|Republic of China Air Force|
Zhōnghuá Mínguó Kōngjūn (Mandarin)
Chûng-fà Mìn-koet Khung-kiûn (Hakka)
Emblem of the Republic of China Air Force
|Part of||Ministry of National Defense|
|Commander-General||General Shen Yi-ming|
|Fighter||F-16A/B Block 20, Mirage-2000-5Di/Ei, F-CK-1A/B/C/D, F-5E/F|
|Transport||C-130H, Fokker 50, Beechcraft B-1900C, Boeing 737-800|
The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF; Chinese: 中華民國空軍; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó Kōngjūn, lit. "Chinese Republic Air Military") is the military aviation branch of the Republic of China Armed Forces. The ROCAF's primary mission is the defense of the airspace over and around Taiwan. Priorities of the ROCAF include the development of long range reconnaissance and surveillance networks, integrating C4ISTAR systems to increase battle effectiveness, procuring counterstrike weapons, next generation fighters, and hardening airfields and other facilities to survive a surprise attack.
In May 2005, the Ministry of National Defense indicated its intention to transfer command of all defensive missile systems to the ROCAF, while future offensive missiles would be placed under a newly formed missile command. As of 2006, all medium and long range SAM units were transferred from ROC Army's Missile Command to ROCAF, while ROCAF's airbase security units were transferred to ROC Army Military Police. However, it was revealed that in January 2011, five years of problems of integrating those long range ex-ROC Army SAM units into ROCAF has forced ROCAF high command to return those units back to ROC Army's Missile Command. Missile Command is now directly under Defense Ministry's GHQ control.
In July 2010, former United States Air Force deputy under secretary for international affairs, Bruce Lemkin said that Taiwan's ability to defend its airspace had degraded due to its aging fighters and that the sale of new fighter aircraft to Taiwan was an urgent priority. On 21 September 2011, it was announced that the US had agreed to a US$5 billion upgrade to the F-16s. In 2012 Rob Nabors wrote that the United States was considering the sale of fighter aircraft to the ROC.
Like most of the other branches of the ROC armed forces, much of the ROCAF's structure and organisation is patterned after the United States Air Force. The below list provides the current structure of the force.
- Rescue Squadron, at Chiayi Air Base (with Sikorsky S-70 and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks) — keeps helicopter detachments at several bases. The S-70 will be withdrawn from use as soon as deliveries of the UH-60Ms are completed.
- Sungshan Airbase Command, at Sungshan Airport
- Special Transport Squadron with Beechcraft 1900C and Fokker F27-050
- Presidential Flight Section with Boeing 737 and Fokker 27-050
- Air Force Combatant Command
- 1st Tactical Fighter Wing (1st TFW), at Tainan Airport
- 1st Tactical Fighter Group (1st TFG), with F-CK-1C and D
- 3rd Tactical Fighter Group (3rd TFG), with F-CK-1C and D
- 9th Tactical Fighter Group (9th TFG), with F-CK-1C and D
- 2nd Tactical Fighter Wing (2nd TFW), at Hsinchu Airport
- 41st Tactical Fighter Group (41st TFG), with Dassault Mirage 2000
- 42nd Tactical Fighter Group (42nd TFG), with Dassault Mirage 2000
- 48th Training Group (48th TG), with Mirage 2000
- 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing (3rd TFW), at Taichung Airport
- 7th Tactical Fighter Group (7th TFG), with F-CK-1C and D
- 28th Tactical Fighter Group (28th TFG), with F-CK-1C and D
- 4th Tactical Fighter Wing (4th TFW), at Chiayi Air Base
- 21st Tactical Fighter Group (21st TFG), with General Dynamics F-16A and B
- 22nd Tactical Fighter Group (22nd TFG), with F-16A and B
- 23rd Tactical Fighter Group (23rd TFG), with F-16A and B
- 5th Tactical Fighter Wing (5th TFW), at Hualien Airport
- 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (12th TG), with RF-5 Tigereye and Northrop F-5 — there appears to be 2 12th TS?
- 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (12th TG), with RF-16A and F-16B — there appears to be 2 12th TS?
