This is born out of some posts on BTS aircraft quiz thread.
Taiwan’s IDF (Indigenous Defense Fighter) project, now more commonly known as the Ching-Kuo
, is a tale of great expectations followed by
The story starts when the US blocked export of the then very advanced F-16a Fighting Falcon to Taiwan as replacements for the increasingly obsolete
F-5 and F-104 fighters. Taiwan’s attention soon turned to the Northrop F-20 Tigershark, an improved descendant of the F-5 Tiger II which Taiwan
already had in service, having assembled some 300 airframes locally. A $1billion deal for F-20s was on the cards.
But keen to appease China, that deal was also vetoed by the US government. So Taiwan started its own fighter program, the IDF. From the start it was
to be a lightweight fighter. Although modernization programs were given a token consideration, work soon begun on designing a state of the art light
fighter with twin engines. Although Taiwan had previously developed several aircraft, notably the AT-3 jet trainer, it had to bring in outside
expertise to help design the aircraft. The main help came from US manufacturer General Dynamics (now Lockheed) who made the F-16.
Early concepts, around 1983, were quite striking in appearance. Perhaps the coolest was this beauty, design 401:
A chart showing the complete design progression is:
A full sized version can be seen at: i2.tinypic.com...
Design 401 (and 404) shows F-16XL influence in the wing plan and general F-16 influences, though with twin engines widely separated:
Another early design, partially visible behind concept 401 above appears similar in configuration to the Mig-29 Fulcrum, again with widely separated
under slung engines and twin fins:
This design is most like “C1” on the chart.
Unfortunately for air enthusiasts, the designs became progressively more conventional, adopting a closely coupled engine configuration and single
tail, presumably to cut weight. An in-between model with a slightly more advanced intake arrangement:
The IDF program led to the Ching-kuo light fighter, which has some promising features but is generally thought of as underpowered. It was equipped
with a Taiwanese development of the US APG-67 radar and indigenous Skysword I (AIM-9 Sidewinder derivative) dogfight missiles and Skysword II (AMARAAM
equivalent) beyond visual range missiles. Whilst all these systems are probably very capable, it would have been undeniably cheaper to purchase
off-the-shelf and they are increasingly outpaced by current export systems such as AMRAAM and MICA.
At any rate the US attitude to selling arms to Taiwan changed and F16s were later sold, which together with French supplied Mirage 2000-5s made the
IDF something of a lesser priority and production was quietly trimmed back to just 130 units.
[edit on 31-3-2006 by planeman]