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Fri, Dec 15, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Chen visits mountain air force base


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) inspected for the first time yesterday the military's top-security Chiashan base in eastern Hualien County, which is Taiwan's largest single shelter for fighter planes.

Accompanied by military leadership, Chen toured the major facilities of the vast Chiashan base, which sits in a hollowed-out mountain not far away from the Pacific Ocean.

The Chiashan base, which took roughly eight years and more than NT$27 billion to build, was one of the military's largest engineering projects in recent decades. Its construction spanned from 1985 to 1993. The base reportedly is able to accommodate roughly 200 fighter planes. It was designed to preserve the combat strength of the air force in the event of a first strike by the enemy.

Chen visited the base's strategic command center and the giant tunnels that allow fighters to taxi and park, according to a defense official who participated in the trip.

Impressed by what he saw, Chen said in a later speech to military leaders that the eastern parts of the island will play a key role in the defense of the country in the future, the official said.

The security of the eastern part of the island will greatly affect the defense of the whole country and the offshore Penghu islands. The most important task in the enhancement of the security of the region is to combine military and civilian resources, the official quoted Chen as saying.

In addition to the Chiashan base, Chen also inspected neighboring military establishments, including the 401st fighter wing of the air force and the navy's aviation command center.

The 401st fighter wing is comprised solely of US-made F-16s. Only one squadron of the wing has been established, while the remaining two squadrons are still awaiting to be inaugurated.

The wing's primary role is to protect the Chiashan base, as well as important military assets in the eastern parts of the island.

The wing is located next to the Chiashan base, capable of scrambling planes in the shortest amount of time possible.

The navy's aviation command center, also located in the vicinity, is home to the navy's anti-submarine helicopters and aircraft such as the S-2T.

As was the case during his previous inspection trips to military establishments, Chen had lunch with the base's staff officers before flying back to Taipei.

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