- 17th Tactical Fighter Group (17th TFG), with F-16A and B
- 26th Tactical Fighter Group (26th TFG), with F-16A and B
- 27th Tactical Fighter Group (27th TFG), with F-16A and B
- 6th Tactical/Early Warning Wing (6th T/EWW), at Pingtung Airport
- 33rd Squadron with P-3C
- 34th Squadron with P-3C
- 10th Tactical Airlift Group (10th TAG),
- 101st Troop Carrier Squadron (101st TCG), with C-130H
- 102nd Troop Carrier Squadron (102nd TCG), with C-130H
- 20th Early Warning Group (20th EWG),
- 2nd Early Warning Squadron (2nd EWS), with E-2 Advanced Hawkeye
- 6th Electronic Warfare Squadron (6th EWS), with C-130HE
- 1st and 3rd Tactical Fighter wings detachments at Makung Airport from April to October, with AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo
- 1st Tactical Fighter Wing (1st TFW), at Tainan Airport
- Education, Training & Doctrine Command
- Tactical Training and Development Centre (TT&DC) — borrows aircraft from the 7th FTW
- 7th Flight Training Wing, at Taitung Airport — if mobilised, its aircraft act in the aggressor role
- 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron (44th TFS), with F-5E and F
- 45th Tactical Fighter Squadron (45th TFS), with F-5E and F
- 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron (46th TFS), with F-5E and F
- Air Force Academy, in Kangshan
Formally established in 1920 as the Aviation Ministry, the ROCAF was active during the tenure of the ROC on Mainland China. In this period, various airplanes were purchased and deployed by warlords in their struggle for power until nominal Chinese reunification in 1928. In February 1932, US Reserve Lt. Robert McCawley Short, who was transporting armed Chinese aircraft, shot down an IJN aircraft on February 19, 1932, and downed another on February 22 before he was killed (he was posthumously raised to the rank of colonel in the Chinese Air Service).
During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), the ROCAF participated in attacks on Japanese warships on the eastern front and along the Yangtze river including support for the Battle of Shanghai in 1937. The Chinese frontline fighter aircraft initially were mainly the Curtiss Hawk II and III and the Boeing P-26 model 281, and engaged Japanese fighters in many major air battles beginning on August 14, 1937, when Imperial Japanese Navy warplanes raided Chienchiao airbase; "814" has thus become known as "Air Force Day". Chinese Boeing P-26/281 fighters engaged Japanese Mitsubishi A5M fighters in what is among the world's first aerial dogfighting between all-metal monoplane fighter aircraft. A unique mission in May 1938 saw two Chinese B-10 bombers fly a mission over Japan, but dropping only propaganda leaflets over the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Saga, four years before 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japanese home islands. It was a war of attrition for the Chinese pilots, as many of their most experienced ace fighter pilots, such as Lieutenant Liu Tsui-Kang and Colonel Kao Chih-Hang were lost early in the war. Code breaking operations played a role in the conflict. A Japanese radio intercept unit was attached to the landing forces at Shanghai. IJN Lt. Commander Tsunezo Wachi and a Lt. Yamada, an expert in Chinese codes, enabled Japanese to make preemptive strikes against ROCAF airfields.
In the latter half of the Sino-Japanese War, part of World War II, the ROCAF was augmented by a volunteer group of American pilots (the Flying Tigers) in 1941. Throughout the war, the ROCAF was involved in attacks on Japanese air and ground forces in the Chinese theatre.
ROCAF General HQ was established in June 1946. From 1946 to 1948, during the Chinese Civil War, the ROCAF participated in combat against the People's Liberation Army engaging in air-to-air combat on at least eleven occasions in the areas surrounding the Taiwan Strait. The ROCAF reportedly enjoyed a 31:1 kill ratio against the PLA. GHQ was evacuated to Taiwan along with the rest of the ROC Government in April 1949 following the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. The ROCAF assisted in halting the PLA advance at the Battle of Kuningtou on Kinmen the same year.
The ROCAF regularly patrolled the Taiwan Straits and fought many engagements with its Communist counterpart (the PLAAF). The ROCAF received second hand equipment from the US at that time, such as the F-86, F-100 and F-104.
During the Cold War, the ROCAF was involved in combat air patrols over the Taiwan Strait and engaged the PLAAF and PLAN-AF on several occasions. The ROCAF was also the testbed of American technology at this time. The first successful kill scored by an air-to-air missile was accomplished by a ROCAF F-86 Sabre with then experimental AIM-9 Sidewinder. ROCAF pilots also flew U-2 recon overflights of the PRC during this time with assistance from the USAF. Known as the Black Cat Squadron they flew a total of 220 missions, with 102 missions over mainland China, losing 5 aircraft. All five were shot down by SA-2 surface-to-air missiles, the same type of surface-to-air missile that shot down Gary Powers over the USSR in 1960. The 34th "Black Bat Squadron" flew low level missions into China as part of its mapping PRC growing air defense networks, conducting ESM and ECM missions, inserting agents behind enemy lines, and air drop resupply missions.
Starting in November 1967, the ROC secretly operated a cargo transport detachment to assist the US and the ROV. It was based on existing formation of the 34th squadron of ROC Air force. The unit's strength included two cargo aircraft, seven flight officers and two mechanics, even though a higher number of military personnel was involved through rotation. It was tasked with air transportation, airdrop and electronic reconnaissance. Some 25 members of the unit were killed, among them 17 pilots and co-pilots, and three aircraft were lost. Other ROC involvement in Vietnam included a secret listening station, special reconnaissance and raiding squads, military advisers and civilian airline operations (which cost a further two aircraft due to Vietnamese individually operated AA missiles).
