Taiwanese air force pilots came very close this year to participating for the first time in a highly realistic and high-intensity combat training exercise in the US, but a last-minute decision by Washington prevented them from doing so over fears of Beijing’s reaction, a defense magazine reports in its current issue.
According to the Chinese-language Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine, Taiwanese F-16 pilots were invited to participate in the RED FLAG 12-4 combat exercise held in July, but after a “careful assessment” by senior White House officials, the US side canceled the invitation over fears of China’s reaction and a potential impact on bilateral ties.
Held at the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas, the RED FLAG combat training exercise, which has been held since 1975, involves air forces from the US and its allies.
Photo: Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times
The drills are orchestrated by the US 414th Combat Training Squadron and include as many as 1,900 possible targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing “enemy force” that “cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world,” Nellis Air Force Base says on its Web site.
The exercise involves command, control, intelligence and electronic warfare, as well as night missions, and all four branches of the US military take part.
A typical RED FLAG exercise includes fighter, bomber, air superiority, reconnaissance, electronic warfare as well as airlift aircraft.
Over the years, a number of US allies, including South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, the UK, Colombia and Saudi Arabia, have taken part, but Taiwan has yet to join.
Taiwanese officials based in the US have been seeking to increase the level of cooperation between their countries’ armed forces and their efforts were reportedly behind the decision to invite Taiwan to participate in this year’s exercise.
The air force has long hopes its F-16 pilots, who have been receiving training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona since the 1990s, when Taiwan purchased 146 F-16A/Bs from the US, could participate in RED FLAG to test their skills, learn joint concepts and gain precious operational experience.
Despite longstanding defense ties between Taiwan and the US, Beijing strongly opposes joint training between the Taiwanese military and the US or its regional allies. Nevertheless, US military officers often participate as observers during military exercises held in Taiwan.
Citing unnamed insiders, the report said that despite the setback, both sides would continue to work together to secure Taiwan’s participation, adding that the agencies involved were confident that Taiwanese pilots would eventually be able to take part.
To compensate for the absence of Taiwanese pilots, the first Tien Lung exercise was held in Hualien and Taidong from Nov. 10 through Nov. 16, which mirrored the routines performed during RED FLAG, including a “training acceptance test” carried out by all the major fighter wings.
The test required all participating wings to draw lots to decide their simulated enemies before conducting various air combat drills, including day or night target intercepts, joint air-defense operations, air-to-ground and air-sea skills against possible tactics employed by the People’s Liberation Army.
These wings worked in coordination with combat control teams, including ground radar stations and E2K Hawkeye 2000, and air defense units.
In related news, the US Department of Defense announced on Friday that US-based defense contractor Raytheon Corp on Friday had been awarded a US$289,458,942 contract for Taiwan’s Surveillance Radar Program (SRP), in a contract that is expected to be completed by Nov. 8, 2017.
Key to Taiwan’s SRP is the US$1 billion-plus long-range early-warning radar that is being built at Leshan (樂山) in Hsinchu County and which is expected to become operational before the end of this year.
The program drew criticism by some legislators earlier this year after Raytheon requested an additional NT$4 billion (US$137.6 million) for further research-and-development and other associated costs.
Once it becomes operational, the radar — deemed the most powerful on the face of the planet — will give Taiwan an extra 6-minute warning against incoming Chinese missiles.
Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu
Taiwan might be China’s next target after it has “walled off” Hong Kong from the rest of the world with its new national security legislation, Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology fellow Wu Jieh-min (吳介民) said on Thursday. At a seminar organized by the Economic Democracy Union, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Hong Kong Outlanders and the Judicial Reform Foundation, Wu said that the legislation is simultaneously a fig leaf concealing Beijing’s autocratic rule in Hong Kong and a figurative “Berlin Wall,” denying democratic countries access to Hong Kong. Wu said it is evident that Taiwan would be China’s next target. The
SAFETY CONCERNS: A construction company working nearby admitted to negligence in the incident, and is to pay a fine and other expenses related to damages Residents of homes adjacent to an alleyway in New Taipei City’s Yonghe District (永和) on Saturday were forced to evacuate their homes after the road collapsed, the New Taipei City government said yesterday. An 80m by 4m area in an alleyway on Wenhua Road (文化路) collapsed at 10:39am near an apartment building construction site where work was being done on the project’s foundation. The incident also ruptured an underground gas pipe and tilted several buildings in the area. Residents would not be able to return to their homes until tomorrow or Wednesday, when repairs are expected to be finished, the city government said. Workers
CHALLENGER DEEP: Lin Ying-Tsong was invited by Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo to join him on a 10-hour long trip in the company’s submersible Taiwanese-American Lin Ying-Tsong (林穎聰) last month became the first person from Asia and the 12th in human history to dive into the deepest part on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Lin, 45, an expert in deep sea acoustics with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, joined US adventurer and Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, 54, on June 22 in a descent to the central pool of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the trench, which lies at a depth of more than 10,900m. The pair made the descent in a submersible named Limiting Factor, a US$37
ARMS RACE: Two DPP lawmakers said that China’s development model differed from Taiwan’s, as it aims to become a global hegemon, while Taiwan seeks to protect itself Taiwanese national defense experts are split on how Taiwan should respond to the ever-growing budget of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with some advocating for Taiwan to increase defense spending, while others say that little can be done. The Legislative Yuan approved NT$358 billion (US$12.1 billion) for national defense spending across fiscal 2020, a 3.47 percent increase compared with last year, while China’s military budget this year is NT$5.4 trillion, more than 15 times that of Taiwan. Regardless of whether the government adopts a zero-based budgeting method for national defense spending — in which all expenses are justified and approved each