The military yesterday carried out a nationwide air defense exercise to test its air warfare capabilities and military response time, following two training missions conducted by the Chinese air force involving aircraft circling Taiwanese airspace.
The routine exercise, code-named Lien Hsiang (聯翔), was held from 6am to 8am.
The navy deployed destroyers and frigates and the army mobilized missile defense units to conduct a joint anti-aircraft drill, while the air force sent up F-16 jets to act as an opposing force to test the air defense capabilities of the armed forces, media reports said.
Two F-16s based in Hualien, reportedly fitted with two fuel tanks to increase flight duration and range, were scrambled to conduct intercept training.
However, the Ministry of National Defense refused to comment on the reported operations or reveal what troops and weapons were deployed in the drill, saying only that different branches of the armed forces across the nation were activated.
The exercise had long been planned for yesterday as part of the military’s annual training schedule, and the operation was not related to recent Chinese military activities around Taiwanese airspace, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said during a budget review at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
“The exercise is held once every season. The timing is purely coincidental and the drills do not have a specific target,” he said.
Chinese military aircraft flew over the Miyako Strait near Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture and circled outside Taiwan’s air defense identification zone twice in the past three weeks.
“The exercise was designed to familiarize the troops with combat skills. It was also aimed at reassuring the public that the military is combat ready and that fighter jets are engaged in ongoing exercises throughout the year,” he said.
Ministry spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said the seasonal exercise was planned months earlier and China showed no apparent reaction to the routine exercise.
Chen said the Executive Yuan has measures in place to tap a reserve fund for military purposes in response to a remark by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Abraham Denmark that Taiwan’s defense budget is disproportionate to the military threat the nation is facing.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard Administration Director-General Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) said it is “possible” that Chinese navy ships might cruise around Taiwan’s maritime zones following the two training missions by the Chinese air force.
In the event of Chinese naval vessels entering waters within 12 nautical miles (22km) of Taiwan’s maritime territory, the agency would ensure public security in this area, and if a hostile situation arises, relevant mission adjustments would be made, Lee said during a budget review at a meeting of the the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
In a wartime scenario, the coast guard would be under the command of the defense ministry and would undertake missions under its direction, Lee said.