The Navy’s “goodwill” fleet is to sail 48,000km, marking the longest journey for the annual friendly fleet operation, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.
Ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said the goodwill fleet set off late last month and is scheduled to sail 48,000km over a period of 110 days — the longest distance and period in the fleet’s history.
During the operation, the fleet is to conduct regular training and is also scheduled to visit nine of Taiwan’s allies in the South Pacific and Central and South America, Lo added.
He said the fleet would return home in the middle of June.
He said the fleet consists of a Chengkung-class frigate, a Kangding-class frigate and a Wu Yi-class oiler.
About 700 personnel, including Navy officials and students of the Republic of China Naval Academy, are on board, Lo added.
The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported yesterday that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) plans to visit three of Taiwan’s allies in the South Pacific, and that the Presidential Office proposed Ma inspect the fleet at allies’ ports.
However, Lo rebutted the report, saying the military had not been informed of such plans, adding that the trip was mainly focused on training students from the Naval Academy.
In 2005, the navy’s friendly fleet sailed around the globe, clocking a distance of 46,000km and 104 days at sea.
Meanwhile, Lo said on Sunday that the annual Han Kuang military exercises would take place in the middle of next month, as part of Taiwan’s efforts to strengthen its combat readiness in the face of the growing threat from China.
The exercises, the country’s most important war games, involving the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, would be held over a period of five days, Lo said.
The exercises this year will include live ammunition, Lo added.
This is to be the first time live-fire drills have been incorporated in the Han Kuang exercises in recent years.
According to the Navy, the exercises will include live firing of the surface-to-air Standard Missile II and the locally developed Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missile.
The military has excluded live ammunition from the war games since 2008, according to the ministry. The Han Kuang exercises also include computer-aided war games, which are slated for July, Lo said. The ministry is set to unveil a full-fledged plan for the Han Kuang drills later this week, he added.