The ratio of Republic of China Air Force planes scrambled is 2.13 for each Chinese jet that has entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone this year, Deputy Minister of National Defense Chang Che-ping (張哲平) said yesterday, as lawmakers raised concerns about increased fuel and maintenance costs amid Beijing’s belligerence.
Chang stood in for Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) after Yen presented a report on improving the nation’s reserve forces and left the legislature at noon for a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
There have been 22 instances of Chinese jets entering Taiwan’s zone since Sept. 16, Chang said, citing a counter on the ministry’s Web site.
As of Oct. 7 there had been 1,624 sorties this year by Taiwanese jets, with increased by 2,972 to reach 4,596 as of Wednesday, he said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Huang Chih-wei (黃志偉) said that maintenance costs for jets as a result of increased Chinese incursions have risen by NT$470 million (US$16.26 million) compared with all of last year.
Maintenance costs for this year would rise to NT$630 million if the rate of Chinese incursions continues, he said.
When asked whether Chinese activity might increase after the US presidential election on Nov. 3, Chang said that the ministry expects the current rate of incursions and exercises in China’s southwestern airspace, as well as in other areas, to become the norm.
The ministry would use the data it collects this year to revise future budgets, he said.
Deputy Chief of the Logistics Staff Lieutenant General Chiang Cheng-kuo (蔣正國) said that a rough estimate of the maintenance budget showed an increase of NT$2 billion from last year, while fuel costs are expected to increase by NT$1 billion.
Separately, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Chiu Shu-hua (邱樹華) told a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee that Chinese drones were spotted yesterday morning near Taiwan’s southwestern zone, where the air force had planned an exercise.
Chinese incursions have increased by more than 50 percent this year from last year, a “new normal” that continues to deplete Taiwan’s military resources, Chiu said.
A US Department of State approval of a sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan with a total value of US$1.8 billion would help the military increase its strike capability, he said.
The weapons systems include 11 truck-based rocket launchers, 135 AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response missiles and six MS-110 Recce external sensor pods.
Additional reporting by Wu Su-wei
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