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Trying to end a long tradition of using American aircraft for national defense as well as replace aging American F-104 Starfighters, the Chinese Nationalist Airforce of Taiwan has independently created a sleek new air-superiority fighter known as the Ching-Kuo. Designed and produced by the government owned Aero Industry Development Center (AIDC) the first four fighters were delivered to Number 7 "Seed" Squadron on February 10, 1993 and 130 aircraft are planned.

Although designed with air superiority in mind, the Ching-Kuo is capable of carrying anti-shipping and anti-armor missiles and bombs. The radar used by the aircraft is a modified APG-67 known as the Golden Dragon 53. It has a range of 93 miles and can be used for both air and sea search modes depending on the mission. The one to two man crew (depending on variant) sit on Martin-Baker MK 12 zero-zero ejection seats which can be fired by either crew member.

Although there were originally plans to build up to 256 aircraft, a recent lift of an arms embargo on Taiwan allows them to purchase American F-16's and French Mirage 2000's, both of which probably have better performance than the indigenous fighter. Although almost entirely designed by Taiwanese engineers, General Dynamics (an American company now owned by Lockheed Martin, and designer of the F-16) helped to design the fuselage of the aircraft.

Specifications

Type: Single-seat air superiority fighter.

Powerplant: Two 9,460-lb-thrust ITEC TFE 1042 turbofans with after burner.

Max Speed: 790 mph

Initial Climb Rate: 50,000 fpm

Service Ceiling: 55,000 ft.

Weights: Empty-14,269 lbs.; Max takeoff-26,943 lbs.

Weapons: One internal 20-mm M61A1 canon, six pylons that can carry Sky Sword I air-to air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick anti-armor missiles, Hsiung Feng II anti-shipping missiles, and laser-guided bombs.

Dimensions:
Span: 28 ft.
Length: 47 ft. 6 in.
Height: 15 ft. 3 in.
Wing Area: 261 sq. ft.

*"Aircraft of the World: A Complete Guide"

Today I walk south, arrived at athletic park, I saw one single flying machine, I think F-16.
F-60...Oh! F-16. Is not F-16. Is Chingkuo. He Matai, are you a spy?"
-- Conversation with my landlords.

Doctrine drives tactics. If you know what a nation's doctrine is, you may be able to guess what their tactics are. For example: if a nation wants to have a second strike capacity, they are probably going to have ICBM equipped submarines. If you are having trouble guessing what a nation's strategy is, you can take a look at their tactics, and reverse engineer what is going on.

Taiwan has a unique situation, defense wise, and not in a good way. It is a small nation that has been in a cease-fire for fifty years, with a nation a hundred times as large, and 50 times as populated. A nation that denies that Taiwan even is a nation, and a nation that has an almost limitless store of manpower to throw at Taiwan, along with a large nuclear arsenal.

There are two ways for Taiwan to counter this threat, none of them very good. The first is to provide a tactical defense to Chinese aggression. The second is to provide a more strategic deterrent to China. Although strategic deterrent is a codeword for nukes in America, it is still possible to present a substantial strategic threat with heavy fighter bombers such as the F-15E Strike Eagle. Although Taiwan couldn't touch China very deeply for long, in the short range, a heavy fighter-bomber backed up with the strength of the Taiwanese electronics industry could provide a pretty devastating blow against Chinese facilities, military and civil in the area of Guangzhou, and possibly as far afield as Nanjing and Shanghai.

A heavy fighter-bomber could do such a thing, but the Ching Kuo is certainly not such a plane. It weighs in at just a few thousand pounds less than the lightest American fighter, the F-16. It's performance is, by the standards of America fighters, very modest. But it can do two things well. Provide local air superiority (even at its sub-mach speeds, it can fly anywhere in Taiwan in half an hour) and sink shipping. The initial planned production run of 260 aircraft would have provided an aircraft to defend every mile of Taiwan's western seacoast.In a tactical sense, Taiwan could be assured of destroying a good portion of any initial assault wave, as well as having the local air superiority to face a favorable battle with any troops that did come ashore.

It should also be pointed out that there is a third thing that the Ching Kuo provides. Its is also called the Indigenous Defense Fighter, and it was first designed when an American arms embargo forced the Taiwanese to rethink the dependence on America, technical and otherwise. It is proof that the Taiwanese can build a sophisticated fighter plane on their own intiative. Although not the world's most sophisticated aircraft, of the nations that can produce their own front line fighters, only Sweden and Israel are as small as Taiwan.

The very thing that gives Taiwan a favorable tactical situation give it an unfavorable strategic situation. Taiwan is small, and crowded. 20 million people live in a narrow coastal strip 250 miles long and from 10 to 50 miles wide. Any campaign of strategic air power against Taiwan (using conventional weapons) would lead to a quick destruction of infrastructure, destroying Taiwan's economy, breaking down transportation, food distribution, public health and possibly, in the direst of circumstances, making the 7-11s close.

The decision of Taiwan to pursue a tactical defense to the threat of Chinese invasion, in the form of a light fighter such as the Ching Kuo, backed up with the threat of American strategic intervention, speaks well for the wisdom of their leaders. Of course, with the recent breakdown of the Taiwanese-American alliance, and Chen Shui-bian's ambition, we may see a shift to some sort of plan and some sort of equipment for Taiwan to actively attack the mainland.

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