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AT-3 Tzu Chung
Thundertigers AT-3 Flight over Hualien AFB.jpg
An AT-3 of the Thunder Tigers Squadron
Role Trainer
National origin Taiwan
Manufacturer Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation
First flight 16 September 1980
Introduction 1984
Status Active
Primary user Republic of China Air Force
Produced 1984–1989
Number built 62
ROCAF Thundertigers Flight over ROCMA by V-Shape Formation

The AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung (Chinese: 自強; pinyin: Zìqiáng; "Self Reliance")[1] is an advanced jet trainer operated by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF). A total of sixty-two aircraft were manufactured by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation of Taiwan in collaboration with American aircraft manufacturer Northrop[citation needed] between 1984 and 1990. Two A-3 single-seat attack version were also built.

Design and development[edit]

Design of the advanced jet trainer began in 1975 with a conventional low-wing configuration with a tricycle undercarriage, tandem seat cockpit, and twin turbofans mounted in nacelles on either side of the fuselage. After the design was approved in 1978, two prototypes were produced. The first aircraft rolled out on 17 July 1980 and made its maiden flight on 16 September 1980.[2] Further evaluation resulted in a contract for 60 AT-3As for the ROCAF.

The AT-3 is a low-wing monoplane with a straight wing and a conventional slab tailplane. The AT-3 has five weapon mounts (one centerline, two inboard underwing, two outboard underwing) and wingtip launch rails. There are two Zero-zero Martin-Baker 10 ejection seats in the tandem dual-control cockpit of production models. The rear seat (the Instructor position) is elevated 30 cm to allow better over-the-nose visibility. There's a rarely used small bomb bay feature in the aircraft, now mostly holding an auxiliary fuel tank. AT-3 has two Honeywell/Garrett TFE731-2-2L non-afterburning turbofan engines, producing a total thrust of 3178 kg (31.1 kN; 7000 lb). It is able to carry various size iron bombs, rocket pods, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and locally produced TC-1 IR Air-to-air missiles.

Operational history[edit]

The first AT-3A operator is the Flight Training Command in ROCAF Academy. In 1988 the Thunder Tiger demonstration team replaced its F-5E aircraft with AT-3s. On 9 September 1989 the 35th Combat Squadron (Night Attack) replaced its Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star trainers with AT-3s painted in SE Asia jungle colors. The AT-3s delivered to the 35th Combat Squadron(Night Attack) were equipped with semi-recessed twin 12.7 mm machine guns in the bomb bay. The 35th Squadron later relocated to ROCAF Academy for logistic reasons, and later stood down in 1999 with its aircraft transferred to the Flight Training Command.

The aircraft operates both as an advanced trainer and for weapons training, and all AT-3 in service with ROCAF are now painted in the Thunder Tiger's Blue, White and Red colors.

The AT-3 went through a mid-life update (MLU) from 2001 to 2006, which will allow the aircraft to operate beyond 2016.[1]

The XA-3 Lui Meng (simplified Chinese: 雷鸣; traditional Chinese: 雷鳴; pinyin: Léimíng) ("Thunder") single-seat attack version never progressed beyond the prototype stage. Two such aircraft were built, numbered 901 and 902. These aircraft are now retired and on display. AT-3B #825 is on loan to AIDC. These three aircraft were able to carry a shortened version of the HF-2 air-launched Anti-ship missile, and were combat-ready with this version of missile during the 1995/1996 Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.[1] The armed two-seat AT-3B upgrade did enter service with the ROCAF.


AT-3 Max Advanced Trainer Model Display at AIDC Booth
XA-3 in Chengkungling
  • XAT-3 : The first two two-seat prototypes.
  • AT-3A : Two-seat advanced jet trainer, light attack aircraft for the ROCAF. 60 production aircraft were built.
  • AT-3B : Two-seat ground-attack aircraft for the ROCAF. 45 of the 60 AT-33A aircraft have been planned for upgrades to the AT-3B standard which includes APG-66T radar and a head-up display (HUD) as its MLU project. The status is not currently known.
  • XA-3 (Lei Ming): Single-seat ground-attack aircraft. Two prototypes built but program was cancelled due to priorities placed on the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo. Retired and on display.





Data from Attack and Interceptor Jets[3]

General characteristics


Two wingtip pylons for Air-to-air missiles and 5 wing hardpoints with provision up to 2720kg (5998lb) of stores

  • Guns: 2x .50 cal machine guns in ventral pack, 20 mm gun pods
  • Bombs: Mk 82 500 lb bombs, Mk84 2000 lb bombs, Mk20 cluster bombs
  • Rockets: 5 in and 2.75 in rocket pods
  • Missiles: Sky Sword I and AIM-9P4 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, HF-2 Mk 2 anti-ship missile.

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ a b c Hua, Retired General Mike (2010-09-16). "30th anniversary of AT-3 first flight". HMHFP. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
  2. ^ "Taiwan's first fighter jet trainer celebrates its 30th anniversary". Central News Agency. November 6, 2010. Archived from the original on November 6, 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  3. ^ Sharpe, Michael (1999). Attack and Interceptor Jets. New York City, NY: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers. ISBN 1-58663-301-5.