F-86F Sabre ‘Thunder Tigers’ Taiwan Air Force
The military forces of the Republic of China in Taiwan were established by and with the personnel that retreated to Taiwan with the Guomindang (GMD) and the Nationalist armed forces (guo jun; approximately 800,000 troops) under Chiang Kai-shek’s (Jiang Jieshi’s) leadership in 1949. The major branches of the military include the army, navy, marine corps, air force, military police, combined logistics command, and reserve command. Among the unique strategies of the Ministry of National Defense (Guofang Bu) was the establishment of the General Political Warfare Department (Zong Zhengzhi Zuozhan Ju) with divisions in all military branches. This department was charged with the responsibilities of propaganda campaigns, the policing of the loyalty of military personnel, and military intelligence against mainland Chinese infiltrators. Chiang’s son Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo) presided over this unit.
From this time through the 1970s, Chiang Kai-shek and the military strategists defined the primary mission of the military to be retaking mainland China (fangong dalu) and reuniting China (tongyi Zhongguo), as exemplified by the speeches and programs of annual National Day military parades (October 10) and fueled by full-scale military conflicts with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s Quemoy (Jinmen), a group of offshore islands just eight miles off the coast of mainland China, from 1954 to 1955 and 1958 to 1959. Hao Po-tsun (Hao Bocun), then commander of the Army’s Ninth Division, played a major role in defending Quemoy in 1958 and became the first, albeit controversial, instance of an activeduty military member to be involved in the political scene (he served as premier of the Executive Yuan from 1990 to 1993).
The ROC troops worked closely with the Seventh Fleet of the U. S. Navy, sent as part of the U. S. blockade during the Korean War (1950-1953) to prevent conflicts across the Taiwan Strait. Officers in Taiwan’s military have also been regularly sent to the United States for training. In regard to regional collaborations, Taiwan’s military has helped to train thousands of Singaporean soldiers since 1975. There had been no other serious conflict until the so-called third Taiwan Strait crisis from 1995 to 1996, when the PLA conducted a series of missile tests in the waters in the vicinity of Taiwan and live-ammunition exercises to warn Taiwan’s president Lee Teng-hui (Li Denghui) against his departure from the one-China policy. The ROC military did not respond in kind and remained low key.
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.
MiG-15 PLAAF shoots down a Lockheed F-5 Lightning [photo-recon P-38] RoCAF over Taiwan
Chinese MiG-15s were constantly in action against ROCAF and USAF /USN aircraft. According to Chinese official sources, PLAAF MiGs destroyed or damaged around 200 enemy aircraft between 1954 and 1958, including Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, P-51s, F-84s, F-86s, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24s, B-25s, and other types. In reality, however, half of these were claimed by anti-aircraft artillery crews. The biggest operation that PLAAF Fagots participated in after the Korean War was the Taiwan crisis of late 1958, which almost resulted in a new major war. Over the course of the conflict, the MiGs fighters shot down or damaged 42 ROCAF aircraft, losing 15 of their own. The Taiwan crisis marked the first operational use of air-to-air missiles. Using this new weapon, Taiwanese fighters shot down four MiGs in a single battle.
Later, the MiG-15 was used for reconnaissance flights over Taiwan, which led to more shootdowns. A number of Fagot-Bs were delivered to Taiwan in 1958-91 by defecting Chinese pilots. Many of these and other aircraft obtained in this fashion were used for reconnaissance flights over mainland China, masquerading as bona fide PLAAF aircraft.
Taiwan Straits Conflicts (1950-1967)
29 July 1950 – Antiaircraft fire from Xiamen shoots down a RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt killing its pilot.
16 June 1953 – Antiaircraft fire from Dongshan Island shoots down a RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt killing its pilot.
17 December 1953 – Antiaircraft fire in Jejiang shoots down a RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt killing its pilot.
22 May 1954 – in an engagement involving six PLAAF MiG-15 “Fagots”, RoCAF pilots Chien and Yen shoot down one of the MiGs with machinegun fire from their P-47N Thunderbolts.
26 May 1954 – Antiaircraft fire from Fujian downs an RoCAF B-17 Flying Fortress with all of its four crewmen killed.
3 June 1954 – A La-11 “Fang” of the PLAAF downs an RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt killing its pilot.
6 July 1954 – Cannonfire of a MiG-15 “Fagot” of the PLAAF downs an RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt killing its pilot.
12 September 1954 – Antiaircraft fire from Xiamen downs an RoCAF PB4Y Privateer killing all nine crew.
19 January 1955 – Antiaircraft fire downs an RoCAF F-84G Thunderjet over the PRC killing its pilot.
21 January 1955 – Antiaircraft fire downs an RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt over the PRC killing its pilot.