The ROCAF has also taken part in numerous humanitarian operations. Some of the more major ones include the following:
- Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, December 2004
- Haiti earthquake, January 2010
- Typhoon Haiyan, November 2013
Equipment and procurement
Current ROCAF inventory includes over 400 combat aircraft, the mainstays being the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo IDF (Indigenous Defense Fighter) and F-16 while the Mirage 2000-5 provides the most formidable air-defense capabilities. Older F-5 fighters are gradually being phased out but remain in service.
The United States serves as the ROCAF's main supplier of equipment and also provides training for ROCAF and ROC Navy pilots at Luke AFB in Arizona. This base which is between Phoenix and Tucson has an instrumented flight area for training approximately the size of the State of Connecticut. German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and German Naval Aviation (Marineflieger) who used to train at Luke AFB from 1957-1983 now train at NATO facilities at CFB Goose Bay in Canada and also alongside the USAF at Holloman AFB in New Mexico.
Prior to 1984, ROCAF fighters were almost exclusively American-made aircraft sold under terms of a mutual defense treaty between the Republic of China and the United States. Development of the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) began in 1984 due to U.S. refusal to sell F-16s to the ROCAF as a result of changes in national policy between the U.S. and the People's Republic of China. After a successful maiden flight in 1989, the domestically produced fighter entered service in 1994. However, the ROCAF was subsequently able to obtain F-16s from the United States as well as Mirage 2000-5 fighters from France, resulting in delays to later IDF development that had been anticipated.
In response to American refusals to supply "smart bombs", Taiwan is developing their own equivalent of the Joint Direct Attack Munition for attacks against the PRC mainland in case of invasion preparations.
In January 2006, the ROCAF announced interest in procuring aircraft with VSTOL capability, especially the F-35. The ROCAF also sought next-generation upgrades to its current F-16s and Mirage 2000-5s and, in mid-2006, announced plans to buy 66 F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraft from the US for $3.1 billion USD. Later that year, however, the U.S. delayed the purchase; according to sources cited by National Defense Minister Lee Jye, the American stance was that, until a long-stalled arms purchase package consisting of six Patriot Missile Batteries, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft and 8 conventional submarines cleared the legislature, it did not see the ROC as having a consistent military procurement plan.
On February 28, 2007, the US Defense Department approved an order made by the ROC for 218 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, as well as 235 AGM-65G2 Maverick missiles, associated launchers and other equipment. The total value of this order was revealed to be $421 million USD.
In June 2007, the Legislative Yuan also approved the upgrade of the existing PAC-2 batteries to PAC-3 standard, and, in November, the Pentagon notified the U.S. Congress of the Patriot upgrade order. On August 10, 2007, a shipment of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, valued at an estimated $125 million, was also authorised by the U.S. Defense Department, including 60 AGM-84L Block II missiles and 50 upgrade kits to bring the ROCAF's existing Harpoons up to Block II, Mark L standard.
On October 3, 2008, arms notifications were sent to Congress concerning, amongst other things, the sale of 330 PAC III missiles, 4 missile batteries, radar sets, ground stations and other equipment valued up to $3.1 billion USD, the upgrade of 4 E-2T aircraft to the Hawkeye 2000 standard and $334 million USD worth of spare parts for the ROCAF's F-16s, IDFs, F-5E/Fs and C-130s. Late in January 2010, ROCAF received the first batch of new TC-2(V) BVR missiles ordered from CSIST, believed to have new radar seeker and improved performance from the original missile which entered service over 10 years ago. The U.S. government also announced 5 notifications to Congress for additional arms sales totaling some $6.39 Billion USD, under which the ROCAF will receive 3 PAC-3 batteries with 26 launchers and 114 PAC-3 missiles. On February 3, 2010, ROCAF also announced at a Singapore Airshow that it had signed a new contract for 3 EC-225 SAR (Search-And-Rescue) helicopters that was awarded to Eurocopter back in December 2009 for $111 million USD, along with options for 17 more EC-225s. On November 26, 2011, the 3 EC-225 C-SAR helicopters were loaded on board an An-124 cargo aircraft and delivered to Chai-yi AB in Taiwan, and should enter service on July 1, 2012.
