Air-base relocation urged

NATIONAL DEFENSE: An expert from a think tank says that the nation's air bases are too closely clustered and that land in Hsinchu would be better used for technology


Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 4

The government should study the possibility of moving the Hsinchu air base elsewhere so that Hsinchu can be turned into a "Taiwanese Silicon Valley," a national-defense expert said yesterday.

Liao Hung-hsiang (廖宏祥), a researcher with the Taiwan Research Institute's Division of Strategic and International Studies, made the remarks after two Mirage 2000-5 fighters from Hsinchu air base landed on and took off from the Jenteh section of the usually bustling Sun Yat-sen expressway in southern Taiwan. The exercise was carried out to test the expressway's usefulness as an emergency airstrip in time of war.

Liao praised the combat readiness of the fighters, but said that from a strategic and tactical point of view, there should be no air bases in Hsinchu.

According to information from foreign military sources, he said, China's Sukhoi-27 fighters based in Guangdong and Anhui Provinces need only 10 minutes to reach Taiwan. He said that the flight time between the Taoyuan and Hsinchu air bases is only two minutes, with only three minutes of flight time separating Hsinchu and Taichung air bases. If attacked by amphibious forces from China, the Hsinchu air base could be destroyed by a single company, Liao said.

He said that there are eight major air bases in western Taiwan, a distribution which he said is overly dense.

This, he said, is because the Ministry of National Defense wanted to diversify its air force deployment to avoid having its numerous aircraft destroyed in a single strike. However, he said, the arrangement is not cost-effective.

In addition, he said that the Hsinchu air base abuts a wetlands that is a habitat for migratory birds. Mirage fighters sometimes suck birds into their engines, which damages the planes, and is also ecologically unfriendly, Liao said.

If the base were to be relocated, it would help cut fighter losses and help wetland development and migratory-bird preservation areas, which would in turn boost tourism.

The Hsinchu air base also has a negative impact on the development of the city, he said, and affects urban planning and development. He added that the base is about one-quarter the size of downtown Hsinchu, which he said is an even bigger area than that of the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park.

He urged the government and the ministry to consider the possible relocation of the base so that the land can be turned into extra space for the industrial park or for a suburban complex to help Hsinchu transform itself into a "technology city."