The NT$40.9 billion (US$1.3 billion) long-range early-warning radar system on Leshan (樂山) in Hsinchu County began operating on Friday.
The government placed an order with the US for the radar system after the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1995 and 1996, when China launched missiles into the sea near the Taiwanese coast in an attempt to intimidate and influence the course of the nation’s first direct presidential election.
After a decade of negotiations with the US, construction on the radar system finally began in 2007.
The Ministry of National Defense said that the radar — the first of its kind in Asia — has a maximum range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,556km) that encompasses almost the whole of the Korean Peninsula and the entire South China Sea, including territory deep inside China.
Senior military staff said the radar system’s capabilities surpass any early-warning radar system that the US has helped other nations in the Asia-Pacific region to set up.
The radar’s warning mechanism was activated for the first time by North Korea’s missile launch on Dec. 12 last year and enabled Taiwan to detect the launch before Japan did.
A ceremony held on Friday to mark the radar coming into service was presided over by Air Force Commanding General Yen Ming (嚴明) and attended by Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Liu Chen-wu (劉震武), former premier Tang Fei (唐飛), former minister of national defense Lee Tien-yu (李天羽), and retired air force General Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲).
The completion of the system and its official activation reinforces the nation’s early-warning defense system against missiles or other aerial threats.
Yen said the additional information that the radar system would supply would not only enhance overall national security, but would also signify a giant step in air defense capability.
Moreover, it would hopefully increase the public’s faith in the nation’s military capabilities, Yen said.