Few would have thought that Taiwan’s territory had a defense industry that could successfully develop missiles and fighter jets. The F-CK-1 Ching-kuo is considered to be on par with mainland Chinese J-10 fighters.
The F-CK-1 Ching-kuo is a multi-role light fighter that can operate in all weather conditions researched and manufactured by Taiwan with the help of the United States. They were developed on the basis of American F-16 fighter jets. So far 130 have been produced.
Taiwan Island covers an area of over 35,000 square kilometers. The distance from Taiwan to mainland China, the nearest is 130 km. Although only a small island, Taiwan has an admirable defense industry. They have successfully developed both missiles and fighter jets. The F-CK-1 Ching-kuo is considered to have the same combat power as mainland Chinese J-10 fighters.
Beginning in the early 1980s of the last century, Taiwan wanted to replace its obsolete F-5 and F-104 squadrons but faced extremely difficult barriers when the US government banned exports of F-16 and F-20 to Taiwan.
Although US President Ronald Reagan reluctantly accepted his advisers’ suggestion of building relations with China to counter the USSR, Reagan decided to balance the 1982 US-PRC Communiqué with the “Six Assurances” to Taiwan. This opened the door for US technology transfer and assistance to Taiwan’s defense industry, including the Indigenous Defense Fighter project.
This major barrier and determination to replace Taiwan’s fighters made their army want to produce a modern kind of fighter at that time based on US F-20 and F-16 technology.
The F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo fighter was born under the design of AIDC Taiwan with the help of American companies. Which includes the key components of a fighter like General Dynamics’s aircraft frame, Garrett engine, radar and avionics system.
The programme started in 1982 with identification of the requirements for an air-superiority fighter. The rollout ceremony of the first prototype took place in December 1988, when the aircraft was named after the late President Chiang Ching-Kuo. The Ching-Kuo made its first flight in May 1989.
Ching-Kuo air superiority fighters are operational in the Republic of China Air Force since January 2000 and the last of a total of 130 entered service in July 2000.
The fuselage of F-CK-1 closely resembles F-16 and F/A-18, the cockpit is very similar to that of F-16, with the side-stick controller on the right, the throttles on the left, and the Martin-Baker Mk 12 zero ejection seat sloped at thirty degrees.
The aircraft is of shoulder-wing monoplane design, incorporating composite structure materials. The aircraft is built to withstand 9G loading. Canopies on pre-production aircraft and two-seaters are hinged on starboard side and open to port; while those on production single-seat aircraft are hinged on the rear and open upward. The cockpit is equipped with three multifunction displays and a head-up display.
Powerplan and performance
The power of F-CK-1 is provided by 2 Honeywell F125-70 Turbofan engines, delivering 27 kN (6,100 lbf) thrust each dry, and up to 42.1 kN (9,500lb) of thrust with afterburner. This provided the airframe with a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and operational range of 1,100 km (680 miles) with a service ceiling of 16,800 m (55,000 feet).
There are two very defined elliptical intakes and exhausting at the rear via circular ports of traditional design. The undercarriage was of a typical tricycle arrangement featuring a pair of single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg.
Sensor and Armament
The F-CK-1 Ching Kuo is equipped with a Golden Dragon GD-53 multi-mode pulse-Doppler radar based on the AN/APG-67 developed for the F-20, but incorporating some technology from the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 unit used by the F-16A.
The aircraft has an integrated avionics and weapons control system. A 20mm M61A1 6-barreled Gatling cannon is installed on the starboard side of the fuselage with a Photo-Sonics gun camera.
The M61 20mm Vulcan is an externally powered, six-barrel, rotary-fire gun having a rate of fire of up to 7200 rpm. The firing rate is selectible at 4,000 spm or 6,000 spm. The gun fires standard electrically primed 20mm ammunition. The M61A1 is hydraulically or ram-air driven, electrically controlled, and uses a linkless ammunition feed system.
The aircraft has six hardpoints for carrying external stores, with two under the fuselage, one under each wing and one at each wingtip. The aircraft could carry the Skysword I short-range and the Skysword II medium-range air-to-air missiles. For ground attack, the aircraft can be armed with rocket pods, bombs, cluster bombs or air-to-surface missiles such as Maverick.
The fighter can also be adapted to carry the TC-2A air-to-surface anti-radiation missile, which uses both active and passive radar guidance. In 2013 it was reported that 71 Taiwanese Ching Kuo aircraft out of 120 operational will be upgraded. These will be compatible with new missiles with cluster warheads. These missiles have a range of 200 km and carry 100 submunitions.
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