Fri, Jan 10, 2020 - Page 8 News List

Aircraft should be reserved for combat

By Lai Ming-huang 賴明煌

On Thursday last week, Black Hawk helicopter No. 933 of the Republic of China Air Force Air Rescue Group made a forced landing in the Tonghou Stream (桶後溪) ravine in New Taipei City’s Wulai District (烏來). The helicopter was carrying 13 military officers, eight of whom, including Chief of the General Staff General Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴), were killed in the crash, while five others sustained injuries, but were rescued.

The crash happened just nine days before tomorrow’s presidential and legislative elections, but in view of the tragic loss of life, election campaign events were partially suspended and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) ordered flags to be flown at half-mast nationwide.

NOT THE FIRST TIME

There have been 25 military aircraft crashes in Taiwan over the past two decades. In the past 10 years, three Black Hawk helicopters, which are expensive aircraft, have crashed.

Two years ago, a Black Hawk crashed into the sea while transferring a patient from Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) for medical treatment, resulting in the deaths of six people.

AN UPHILL TASK

Restricted as it is by an ever-changing international situation, Taiwan faces great difficulties in buying weapons from abroad. Especially when it comes to precious armaments such as airplanes and submarines, trying to obtain them is an uphill task.

Taiwan faces troublesome conditions imposed by arms sellers, as well as a hostile state’s strenuous efforts to block arms sales.

The few military aircraft that Taiwan does possess are a precious resource, so when they crash it has a significant effect on their availability.

More important still is the difficulty of replacing lost personnel.

Electronic gadgets have done so much harm to young people’s eyesight that it is hard to find anyone who is not nearsighted and would be fit to be trained as a military pilot.

READINESS IS KEY

Military aircraft must be ready and available to take part in defense and rescue missions. However, their availability came under stress on New Year’s Day, when government activities were not just limited to flag-raising ceremonies and organized walks. The military was also called upon to cooperate with city and county governments’ efforts to boost tourism.

The air force dispatched warplanes including Indigenous Defense Fighters, Mirage 2000s and F-16s to fly in formation over Longpan Park (龍磐公園) in Pingtung County’s Hengchun Township (恆春), the square in front of Hsinchu City Hall and Hualien City’s Pacific Park.

Taiwan faces a hostile state whose military might is growing ever stronger, and which frequently tries to intimidate Taiwan by crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait and flying around the perimeter of the nation’s airspace.

In view of this threat, entertainment-oriented flyover missions should be kept to a minimum, so that the nation’s precious military aircraft would be available to perform their core duties.

This would ensure that Taiwan’s defense equipment remains in optimal condition, as planned, to prevent enemies from making irrational provocations and incursions whenever they feel like it.

Lai Ming-huang is an engineer with a doctorate from National Cheng Kung University and a former regional engineering department head of the Directorate-General of Highways.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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