Tsai to inspect Patriot system: source

MOUNTING COSTS::The wear and tear on military aircraft is increasing, as they need to be dispatched every time the PLA circles the nation, which is frequent, a source said

By Lo Tien-pin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Apr 23, 2018 - Page 1

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is to inspect a MIM-104F (PAC-3) Patriot missile system at Taichung’s Ching Chuan Kang (清泉崗) Air Base during the 34th Han Kuang military exercises in June, a military official said yesterday.

The scale of the combat part of this year’s exercises, scheduled to begin on June 4, is to be larger than previous ones, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The military is to use the exercises to identify gaps in its defense capabilities and whether it has enough forces to respond if China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sends its army, navy and air force to invade Taiwan, the source said.

What will be unique about this year’s Han Kuang exercises is that the military plans to allow Tsai to engage in a mobile inspection of the troops, the source said, adding that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had last conducted a mobile inspection of the navy while in office.

The president is scheduled to arrive at the air base on June 7 to inspect the army, navy, air force and reserve troops taking part in the exercises, the source said.

Tsai would be briefed on the troops’ tactical locations, including the site of missile systems, the source added.

One of the focuses of this year’s exercises would be subterfuge, the source said.

The military is to place inflatable fighter aircraft, tanks, missile vehicles, bases and other facilities at strategic locations to lure the PLA into attacking them to prevent important bases from being damaged, the source said.

Details of the Han Kuang drills come amid an increase in PLA Air Force and PLA Navy exercises near Taiwan, the source said.

The increasing number of PLA maneuvers and their quick succession not only increase the pressure on the nation to prepare for battle, but also increase the number of times the military’s fighters and other aircraft are deployed to monitor them, the source said.

The growing number of deployments and the rapid response needed is speeding up the wear and tear on equipment, increasing aircraft repair and maintenance costs and adding pressure on the military’s annual budget, the source said.

Last year, the military’s annual budget was unable to keep up with the increased frequency of the PLA’s long-distance military exercises, forcing the Ministry of National Defense to spend more than NT$590 million (US$20.1 million) from its reserve fund, the source added.

Given the number of extended exercises by the PLA so far this year, the ministry’s budget was likely to be strained again this year, the source said.