People’s Liberation Army (PLA) incursions into Taiwan’s airspace have led to a surge in the operational costs of the Republic of China Air Force, the Ministry of National Defense said.
The air force’s equipment and facility costs are projected to reach a record NT$29.2 billion (US$1.05 billion) next fiscal year, the ministry said in a budget report dated Tuesday.
They include NT$17.2 billion for maintenance and NT$11.9 billion for purchasing new materiel, up 56 percent from fiscal 2016, the ministry said.
These costs conform to the trend of rising year-on-year maintenance costs, which stem from missions to intercept PLA aircraft, it said.
The PLA began sending jets and bombers into the country’s airspace in concurrence with President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election in 2016, the ministry said.
In 2018, it shifted its focus from aerial circumnavigation of Taiwan’s airspace to incursions of the southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ), it said.
In November last year, air force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Huang Chih-wei (黃志偉) told a legislative hearing that the air force must plan for costs associated with aircraft maintenance and spare parts acquisition two years ahead. The budget was calculated in light of the military situation, for equipment upgrading and facility construction, he said at the time.
The largest number of Chinese warplanes entering Taiwan’s ADIZ since the ministry started publishing such movements on Sept. 17 last year was 28 on June 15 this year, two days after the G7 highlighted the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Additional reporting by CNA
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