Mon, Sep 15, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Air force to practice freeway landings, takeoffs tomorrow

Staff writer, with CNA

The air force’s main combat aircraft are to practice emergency takeoffs and landings on a freeway tomorrow as part of the annual Han Kuang military exercises that begin today.

The drill is scheduled for the Minxiong (民雄) section of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (National Freeway No. 1) in Chiayi County, air force officials said.

It is one of four sections of the nation’s main north-south freeway that are designated as emergency runways in the event of war.

An F-16A/B fighter jet, a Mirage 2000-5 and an Indigenous Defensive Fighter (IDF) will be used in the drill, the officials said.

An E-2K airborne early warning aircraft, a CH-47 helicopter, an OH-58D reconnaissance helicopter and two AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters will also be used, they said.

The drill aims to simulate an attack from China that destroys the runways of the nation’s air force bases, leaving the military to rely on the freeway for emergency takeoffs and landings, the air force said.

It is also to test the military’s ability to conduct refueling and resupply operations in times of war, the officials said.

The F-16A/B, the Mirage 2000, the IDF and the E-2K are to land on the freeway, be refueled and resupplied and then take off, officials said.

The section between the Chiayi and Dalin (大林) exits of the freeway is to be closed for 11 hours beginning at midnight tonight, the air force said.

Similar drills have been held on the Madou (麻豆) and Rende (仁德) sections of the freeway in Greater Tainan, and the Huatan (花壇) section in Changhua County in previous Han Kuang exercises.

There is also an area of the Jiadong (佳冬) section of Provincial Highway No. 1 designated for the same purpose.

Tomorrow’s drill is part of the second stage of the “Han Kuang 30” exercises, which are to run through Friday and follow the computer-aided war games conducted in May, officials said.

The five-day exercises are to include live-fire drills in three locations: the waters off eastern Taiwan and south of Penghu and at a base in Pingtung County, the military said.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is set to inspect the live-fire drill on Wednesday in waters off eastern Taiwan.

This year will be the first time in which civilian planes will be used in the Han Kuang exercises to help transport soldiers, the Ministry of National Defense said.

In the run-up to this week’s Han Kuang exercises, the Penghu Defense Command encountered protests last week by Penghu County fishermen who sailed 26 boats into the area planned for live-fire drills off of Magong (馬公). A coastal blockade was held on Wednesday, the first day of the live-fire drill.

A spokesman for the fishermen, Chen Chang-ming (陳長明), said they were protesting against the destruction of marine habitats, the killing of marine life by explosions of military ordnance and shockwave damage to a major temple in the area.

The protest led to the drill being scaled down from five days to three and no live ordinance was used.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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