The decision to incorporate a live-fire drill into this year’s Han Kuang military exercises for the first time since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) assumed office in 2008 is a reflection of public opinion, the military said yesterday.
The military will conduct a large-scale drill using live ammunition in Penghu County on April 17 during the annual military exercises, which are the country’s most important war games and involve the participation of the army, the air force and the navy.
The Chinese-language China Times yesterday reported that the military’s exclusion of live ammunition from the Han Kuang exercises since 2008 reflected the political climate at a time of improved cross-strait relations following Ma’s election, as well as the government’s policy of saving energy.
The newspaper added that the military had conducted live-fire Han Kuang drills every year during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, but because the missiles had missed their targets several times during the drills, then-chief of the general staff Hou Shou-yeh (霍守業) had suggested ceasing the use of live ammunition.
The military yesterday dismissed the report’s claims in a press statement, saying that the military had suspended live-fire exercises because they had been widely criticized as publicity stunts that were pointless, as they were too unrealistic to properly simulate warfare.
The resumption of live-fire drills this year is a response to opinions voiced by various segments of society, the military said, adding that Hou had not changed his mind because of the missed targets, as the report said.
According to Tseng Fu-hsin (曾復興), assistant deputy chief of the General Staff for Operation and Planning, the Taiwan-made Thunderbolt-2000 multiple-launch rocket system will be debuted during the exercises.
The live-fire drills on April 17 will take place in Penghu’s Wude area (五德), as well as in the airspace over and marine area off southern Penghu, because these places have been designated as sites for national defense combat, Tseng said.
Penghu beaches are perfectly suited for testing the Thunderbolt system in simulated counterstrike scenarios, he added.