Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Mirage planes get radar upgrade

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A column of a French-made Mirages jet fighters from the 41st Tactical Squadron taxi on the runway during an exercise, yesterday at the Hsinchu Air force base, 120km southwest of Taipei. The French-built Mirage 2000s and the US-made F16s represent the backbone of Taiwan's air force in the event of an attack from China.

PHOTO: AP

Some of the French-built Mirage 2000-5 fighter planes have acquired the ability to counter cruise missiles after of a radar upgrade program provided by the French was completed, defense sources said yesterday.

The radar upgrade program is focused on enhancing the planes' target identification and targeting capabilities.

The upgraded radar can lock on a cruise missile at very low altitudes. A cruise missile can be destroyed by any of the air-to-air missiles carried by the Mirages.

Only a few Mirage 2000-5 pilots have received relevant training to qualify for the operation of new counter-cruise missile functions.

Some Mirage 2000-5s have also been equipped with a new ASTAC ELINT electromagnetic emissions detection pod.

The pod can help the Mirage 2000-5s collect data about electromagnetic signals from China, which can contribute to the air force's establishment of a data base about the enemy's electronic operations.

Meanwhile, the air force yesterday opened its Hsinchu base to the press, which is home to the 57 Mirage 2000-5s, to demonstrate the combat readiness of the Mirage combat wing.

Major General Liu Cheng-wu (劉震武), commander of the wing, told the press that his wing is now fully ready for combat and is confident that it will be ready to defend the country if necessary.

Chinese fighter planes started flying into the Strait three years ago after then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) brought up the special "state-to-state" statement to redefine the relations between the two sides of the Strait.

A high-ranking air force official, who spoke in private, said it seems that China wanted to retaliate against Lee's "state-to-state" remark.

"China also wanted to test its new fighter planes. In the past, they were no match for ours. We were thus able to send fighter planes to spy on China on a regular basis," the official said.

"In recent years, they have greatly advanced in air strength. Their new fighter planes pose an increasing threat to us," he said.

"They send fighter planes into the Strait partly to test the air defense radars of Taiwan and to collect data about these radars. They have now made it a regular practice."

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