Mon, Jan 10, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Early-warning radar site hits snag after Aborigines complain

By Hsu Shao-hsuan  /  Staff Reporter

Plans to begin operating a long-range early-warning radar system at the Hsinchu Air Force base toward the end of this year could be temporarily shelved after Aborigines raised concerns over the impact of high-voltage transmission lines on their communities.

The Executive Yuan has reportedly approved subsidies of NT$8 million (US$272,000) and NT$4 million to be paid by the Air Force and Taipower respectively to three tribes over whose territories high-voltage transmission lines powering the system would pass. The NT$12 million would be put into a special account to be supervised by the Council of Indigenous Peoples.

The air force said that according to the contract, software for the long-range early-warning system — based at Leshan (樂山), Miaoli County, and scheduled for completion next month or in March — is expected to enter the testing phase this year. However, because the project has faced a series of delays since its inception in 2006, the US reminded the military last year that if tests on power supplies were not completed this year, the air force would be responsible for covering the expenses of the entire team of experts, which could amount to about US$250 million.

The long-range early-warning radar is about 10 stories high and has a range of 3,000km. Taiwan purchased the equipment from the US to monitor ballistic missiles and cruise missiles and to act as a forward position for the US’ ballistic missile defense system.

Because the amount of energy required to operate the radar is extremely high, the power supply at the radar site is insufficient and the Air Force has commissioned Taipower to erect high-voltage towers in Nanchuang Township (南庄), Miaoli County.

Sources said that while 50 high-voltage towers were initially planned for the project, protests by residents of Nanchuang forced contractors to find an alternative. As a result, 13 underground towers and about 30 aboveground towers will be built instead. However, the three Aboriginal tribes remained dissatisfied with the new plan and at one point are believed to have demanded NT$300 million in compensation from the air force.

The air force said that in a worst-case scenario, it could use the power supply at Leshan to try to satisfy energy requirements during the software--testing phase.

Sources said the radar was being manufactured in the US and that after software performance integration testing, the full system could be installed by the end of this year.

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