Taiwan's ambitious programme to develop an advanced fighter to replace its fleet of F-5s and F-104s began in 1982, after the US government placed an embargo on the sale of the Northrop F-20 and any comparable fighter. The same restrictions were not placed on technical assistance, however, and US aerospace companies have collaborated closely with AIDC to develop an indigenous fighter and weapons system. Assistance has been provided by General Dynamics (airframe), Garrett (propulsion), Westinghouse (radar) and a Smiths Industries-led team (avionics).
The aircraft is equipped with a Golden Dragon GD-53 multi-mode pulse-Doppler radar based on the AN/APG-67(V) developed for the F-20, but incorporating some technology from the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 unit used by the F-16A.
Of mostly conventional all-metal construction, the Ching Kuo is of conventional configuration, albeit with wing/fuselage blending. The pilot sits on a Martin-Baker Mk 12 ejection seat and the pressurized cockpit is fitted with a sidestick controller, a wide-angle head-up display, and three multi-function look-down displays.
The first prototype made its maiden flight on 28 May 1989, and on 10 February 1994, the Republic of China Air Force's No7 Squadron publicly unveiled its aircraft, which included two production single-seaters (designated F-CK-1A) and two production two-seater conversion trainers (F-CK-1B). In March 1993, the country's legislature announced that procurement would be limited to only 130 aircraft, to equip two, instead of the planned four, wings. The final two aircraft were delivered in 2000. AIDC seeks government approval to offer a downgraded version of the two-seater Ching Kuo for export as a lead-in/advanced fighter trainer. This would not retain radar, internal gun or electronic counter measures systems.