Mon, Nov 06, 2017 - Page 3 News List

New equipment to help coast guard boost surveillance

By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The coast guard is to receive new equipment to boost the surveillance and real-time communications capabilities of its ships and garrison at Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), a senior national security official said.

The National Security Bureau has allocated a budget to subsidize the Coast Guard Administration’s “Spratlys watercraft surveillance, informational collection and transmission integration program,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The ongoing program involves the procurement and installation of unspecified surveillance or communications equipment on the coast guard’s planned 4,000-tonne patrol ships and its Itu Aba garrison, the official said, adding that the program will be completed by late 2019.

A key goal of the program is to obtain the capability to track watercraft in the region and transmit information in real time, which will facilitate decisionmaking at the highest level of the government, the official said.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration had previously announced plans to build Itu Aba as a forward operational base for maritime humanitarian rescue missions and international technological research, the official said.

“To accomplish the goals, we must guarantee the integrity of Taiping Island’s defenses. Absolute security must be established at the island before it can be used for humanitarian aid and technological research,” the official said, adding that once the coast guard’s planned patrol ships are completed, they will be rotated through patrol duty at Itu Aba.

As per their mission profile, the ships will have medical bays serving as field hospitals during humanitarian missions, the official said.

The coast guard has contracted civilian consultants to study the viability of improving Itu Aba’s port facilities for accommodating large ships, which have to be resupplied at sea, the official said.

To improve the island’s security, the Ministry of National Defense has assigned a reserve battery of 155mm howitzers for deployment at Itu Aba, the official said.

The howitzers will be deployed if and when actionable intelligence indicates that a foreign military with a base is to deploy heavy-caliber artillery pieces near Itu Aba, the official said.

Itu Aba’s defenses are comprised of a small contingent of coast guard personnel, who are supplemented by an air force logistics squadron.

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