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Wed, Sep 08, 1999 - Page 3 News List

Air Force shows off command centers

MILITARY DISPLAY The Air Force gave tours of two of its top-secret bases to demonstrate how prepared the military is to deal with any mainland aggression


In an unprecedented move, Taiwan's military yesterday opened two top secret Air Force bases for the first time to the media, removing the veil of secrecy that had shrouded the sites for years.

The two military sites are the Chiashan (佳山) Air Base in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, and the Hengshan (衡山) Command Post in a suburban district of Taipei.

The two bases are the most important military locations on the island.

Chiashan serves as the command post of the country's last remaining counter-attack forces in the event of a war and Hengshan is the country's top military command center during both war and peace time.

The construction of the Chiashan base, which began in 1985, took seven years to complete and cost about NT$27.2 billion, officials at Chiashan said. Upon its completion, it was said to be the largest base of its kind in the Far East.

The construction of Chiashan included the hollowing out of a mountain to accommodate fighter planes and attack helicopters from around the country during times of war. The entire base is essentially a shelter for planes, including Mirage 2000-5s and US-made F-16s. The number of planes the site can accommodate at any one time, however, is still classified by the military for national security reasons.

During yesterday's media tour, two French-made Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters took off from exits in the hollowed-out mountain base, performing dry-runs of maneuvers that mimic real-life military confrontations.

The Hengshan Command Post was another ambitious project by the military. Construction began in 1960, 11 years after the KMT government established itself in Taiwan.

The project, which involved the excavation of a mountain in the Taipei suburb of Tachih, was not completed until 1982. It serves as the highest-level military command center in both war and peace as well as an operational center for the government during war.

It features a high-tech command center, which receives real-time information about enemy troop movements and can order immediate responses.

The military demonstrated real-time information it had obtained regarding the crossing of the median line of the Taiwan Strait by Chinese jet fighters on July 25 and July 30.

Officials at the center said they have taken appropriate measures to prepare for attacks from the mainland.

"The Chinese planes were spotted and tracked from take-off. Before the planes reached the middle of the Strait, our fighter planes and anti-aircraft missile sites were already on alert," an official said.

Chief of the General Staff Gen. Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) and other military leaders would be charge of the command center on rotation around the clock, in such a situation.

The base also provides space for major governmental agencies to operate in times of a war, including offices for the president and the Cabinet.

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