Sun, Jan 07, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Jets might be kept in Penghu year-round

RAPID RESPONSE:Strong winds usually prevent light fighter jets from being stationed in Penghu year-round, but the government seeks to have strong air defense measures

By Lo Tien-pin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

An Indigenous Defense Fighter jet armed with US Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and Tien Chien II medium-range missiles is parked in a hangar at the Tainan Air Force Base on July 28 last year.

Photo: Su Fang-ho, Taipei Times

The military is considering stationing a squadron of Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) jets at Penghu County’s Magong Airport for year-round patrol duty in light of China’s unilateral decision to open new commercial flight routes in the Taiwan Strait, a source said on Friday.

Strong northeasterly monsoon winds in the area during winter can create unfavorable conditions for light fighter planes, such as IDF jets, which is why the squadron is normally based in Penghu from April to October, said a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Due to its proximity to the Chinese coast, the fighter squadron would be called on first if the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force were to make a sudden deployment, the official said.

A Republic of China Air Force officer familiar with combat readiness and the deployment of the nation’s air force to Penghu commented anonymously, saying that year-round deployment of IDF jets — the Hsiung Ying (雄鷹, or Goshawk) or C/D models — to Penghu is pending further assessments.

The squadron is to be temporarily deployed to Penghu, because route M503 near the median line of the Strait poses a potential threat to the nation’s air defense, but the ministry is still debating the feasibility of basing the squadron in Penghu, the official said.

The National Security Council on Friday held a meeting to discuss the effects of China’s decision to open route M503 and other connecting routes to northbound commercial flights.

The council concluded that the move contravenes the 2015 agreement between Taiwan and China that opened route M503 to southbound commercial traffic.

It has instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to seek the support of European nations and the US over the matter, while lodging a protest against China with the International Civil Aviation Organization, sources said.

The Ministry of National Defense was asked to offer viable reactionary measures to effectively strengthen aerial defenses over the Bashi Channel, the sources added.

The defense ministry would step up alert and information-gathering capabilities over the Strait, with any incursion of Chinese planes over the median line to be intercepted, warned and driven back over the line, the sources said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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