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AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chiang Service History Fleet Images Fleet Information
In March 1975, the AIDC began a study of an advanced jet trainer to replace the aging T-33A. The program gained its momentum on December 15, 1975, when the AIDC signed an agreement with Northrop to co-develop a single-engine jet trainer; the prototype was designated XAT-3. The change from the original single-engine layout to the current twin-engine design was approved by the Ministry of National Defense on June 13, 1976. Two prototype aircraft were built. The first prototype 0801 (69-6001) first took off on September 16, 1980. The second prototype 0802 (71-6002) first flew on October 30, 1981. The first production example, re-designated AT-3, 0803, was rolled out in an official ceremony on March 1, 1984. To boost morale, the aircraft was named Tzu Chiang, meaning in Chinese gaining strength without relying on others. It had made its first flight on February 6, 1984. Delivery began in March 1984, completed in 1990. More than sixty AT-3s were ordered. There was also a single-seat dedicated attack version, designated A-3, but its program was cancelled after two prototype A-3s (0901, 0902) were built.

There are two zero/zero Martin-Baker 10 ejection seats in the dual-control cockpit of production models. The ejection seats on the prototype were of Northrop design. The crew of two sit in tandem, with the rear seat elevated 30 cm. All AT-3s use MDC systems to break the canopy in emergency. Basic construction is metal but with laminated graphite composite airbrake panels and metal honeycomb core ailerons. The two prototypes 0801 and 0802 were equipped with unspecified interim engines. Published photographs showed the tailpipes protruded from the engine nacelles. The power plant for production models was changed to two Garrett TFE731-2-2L non-afterburning turbofan engines, producing a total thrust of 3178 kg (31.1 kN; 7000 lb). The maximum external load is 2721 kg (6000 lb). AT-3s have five hardpoints (one centerline, two inboard underwing, two outboard underwing) and wingtip launch rails. Weapons that have been seen carried by the AT-3 include Mk 82 500 lb bombs, Mk 20 cluster bombs, 5 in and 2.75 in rocket pods, 20 mm gun pods, and heat-seeking air-to-air missiles including the AIM-9 and the Tien Chien (Sky Sword) 1 developed by the CSIST.

Service History

The first AT-3 operator is the Flight Training Command in ROCAF Academy, which has bee flying the aircraft since 1986. After student pilots complete basic training in the T-34C, those who choose the Fighter track proceed to fly the AT-3 for 110 flying hours. Early ROCAF Academy AT-3 were overall bare-metal with the nose section, wing-tips, and the vertical stabilizer painted in fluorescent orange. After the Thunder Tiger Demonstration Team converted to the AT-3 ( described next), all ROCAF Academy AT-3 also adopted the painting scheme used by Thunder Tiger's AT-3.

In 1988, the ROCAF General Headquarters designated the ROCAF Academy to take over the public aerial demonstration duty from the Thunder Tiger Demonstration Team, a task force that had been formed by volunteer pilots from the 443rd TFW at Tainan since 1954. the new team members were drawn from the pool of instructor pilots at the Academy and trained by the Thunder Tiger. The equipment was also changed from the F-5E to the AT-3 at the same time. In the early days of the AT-3 era, the aerobatic team did not adopt the legendary name Thunder Tiger, but simply called itselt the Aerobatic Team. However, Thunder Tiger had stuck in all aviation fans' minds and the team renamed itself Thunder Tiger in 1990.

Unlike their predecessors, all performing AT-3 were all were painted in a vivid blue-white-red scheme. This paint scheme was soon adopted by the entire AT-3 fleet at the Air Force Academy, making it virtually impossible to distinguish between them. This does not imply any AT-3 can be used for demonstration, though. The Thunder Tiger AT-3 carry an oil tank inside the gun bay. The oil is ducted by an external pipe fitted under the fuselage to the outlet behind the port-side jet pipe to generate the smoke.

The AT-3 demonstration team made its public performance on March 27, 1989, flying six aircraft. Unlike the USAF Thunderbirds, which announces the performance times and locations well in advance every year, the Thunder Tiger usually releases its schedule only weeks, sometimes even days, before the first performance of the year. Even the number of aircraft used does not seem to be fixed. Most of the time, six AT-3 would perform in a show, with six flying formations and the other two solos. But there had times when only five aircraft flew. Sometimes as many as seven aircraft could be seen.

On September 9, 1989, the 35th Combat Squadron at CCK traded its vintage T-33A with twenty AT-3 and its role was designated as Night Attack. The legendary 35th Squadron used to operate the U-2 until late 1974, when it was deactivated. It stood up again on June 16, 1977, in the form of the 35th Combat Squadron. The squadron logo was also changed from the famous "Black Cat" to the "Antelope." The re-established 35th Squadron were assigned the armed version of T-33A retired from the ROCAF Academy. These T-33A had twin 12.7-mm machine guns fitted in the nose and could carry rocket or gun pods under the wings. Then based at Ching Chuan Kang, the 35th reported directly to the 427th Tactical Fighter Wing.

