Sun, Jun 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Air force may use upgraded freeway segment in exercise

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Air Force General Head-quarters yesterday confirmed that jet fighters are planning to use the Sun Yat-sen Freeway as a runway in this year's joint military exercises, though some senior military figures said the decision was not final.

A Chinese-language newspaper yesterday reported that the air force's aircraft will take off and land on the freeway's "Jenwu Runway" in Tainan County during the exercises sometime this summer. It will be the first time aircraft will have landed on the freeway since it was completed in 1979.

The headquarters yesterday issued a press release to confirm that the freeway was indeed a part of the exercises. But it said the plan was not final.

"Whether we do it or not will depend on an evaluation of how much the exercise will impact on local residents. No decision has been made," it said.

However, the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau said that the use of the runway had been confirmed and that it had completed necessary maintenance work for the runway.

"The maintenance work for the `Jenwu Runway' was completed last month. As far as I'm aware, the military exercises are going to be held in July," said Tsai Mao-hsiung (蔡茂雄), director of the bureau's southern construction department.

Tsai said the freeway has another four stretches that can serve as a temporary airfield in Chungli, Huatan, Chiayi and Matou, and that they were included in the design of the freeway in 1970 to act as runways during a war.

Each stretch is 2,300m long and covered by high-quality asphalt designed for landing and take-off.

Once the order is given, any of the five stretches can be sealed off and serve as runways within 30 minutes.

But these sections are not considered suitable for this year's exercises because they are either under construction or have too many homes near them.

Tsai said that a number of reporters in the Tainan-Kaohsiung area noticed the high quality of construction after the section's maintenance last month and published stories on the matter.

Residents also said they hope to "participate" in the exercises.

"It will be something new for them," Tsai said. "They have spoken about what they would like to do, but the final decision is up to the Ministry of National Defense."

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