The program started in May 1982, after the U.S. government refused to sell F-16 and F-20 to Taiwan. It received assistance from the following U.S. companies: General Dynamics (airframe), Garrett (engine), and General Electric (radar). A total of four prototypes were built, with three single-seaters and one two-seater. Prototype No. 1 took off for the first time on May 28, 1989. Subsequently, 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 production rate was set at two aircraft per month. The last aircraft on order will be delivered in 1998. They will equip six fighter squadrons.
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 Golden Dragon 53 multi-mode pulse Doppler radar on IDF is developed from GE's APG-67(V). As a former GE's employee described it,
"Its strength is in the signal and data processing rather than having a high power output. It uses a custom signal processing card set, rather than a programmable signal processor, which makes it extremely good at the things it is built for, but makes upgrades harder. It's doing more in the digital domain than many of theother fighter radars... which is what makes it so compact and also gives it more range than one would expect for the power output it has."
The production of IDF suffered a setback in 1995 when an IDF crashed in sea for fuel system problems. Some 40 aircraft already handed to the air force were grounded for fuel system modification. Production was halted for six months.
The 10 pre-production IDF were delivered to the 7th TFS of the 3rd TFW at Ching Chuan Kang AB on November 22, 1993, for training seed instructors. Then the 8th TFS of the 3rd TFW was commissioned on December 28, 1994 and was declared operational in January, 1995. The second IDF squadron, the 28th TFS was commissioned on November 22, 1995, also at Ching Chuan Kang AB. On April 15, 1997, the 3rd TFW completed the conversion and was commissioned in a ceremony.
The second TFW to convert to the IDF is the 1st TFW at Tainan AB. Its first IDF squadron, the 1st TFS, was commissioned on February 19, 1998. The 3rd TFS was commissioned on January 7, 1999.
Nation of Orgin: Taiwan
Crew: 1 (2 in trainer)
Length: 14,48 m
Height 4,42 m
Wing Span: 8,53 m
Powerplant: Two TFE1042-70 turbofans with afterburner, rated 42.08 kN each with afterburning
Maximum speed: Mach 1,7
Climb rate: 15 240 m/min
Ceiling: 16 760 m
Armament: One M61A1E1 20 mm cannon, ordinance on 5-7 hardpoints, including Sky Sword AAM, Sky Sword II AAM, LAU-60 rocket pods, CBU-20 cluster bombs and Mk82 bombs