On August 31, 2010, it was announced for next year's defense budget, ROCAF's "Medium Transport aircraft" plan to replace 12 B-1900 VIP/transport training aircraft, believed to be 6-8+ Lockheed C-27J, has been put on hold and might be axed, due to lack of budget, but will allocate 20+ million US dollars over next 4 years for quick runway repair. Other items mentioned including increases in runways from 3 to 6 at Eastern Taiwan's 3 airbases, moving 2 I-HAWK batteries to Eastern Taiwan to protect those airbases, which will double to 4 batteries, and others. On November 8, 2011, a second pair of E-2T Hawkeye AEW(s/n 2501 and 2502) were loaded on a ship and sent to the US for upgrade to the E-2C 2000 standard. The first pair of E-2T (s/n 2503 and 2504) were sent to the US in June 2010 and returned to Taiwan on December 18, 2011, and will be return to service by end of the year.
On August 15, 2011, the United States again deferred the ROCAF request to purchase 66 new F-16C/Ds but offered a retrofit package for older F-16A/B's. A $5.3 billion upgrade package for ROCAF's existing F-16A/B fighters was announced on 21 September 2011. The upgrade budget was to be spread over 12 years, though the Ministry of Defense indicated that it would try to reduce the period. In November 2011, the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended that new fighters be sold to the ROCAF. Nonetheless, as of 2012, the MND was still haggling with the Pentagon over cost and local industry participation on the upgrade. After denying the RoC Air Force the funds needed to upgrade their jet engines, President Ma Ying-jeou said that he hoped that the upgraded fighters would have on par performance. Taiwan is also balking at the cost of the radar upgrade, as it does not want to be the lead customer who pays to develop the upgrade and also because they will be unable to afford both the upgrade and the new fighters, should these be offered. In response to a U.S. vote in the House of Representatives to force the sale of the C/D models, the ROC MND said that the upgrade package offered some superior capabilities over the C/D model aircraft and some defense officials have said that in light of the PRC's increasing capabilities, only the F-35 would be sufficient. In July 2012, Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. and Lockheed Martin announced plans to establish a maintenance and overhaul center to upgrade and maintain the F-16s in place without having to ship them back to the United States. In 2012 a letter of acceptance was agreed on for a US$3.8 billion deal that included the radars, electronic warfare, structural improvements and new weapons. The high cost of the fighter upgrade is causing other modernization priorities such as tanks to be pushed back. A Pentagon report has corroborated that claim, asserting that the PRC would probably seek to destroy ROCAF airfields in the first stages of any attack, making a STOVL fighter such as the F-35B vital for effective defense.
Taiwan's 144 craft F-16 A/B fleet is currently being upgraded to the F-16V variant by Lockheed Martin in an upgrade program worth 1.85 billion USD. The F-16V is equipped with the Northrop Grumman Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) and has enhanced mission computers, vehicle systems, aircraft structure, cockpit and electronic warfare systems.
Rank and rating insignia
|Equivalent NATO Code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D) and Student Officer|
| Republic of China
|No equivalent||No equivalent|
| Republic of China
|Master Sergeant First Class
|Master Sergeant Second Class
|AIM-120C AMRAAM||United States||beyond-visual-range missile||200 missiles obtained in 2004 218 missiles obtained in 2007|
|AIM-7 Sparrow||United States||medium-range, semi-active radar||1,200 AIM-7M’s obtained|
|MBDA MICA||France||medium-range, semi-active radar||960 missiles obtained|
|AIM-9 Sidewinder||United States||short-range IR guided||(200) AIM-9B’s - (2,216) 9J/P's - (1092) 9L/M’s 9x Block II’s - (196)|
|Magic II||France||short-range IR guided||480 missiles obtained|
|AGM-65 Maverick||United States||(500) AGM-65’s – (40) 65G’s – (235) 65G2’s|
|AGM-84 Harpoon||United States||anti-ship missile||(183) AGM-84’s – (60) 84L’s|
|Patriot (PAC-2)||United States||SAM system||3||receiving upgrade to PAC-3 (7 on order)|
|Sky Bow||Taiwan||SAM system||6||Sky Bow I missiles phased out by 2015, Sky Bow III missiles to be introduced|
|MIM-23 HAWK||United States||SAM system||19||to be phased out between 2015 and 2017 by Sky Bow system.|
|Skyguard||Switzerland||towed anti-aircraft gun||24||twin gun, 35mm rounds|
|RIM-7 Sea Sparrow||United States||SAM system||500 missiles||the RIM-7 SAM is used on towed launchers as part of the Skyguard Air Defense System. Five hundred entered service in 1991.|
ROCAF Squadron emblems
- Development of Chinese Nationalist air force (1937–45)
- Flying Tigers
- Black Bat Squadron
- Black Cat Squadron
- 21st Fighter Squadron
- Republic of China Air Force Academy
- Air Force Institute of Technology
- Republic of China Air Force Museum
- Ministry of National Defense (Republic of China)
- Republic of China Armed Forces
- People's Liberation Army Air Force
- Political status of Taiwan
- Rank of wing (聯隊) commanders
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