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AIDC F-CK-1A/B Ching Kuo IDF

Taiwan initiated development of the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) started in May 1982, after the U.S. government refused to sell F-16 and F-20 to Taiwan. 

The Aero Industry Development Center (AIDC) under ROCAF was in charge of the program formlly launched in 1983, which was codenamed "An Hsiang" (Safe Flight). An Hsiang consisted of the following four development projects:

  • "Ying Yang" (Soaring Eagle): airframe development,
  • "Yun Han" (Cloud Han): engine development,
  • "Tien Lei" (Sky Thunder): avionics development, and
  • "Tien Chien" (Sky Sword): air-to-air missile development.

Though an indigenous program, development of IDF involved considerable assistance from the following U.S. companies: General Dynamics (airframe), Garrett (engine), and General Electric (radar). 

The first prototype 10001, commonly referred to as A-1 within AIDC by its construction number, was rolled out on December 10, 1988, in a ceremony at AIDC presided over by then President Lee Teng-Hui, and the aircraft was formally named "Ching Kuo", in memory of the late President Chiang Ching-Kuo. Ministry of National Defense subsequently designated it F-CK-1, where F stands for Fighter, CK for Ching Kuo, and 1 for the first domestically developed fighter.

To prepare for the first flight, AIDC conducted the First Flight Readiness Review (FFRR) from January 9 to 19, 1989, during which 123 items for improvement or for further clarification were identified, most of which were attributed to the Digital Flight Control System (DFCS). After weeding out these problems, AIDC set the date for the maiden flight, codenamed "Jen Yang" Exercise, on May 28, 1989. 

With F-5F 5391 and AT-3 0825 acting as chase aircraft, IDF 10001 successfully took off for the first time at 1021 hours in the hand of AIDC's test pilot Colonel Kang-Ming Wu. Although the first flight was scheduled to last for one hour, it was cut short when the ground control received a fault warning signal. IDF 10001 landed safely at 1043 hours, ending the 22-minute maiden flight.

A total of four prototypes were built. The first three, 10001 A-1, 10002 A-2, and 10003 A-3, were single-seat aircraft and wore a blue-white-red color scheme. Prototype number four, 10004 B-1, was a two-seater. It was also the only prototype that was painted in camouflage. Prototype Nos. 2, 3, and 4 made their first flights on September 27, 1989, January 10, 1990, and July 10, 1990, respectively. 

Work on the ten pre-production aircraft (six single-seat, four two-seat) started in October, 1990, and were delivered during 1992-1993. The proposed number of IDF built was slashed from 250 to 130, with 28 two-seat aircraft, after the Bush administration agreed to sell 150 Block 20 F-16A/B to Taiwan. The first production was handed to ROCAF in January, 1994.

The fuselage of IDF closely resembles F-16 and F/A-18 since the program has received assistance from U.S defense contractors. The cockpit is very similar to that of F-16, with the sidestick controller on the right, the throttles on the left, and the Martin-Baker Mk 12 zero/zero ejection seat sloped at thirty degrees. 

There is one Elbit HUD, two Bendix MFDs, and Honeywell H423 inertial navigation system. Allied Signals' AiResearch Division helped design the environment control system. Canopies on preproduction 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.

IDF also has almost-full-span wing flaperons and all-moving tailplanes. Its airframe is basically metal, with composite material used on the rudder, the radome, flaperons, and speed brakes. The single M-61 20 mm cannon is mounted on the port wing strake corner.

The production of IDF suffered a setback in 1995 when F-CK-1A 1408 crashed in sea on July 4 due to problems associated with the fuel system . Some 40 aircraft already handed to the air force were grounded for fuel system modification. Production was halted for six months. 

A total of 131 IDF were built when the program ended, including an attrition replacement. The delivery of the last two production aircraft, 1502 (88-8134) and 1503 (88-8135), took place on January 14, 2000.

In 1998, IDF in service began to rotate back to AIDC's Hangers 17 and 18 for post-production upgrades. Upgrades that have been publicly revealed include a GEC-Marconi (now BAE SYSTEMS) Combined Interrogator/Transponder (CIT), Litton Improved Radar Warning Receivers (IRWRs), and Rockwell Collins Instrument Landing System (ILS).

The 10 pre-production IDF were first delivered to the 7th TFS of the 3rd TFG at Ching Chuan Kang AB on November 22, 1993, for training seed instructors. The 8th TFS of the 3rd TFG was the second squadron to receive the IDF. It was commissioned on December 28, 1994 and was declared operational in January, 1995. The last IDF squadron of the 3rd TFG, the 28th TFS, was commissioned on November 22, 1995. The 427th (3rd) TFW completed the conversion process and achieved IOC on April 15, 1997.

On November 1, 2004, in an effort to retain experienced pilots at the flight lines, the ROCAF underwent a major reorganization in which all front-line Fighter Squadrons were upgraded to status of Tactical Fighter Groups (though the Chinese designation literally means Operations Group), while the original Tactical Fighter Groups were disbanded. The 3rd TFG at CCK AB stood down as a result. In addition, the 8th TFS was disbanded at the same time, leaving the 7th and 28th TFG the only two flying units in the 427th TFW.

The other TFW to convert to the IDF is the 443rd (1st) TFW based at Tainan AB. Its 1st TFS and 3rd TFS, subordinate to the 1st TFG, were commissioned on February 19, 1998, and on January 7, 1999, respectively. 

The 443rd TFW, together with the 9th TFS, was commissioned in a ceremony held on July 14, 2000, presided over by the newly elected President Chen. The 443rd TFW was the first fighter wing undertaking ROCAF's reorganization plan. Its three Fighter Squadrons became Tactical Fighter Groups at the end of 2002, when the original 1st TFG stood down at the same time.

The manufactuer AIDC retained all three remaining prototypes, 10001, 10003, and 10004 for further development purposes. It also keeps F-CK-1A 1417, which had been damaged in a landing accident on August 31, 1994, but had been repaired. This aircraft is used as a testbed for new systems.

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