Text & Pictures: Philippe Decock  -  © sbap 2020

ROCAF Air Force Academy – Gangshan Air Base

The Republic of China Air Force Academy (CAFA - Zhōnghuá Mínguó Kōngjūn Guānxiào) is the military academy for the air force of the Republic of China, and is located in Gangshan District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Brief History of the Air Force Academy
The predecessor of the ROCAF Academy was the Central Army Academy's Aviation Corps established in Nanjing in 1928, subsequently reorganized as the Aviation Class in 1929.
In 1931, it was relocated to Jianqiao, and renamed Central Aviation School on September 1, 1932. It was once again renamed the Air Force Academy on July 1, 1938, and the Academy was relocated and stationed in Gangshan, Kaoshiung County, Taiwan in 1949.
The Academy is the result of the desire of the founding father of the Republic of China,
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, to save the country via aviation, as well as the late President Chiang Kai-Shek's instruction to build a strong air force.
The aim was to educate excellent youth with philosophy, science and military science, in order to constitute the backbone of the Air Force with remarkable abilities, strong bodies, rich specialized knowledge and precise flying skills.
Nowadays, the students receive lessons on aerospace engineering, avionics engineering, aviation mechanical engineering and aviation management.

Flight Training and Time of Training for Cadets
Persons qualified for flight training will be evaluated with a TP-1 Flight Simulator.
The flight training program is separated into three phases: Evaluation Flight Training, Basic Flight Training and Advanced Flight Training.
Professional Flight Training Program:
Male or female flight officers will receive flight training after acquiring the basic specialized education.

Training Hours and the Current Type of Trainer
Selection of Flight Training : Completing 10 to 12 hours with T-34C.

Basic Flight Training : Completing 80 hours with T-34C.

Advanced Flight Training :
1. Combat Training Section : Completing 120 hours with AT-3.
2. Air Transportation Training Section
- Completing eighty hours with BH-1900 or T-34.
- Completing ninety hours with T-34.

Flight Simulator Training will be conducted for a total of 36 to 50 hours, depending on each phase of flight training.

Basic Training Group is the foundation of becoming a pilot in the R.O.C. Basic flight training is the introductory training in the department of aviation training, which uses turbo propeller airplanes to do basic maneuvering, flight formations and basic tactics. The department of Basic Flight Training was founded when the Hangzhou Jianqiao flight school was built in 1931 June first. In 1949, the flight school moved to Taiwan Gangshan, and the department of Basic Flight Training was officially founded. Since 1984, the original airplanes were replaced with T-34 instructor aircraft, which has been responsible for training about three thousand pilots until the modern day.

Fighter Training Group
In 21st year of the Republic Era, Jianqiao gathered those first class graduates from Central Military Academy of aviation and people who have study aviation abroad to be the first of Advanced Section.
The Advance Section went to the United States to train with T-6 aircraft during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and move back to Jianqiao in 35th year after the war. In October, 38th year, the section moves to its present site in Kangshan. In 46th year, the section was enhanced to use T-33 aircraft, and AT-3 aircraft is officially used in November 2005.
Those who finished the section over years distributed to forces have created splendid record in 814 Aerial Warfare etc. It's one of our training ordeals. In the future, we will continue this training with strict and hard requirements in order to train more excellent combatants.

Airlift Training Group
was established in 1972. In need fulfill the demand of anti-submarine and helicopter personnel. As to reduce the cost for training, the section uses C-47 for service. From 1989 the section establishes light weight air craft group and uses T-34C for training. After the retirement of C-47 in 1995 the section uses BH-1900C for their training till today.
ROCAF Air Academy students in the 1950's
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
ROCAF Air Academy students today
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)

Air Force Academy today:
Basic Training Group: Beechcraft T-34C "Mentor"
Fighter Training Group: AIDC AT-3 "Tzu Chung"
Airlift Training Group: Beeccraft BH-1900C

 Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor T-34C 3427
Close up on a « Thunder Tiger » AT-3 30835
AT-3 30847 Disappearing behind the trees
30829 on final
Airbrakes and flaps out, gear down Gear down
30839 on final And for another touch and go
View of the underside 30807 on final
Turning final A nice little bird
30852 with everything out
30806 on final A pair is coming back
Nose section « Thunder Tiger » 80838
Close formation At the break
30813 on final A pair of AT-3’s on final
30861 on final « Thunder Tiger » 30824
30807 going around; not the back seater in blind flight configuration
Low approach Climb out
Everything out Close up
Short final Perfect formation
 Beechcraft BH-1900C The Air transprt trainer of the ROCAF
 An elegant twin  engine aircraft
"Thunder Tigers" Aerobatic Team
The "Thunder Tiger" team, worshiped as the "Red Arrows" in the United Kingdom
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) aerobatic display team was formed in 1953 at Tainan Air Base, under the name "Thunder Tigers Technical Flying Corps". On August 14th, 1954, they performed their first public display during the Air Force Celebration Day, flying four F-84G "Thunderbird" (Thunderjet) aircraft (Thunderbird was the type's name in Taiwanese).
On June 6th 1956, they received the title of "Flight Technical Corps of China Air Force Thunder Tigers" and one year later they began to fly a nine aircraft formation.
They crossed the border for the first time on December 15th, 1957 during the Phillippines International Air Show held at Manila Airport. The Taiwanese team was of course one of the highlights.
In 1959, the "Thunder Tigers" made their conversion on F-86 Daggers (Taiwanese name of the Sabre) and flew their routine with 11 aircraft. Later in April the team was invited to the World Congress of Flight at Nellis AFB, USA, where "Thunder Tigers" pilots flew nine F-86F Sabres borrowed from USAF Williams AFB, Arizona. The borrowed Sabre aircraft weared the Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force markings. During their American stay, they performed three other displays before returning home.
In 1967, the team converted on to the Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter. The American originated aircraft was replaced in 1975 by the Northrop / AIDC F-5E "Chung Cheng" fighter built under license by the Taiwanese Aeronautical Company.
On November 1st, 1988, the "Thunder Tigers" transitioned to the new Taiwanese-built AT-3 jet training aircraft. At that time, the pilots of the team were drawn from instructors of the Air Force Academy located in Tainan. Initially they flew six planes, but the following year the team increased to its present count of seven aircraft. The "Thunder Tigers" received their current paint scheme in white, blue and red colors and began to use similar colors for their smoke generators.
Superb formation
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
Bomb burst artist view
(Artist view DR)
The "Thunder Tiger" team in action
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
Quite simply exotic and splendid
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
Since 1993, the group has been based at the Republic of China Air Force Academy in Gangshan, Kaohsiung.
On June 27th, 1997, during a four-ship barrel roll on a training flight at Kang Shan Air Base, the leader of the team crashed and sadly died in the crash.
To honor the Republic of China centenary in 2011, the "Thunder Tigers" took part in the largest fly past held in Taiwan.
On February 3rd, 2012, two of the "Thunder Tigers" aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision during a training flight. The planes took off from Gangshan Air Force Base at 3:37 p.m. for a formation training and collided 33 minutes later. The left stabilizer of the lead plane was ripped off, but both pilots managed to return and land the AT-3 aircraft safely at Gangshan Air Force base. Another AT-3 training jet crashed near a mountain in Pingtung County in Southern Taiwan, but both pilots ejected safely.
In October 2014, Lieutenant Colonel Chuang Pei-Yuan was involved in a fatal crash while flying an AT-3 owned by the "Thunder Tigers" team on a routine training mission. The team activities were suspended shortly after this crash and all AT-3 aircraft were grounded for major inspections regarding these fatal crashes.
The "Thunder Tigers" flew at Lieutenant Colonel Chuang Pei-Yuan's funeral in November 2014. The next unofficial display was held on November 2016.
Since 2017 the team has resumed its demonstrations, but exclusively within the Taiwanese sector.
Welcoming them on the western side of Europe would be an excellent challenge for the organizers of the RIAT, for example...
AIDC AT-3 "Tzu Chung" trainer

The AIDC AT-3 "Tzu Chung" (Self Reliance) is an advanced jet trainer operated by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF). A total of sixty-two aircraft were manufactured between 1984 and 1990, by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation of Taiwan (AIDC) in collaboration with American aircraft manufacturer Northrop. Two A-3 single-seat attack versions were also built.
The design of this advanced jet trainer began in 1975. After the design was approved in 1978, two prototypes were produced. The first aircraft rolled out on July 17th, 1980 and made its maiden flight on September 16th, 1980. Further evaluation resulted in a contract for 60 AT-3A's for the ROCAF.

The prototype 01 at take off
(Courtesy AIDC Archives)
Armaments trials
(Courtesy AIDC Archives)
The AT-3 is a low-wing monoplane with a straight wing and a conventional slab tail plane. The AT-3 has five weapon mounts (one centerline, two inboard underwing and two outboard underwing) and wingtip launch rails. There are two Zero-zero Martin-Baker 10 ejection seats in the tandem dual-control cockpit of the 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. The AT-3 is equipped with two Honeywell/Garrett TFE731-2-2L non-afterburning turbofan engines, producing a total thrust of 3178 kg (7000 lb). The aircraft is able to carry various size iron bombs, rocket pods, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and locally produced TC-1 IR Air-to-air missiles.
The AT-3 with the South-East Asia camouflage
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
Clean configuration at landing
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
The XA-3 "Lei Ming" single seat version of the AT-3
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
Equipped as target towing plane
(Courtesy AIDC Archives)
Operational history:
The main AT-3A operator is the Flight Training Command in ROCAF Academy. In 1988 the "Thunder Tigers" demonstration team swapped its AIDC F-5E aircraft with AT-3's. On September 9th, 1989 the 35th Combat Squadron (Night Attack) replaced its old Lockheed T-33A1 Shooting Star trainers with AT-3's painted in South East Asia jungle colors (Vietnam scheme). The AT-3's delivered to the 35th Combat Squadron 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 stood down in 1999 with its aircraft transferred to the Flight Training Command. The aircraft operates both as an advanced trainer and for weapon training. Currently all AT-3 remaining in services with ROCAF are painted in the "Thunder Tigers" Blue, White and Red colors. The AT-3 went through a mid-life update between 2001 and 2006, which will allow the aircraft to operate some more years in ROCAF service.

Crew Member: 2
Length: 42 feet 4 inches (12.9 meters)
Wingspan: 34 feet 3.75 inches (4.36 meters)
Wing Area: 236.05 square feet (21.93 square meters)
Empty Weight: 8,500 pounds (3,855 kilograms)
Maximum Take Off Weight: 17,505 pounds (7,940 kilograms)
In the AIDC facilities
(Courtesy AIDC Archives)
Maintenance for the "Tzu Chung" fleet
(Courtesy AIDC Archives)
In 2011 with the Republic of China Centenary logo
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)
With a new livery for the "Thunder Tiger" leader in 2017
(Courtesy ROCAF via web)

Reports Menu - Homepage