9 February 1955 – During the evacuation of nationalist Chinese from the Tachen islands covered by aircraft launched from USS Wasp (CV-18), a USN AD-5W Skyraider on antisubmarine patrol from VC-11 is heavily damaged by PRC Antiaircraft fire and forced to ditch at sea. its crew of three are rescued by patrol boats of the ROC.
22 June 1955 – A MiG-17 “Fresco” of the PLAAF shoots down an RT-33A of the RoCAF killing its pilot.
4 July 1955 – A MiG-15 “Fagot” among a group of four PLAAF Mikoyan is shot down in combat with four F-84G Thunderjets of the RoCAF.
16 July 1955 – Antiaircraft fire from Kinmen downs an RoCAF F-84G Thunderjet killing its pilot.
15 October 1955 – A PLAAF MiG-15 “Fagot” is shot down by Tzu-Wan Sun of the RoCAF in his F-86 Sabre.
14 April 1956 – A MiG-15 “Fagot” among a group of four PLAAF Mikoyan is shot down in combat with four F-84G Thunderjets of the RoCAF.
22 June 1956 – A RoCAF B-17 Flying Fortress is shot down during a nighttime mission by cannonfire from an intercepting MiG-17 “Fresco” of the PLAAF. All eleven crew on board perish.
Roundel of the USAF 20 July 1956 – A MiG-15 “Fagot” among a group of four PLAAF Mikoyan is shot down in combat with four F-84G Thunderjets of the RoCAF.
21 July 1956 – Two MiG-15 “Fagots” among a group of three PLAAF Mikoyan are shot down by pilot I-Fang Ouyang flying among four RoCAF F-86 Sabres.
10 November 1956 – During an airdrop over Jejigxi a C-46 Commando of the RoCAF is shot down by a PLAAF MiG-19 “Farmer” killing its nine crewmen.
1 July 1957 – Antiaircraft fire downs an RoCAF P-47N Thunderbolt over the PRC killing its pilot.
18 February 1958 – A MiG-15 “Fagot” of the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force brings down a RoCAF RB-57D above Shandong killing the pilot.
29 July 1958 – Four MiG-17 “Frescos” engaged four F-84G Thunderjets patroling near Nan Ao Island resulting in the downing of two Thunderjets by pilots Gao ChangJi and Zhang YiLing of the PLAAF 54th Regiment.
14 August 1958 – Three PLAAF MiG-17 “Frescos” are shot down by a group of four RoCAF F-86 Sabres, With pilots Ping-Chun Chin and Chung-Li Li each shooting down one themselves. A third Mikoyan being brought down by two other Sabres flown by Hsien-Wu Liu and Fu-The Pan. afterwards Sabre No. 307 involved in the shootdown failed to return to base.
25 August 1958 – Two PLAAF MiG-17 “Frescos” are engaged and shot down by RoCAF F-86 Sabres piloted by Tien-En Chiang and Hsu-Hsiang Ku
8 September 1958 – Seven PLAAF MiG-17 “Frescos” are shot down by numerous F-86 Sabres of the RoCAF. Five pilots, Ping-Chun Chin, Yi-Chien Li, Chin-Chung Liang, Chung-Tsi Yu and Wai-Ming Chu each being credited one kill, Hsien-Wu Liu downs two more himself. On the PLAAF side pilot Zhang Yi destroys one F-86 Sabre in his MiG-17 “Fresco”
18 September 1958 – Above Haicheng Guangdong Six PLAAF MiG-17 “Frescos” are shot down by a number of RoCAF F-86 Sabres flown by Wan-Li Lin, Yang-Chung Lu, Che-Shing Mao, Tzu-Wan Sun, Kuang-Hsing Tung and Hsin-Yeh Liu with each downing one Mikoyan. One Sabre is brought down by cannon fire from a PLAAF MiG-17 “Fresco” piloted by Chang Zhu You.
24 September 1958 – Shortly after their aircraft had been retrofitted by technicians of the United States Marine Corps to carry the AIM-9B Sidewinder air to air missiles, Numerous missile armed RoCAF F-86 Sabres took off and gave chase to a group of PLAAF MiG-17 “Frescos” that had cruised above them. Due to the superior rate of climb, vertical maneuverability, thrust to weight ratio and service ceiling the Fresco pilots did not perceive any danger in doing this as they were unaware of this newly installed armament. Sabre pilots began to fire their missiles at the MiG’s destroying some. Others broke into a dive and entered a horizontal turning engagement with their pursuers who held an advantage in horizontal turn-rate allowing them to engage with guns shooting down more of the PRC jets. Pilots Jing-Chuen Chen, Chun-Hsein Fu, Jie-Tsu Hsia, Shu-Yuen Li, Ta-Peng Ma, Hong-Yan Sung shot down one MiG-17 each, Yi-Chiang Chien shot down two himself and two pairs of pilots Tasi-Chuen Liu with Tang Jie-Min and Hsin-Yung Wang with Yuen-Po Wang shared in the downing of one MiG by each duo. During this engagement one further Fresco sustained notable damage being impacted by an AIM-9 that did not detonate. It escaped with an intact missile within the airframe that was extracted after returning to its base and hesitantly transferred to the Soviet Union for reverse engineering.