These AT-3 were painted in a Vietnam-style three-tone camouflage and were initially fitted with semi-recessed twin 12.7-mm machine guns, which were believed to be "recycled" from the retired T-33A, in the underside gun bays. Since April 1991, the machine guns had been all removed from AT-3 of the 35th and wingtip missile launch rails began to appear. Now that the 35th Squadron AT-3 were operated at higher speed than were their brothers at t he Academy, their fuel consumption rate was also higher. As a consequence, aircraft flying operational sorties usually carried two underwing fuel tanks, extending theloitering time from 45 minutes to 70. As its name indicates, the 35th Squadron conducted its missions mainly at night. Without advanced EO or radar systems onboard, the tactics adopted by the 35th's AT-3 were very low-tech. Each attack package was made up of two AT-3. The leading aircraft would locate the target and then drop illuminating flares. The following AT-3 subsequently made its attack run.

In late 1991, the 35th began to apply the Antelope logo to the tails of AT-3. On July 1, 1992, the 35th Squadron was relocated to Hsinchu. Since September 1995, it has been operating out of Kangshan, sharing the AT-3 maintenance facilities at the Air Force Academy. On February 28, 1999, the 35th Squadron stood down again. All aircraft were absorbed by the Air Force Academy and repainted in the standard blue-while-red scheme.

AT-3's manufacturer, AIDC, retained the two A-3 prototypes and a single AT-3. A-3 0901 has mainly been used for contract target-towing missions while A-3 0902 and AT-3 0825 have been heavily modified. Modifications include the addition of the APG-66T radar and the fire control system for the Hsiung Feng (Strong Wind) 2 anti-ship missiles, two multi-function displays (MFDs) on both sides of the front panel, a head-up display (HUD) with up-front controls, the hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) control. 0825 is unofficially designated as the AT-3B.

Fleet Images

0801 0802 AT-3 0803 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0803 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0804
crashed 10/14/92
crashed 06/12/95
0806 0807 0808
0809 0810 0811 0812
0813 AT-3 0814 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0814 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0815 0816
0817 AT-3 0818 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0818 (Photo by Jason Tu) AT-3 0819 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0819 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0820
0821 AT-3 0822 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0822 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0823 0824
0825 0826 (crashed 09/04/98) 0827 (crashed 06/11/03) 0828
0829 0830 0831
crashed 04/23/91
crashed 06/27/97
0834 0835 0836
0837 AT-3 0838 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0838 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0839 0840
0841 0842 0843
crashed 02/28/96
AT-3 0845 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0845 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0846 AT-3 0847 0847 AT-3 0848 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0848 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg)
0849 0850
crashed 01/26/94
AT-3 0851 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0851 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) AT-3 0852 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0852 (Photo by Jason Tu)
0853 (35th Sq.) 0854 AT-3 0855 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) 0855 (Photo by Erik Sleutelberg) AT-3 0856 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0856 (Photo by Jason Tu)
0857 0858
crashed 11/07/94
0859 0860 (35th Sq.)
AT-3 0861 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0861 (Photo by Jason Tu) 0862
0901 0902

Fleet Information


Tail No. Serial No. Remark
0801 69-6001
0802 71-6002
0803 73-6003
0804 73-6004 crashed 10/14/92; 2 killed
0805 7?-6005 crashed 06/12/95; 2 seriously injured
0806 74-6006
0807 74-6007
0808 74-6008
0809 74-6009
0810 74-6010
0811 75-6011
0812 75-6012
0813 75-6013
0814 75-6014
0815 75-6015
0816 75-6016
0817 75-6017
0818 75-6018
0819 75-6019
0820 75-6020
0821 75-6021
0822 75-6022
0823 75-6023
0824 75-6024
0825 75-6025
0826 75-6026 crashed 09/04/98; one ok
0827 75-6027 crashed 06/11/03; two killed
0828 75-6028
0829 7?-6029
0830 7?-6030
0831 7?-6031 crashed 04/23/91; two ok
0832 76-6032


Tail No. Serial No. Remark
0833 76-6033 crashed 06/27/97; one killed
0834 76-6034
0835 76-6035
0836 76-6036
0837 76-6037
0838 76-6038
0839 76-6039
0840 76-6040
0841 76-6041
0842 76-6042
0843 76-6043 crashed 02/28/96; one ok
0844 76-6044
0845 76-6045
0846 76-6046
0847 76-6047
0848 76-6048
0849 76-6049
0850 76-6050 crashed 01/26/94; one killed, one ok
0851 76-6051
0852 77-6052
0853 77-6053
0854 77-6054
0855 77-6055
0856 77-6056
0857 77-6057
0858 77-6058 crashed 11/07/94; two ok
0859 77-6059
0860 78-6060
0861 78-6061
0862 78-6062
0863 78-6063


Tail No. Serial No. Remark
0901 71-7001
0902 71-7002

 Last update: 02/28/10 TaiwanAirPower > Air Force > Top