successful and a procurement contract for sixty aircraft was signed. The first production-quality AT-3 was flown on February 6th, 1984. The follow-on production aircraft were collectively designated as the AT-3A "Tz-Chiang" (translating to "Self Reliance") and deliveries totaled 60 airframes.
Outwardly, the AT-3 followed in line with traditional light aircraft design. The fuselage was central in the design and low-wing straight monoplanes were affixed at amidships. The engines were housed in outboard streamlined nacelles against either side of the fuselage (as opposed to being buried directly within the fuselage). The fuselage featured a pointed nosecone housing a radar system ahead of the two-seat cockpit and the empennage was rather conventional with a single vertical tail fin and a pair of applicable horizontal planes. The end-result was an aggressive and agile design consistent with the RPCAF requirement.
The AT-3 featured tandem seating for its crew of two personnel, each seated in "Zero-Zero" ejection seats. The instructor was set in the rear cockpit with the student in the front. The fuselage measured in at 12.9 meters long with a wingspan of 10.46 meters and a ground height of 4.36 meters. The aircraft weighed 8,500lbs when empty and 17,505lbs when fully loaded. The AT-3 was/is powered by a pair of Garret (Honeywell) AiResearch TFE731-2 series turbofan non-afterburning engines capable of 3,500lbs of thrust each. This supplies the mount with a maximum speed of 562 miles per hour, range of 1,417 miles and a service ceiling nearing 48,000 feet.
As an advanced trainer and combat-capable airframe, the AT-3 can be armed with a variety of light-class external stores across its five (four underwing, one centerline underfuselage) hardpoints. Principally, the aircraft is armed with a pair of 12.7mm heavy machine guns in a ventral gun pack though this can be supplemented by the addition of conventional drop bombs, unguided air-to-surface high-explosive rockets (in rocket launching pods) and air-to-air missiles in the form of the Sky Sword I or AIM-9P4 Sidewinder series of short-range missiles (AAMs can be fitted to the squared-off wingtips). For the anti-ship role, the AT-3 may sport the HF-2 Mk 2 series anti-ship missile. The AT-3 can also deploy a towed aerial target for training purposes. An internal bomb bay is also fitted under the fuselage but this is most often times reserved for internal fuel for increased operational ranges.
Production of the AT-3 spanned from 1984 to 1990 and manufacture was handled by Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) of Taiwan with assistance from the American defense firm of Northrop. Beyond its definitive AT-3A form, the AT-3B was added to become an improved and modernized two-seat ground attack version incorporating Heads-Up Display (HUD), APG-66T radar and semi-recessed ventral gun pack among other additions to help extend the service life of existing AT-3A models (programs usually known as MLUs - or "Mid-Life Upgrades"). Some 45 AT-3As were expected to be brought up to the new service upgrade form between 2001 and 2006. Beyond these two distinct forms, the AT-3 was only seen as the initial two XAT-3 prototypes and a pair of XA-3 "Lui Meng" ground attack/maritime strike prototypes.
The AT-3 is primarily known to the world for its use as the mount of choice of the Taiwanese "Thunder Tigers" aerial acrobatics team.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
42.3 ft (12.90 m)
34.3 ft (10.46 m)
14.3 ft (4.36 m)
8,499 lb (3,855 kg)
17,505 lb (7,940 kg)
+9,006 lb (+4,085 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the AIDC AT-3A Tz-Chiang production variant)
2 x Garrett AiResearch TFE731-2 turbofan engines developing 3,500 lb of thrust each.
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