2 October 1958 – Antiaircraft fire from Kinmen knocks down a C-46 Commando killing all five crewmen.
10 October 1958 – Over the PRC four RoCAF F-86F Sabre Pilots engage and shoot down four MiG-17 “Frescos” of the PLAAF, As one of the Fresco burn it explodes launching chunks of debris towards and striking one of its attackers causing heavy damage, An RoCAF pilot ejects and is captured and placed in detention until his release on 30 June 1959.
29 May 1959 – Above Guandong a PLAAF MiG-17 “Fresco” intercepts and shoots down a RoCAF B-17 Flying Fortress killing all 14 on board.
5 July 1959 – Above the Taiwan Straits twenty four PLAAF MiG-17 “Frescos” are engaged by four F-86 Sabres of the RoCAF ending in the destruction of two Frescos.
7 October 1959 – Above Beijing an RoCAF RB-57D piloted by Wang Ying Chin is the first plane to ever be shot down by a surface to air missile. Chin dies after his plane was destroyed by an SA-2 Guideline missile.
6 November 1961 – Above Shantung province an RB-69A Neptune is destroyed by an SA-2 Guideline missile killing all 13 aboard.
9 September 1962 – Fifteen Kilometers south of Nunchang an RoCAF Lockheed U-2A is shot down by an SA-2 Guideline missile. Pilot Chen Huai Sheng bails out and is captured after landing but dies some time later in a PRC hospital.
14 June 1963 – Above Nanchang a RoCAF RB-69A Neptune is shot down by 23 mm NR-23 cannon-fire from a PLAAF MiG-17PF “Fresco” killing all 14 crew aboard.
1 November 1963 – Above Jiagxi an SA-2 Guideline shoots down an RoCAF Lockheed U-2C. Pilot Yeh Chang Yi was returning from an intelligence mission where he took aerial photos of Jiayuguan missile test site and Lanzhou nuclear weapons plant. After detecting the first Guideline had been launched at him he made evasive maneuvers and avoided the first only to be struck by a second missile moments later knocking off his right wing. after bailing out and falling into captivity of the PRC he was held until 10 November 1982 when he was released into Hong Kong, He was eventually admitted into the United States after ROC officials denied his attempts to be repatriated.
11 June 1964 – Near Yantai on the Shantung Peninsula Coordination between a MiG-17F “Fresco” and an Iluyshin Il-28 “Beagle” of the PLAAF supports the nighttime interception of an RoCAF RB-69A Neptune by dropping flares to illuminate the target plane allowing the fighter to shoot it down with cannon-fire.
7 July 1964 – Flying above Fujian, RoCAF pilot Lee Nan Lee is shot down and killed after his Lockheed U-2G is targeted and struck by an SA-2 Guideline missile.
18 December 1964 – Above Wenzhou, an RoCAF RF-101A Voodoo piloted by Hsieh Hsiangho is shot down by a People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force Shenyang J-6. He is captured by fishermen when he ejects above the ocean and detained until July of 1985.
10 January 1965 – Southwest of Beijing, On a mission to capture aerial photos of Paotow uranium enrichment plant using an infrared camera RoCAF pilot Chang Liyi is shot down after being struck by an SA-2 Guideline missile. He survives the crash with both legs broken, Captured he is held until 10 November 1982 when released into Hong Kong. He was eventually admitted into the United States after ROC officials denied his attempts to be repatriated.
18 March 1965 – Above Guangdong near Shantou, a PLAAF MiG-19 “Farmer” piloted by Gao Chang Ji shoots down and kills RoCAF pilot Chang Yupao flying an RF-101C Voodoo.
10 January 1966 – Above Matsu, PLAAF MiG-17 “Fresco” shoots down an RoCAF HU-16 Albatross attempting to carry defectors to Taiwan.
10 January 1966 – A HU-16 of the Republic of China Air Force was shot down by People’s Republic of China PLAAF MiG-17 over Matsu whilst transporting defectors to Taiwan.
13 January 1967 – Four F-104G Starfighters of the RoCAF are engaged by Twelve MiG-19 “Farmers” of the PLAAF. Two Farmers are claimed shot by Hu Shih-Lin and one by Bei-Puo Shih. F-104G No. 64-17779 involved in the engagement does not return and is believed to have been shot down.