Taiwan Shows Off Military Capabilities
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Taiwan’s military flexed its muscles in a two-day drill designed to demonstrate its ability to handle an invasion from China.
In an exercise held Aug. 27-28, the military demonstrated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities, a fighter aircraft drill and a simulated infantry assault on a building captured by Chinese airborne forces.
The navy displayed its Kung Ding-class (La Fayette-class) frigate, the PFG-1205 Kuen-ming, at Tsoying Naval Base, Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan. The navy’s 702nd Firebreathers Squadron demonstrated a live ASW drill with one of its S-70C helicopters.
Taiwan bought six La Fayette frigates from France in the 1990s. The ships are outfitted with a mix of French- and Taiwan-made equipment, including Hsiung Feng II (Brave Wind) anti-ship missiles. The ship purchase evolved into a major scandal involving roughly $400 million in bribes to French, Taiwan and Chinese officials, which resulted in the murder of a Taiwanese naval officer.
Today, France is restricted by agreements with Beijing not to sell additional military equipment to Taiwan.
The Air Force’s 499th Tactical Fighter Wing’s 42nd Tactical Fighter Squadron displayed its night flight capabilities with French-made Dassault Mirage 2000-5E/Ds at Hsinchu Air Base in northwest Taiwan. Eight aircraft armed with Mica and R550 Magic II air-to-air missiles simulated an alert for rapid takeoff.
The Air Force procured 60 Mirage fighters during the 1990s. France continues to provide Taiwanese pilots with flight training in France, but the military-to-military relationship has eroded since the 1990s due to a bribery scandal involving the Mirage purchase and pressure from Beijing.
The 269th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, based in Taoyuan County in northern Taiwan, demonstrated an “anti-assault combat drill” on a building occupied by Chinese forces. The overall exercise was designed to demonstrate Taiwan’s capability at thwarting an airborne assault by Chinese troops.
The exercise included a combination of M60 tanks and armored personnel carriers fielding infantry forces that retook the building. The Army’s 601st Aviation Brigade provided air support with a CH-47SD Chinook helicopter, AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter and OH-58D Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter.
The army is preparing to push for the acquisition of new AH-64D Apache attack helicopters to supplement its inventory of two squadrons of AH-1Ws. The army also has a requirement for new utility helicopters to replace its aging UH-1H helicopters.
The army is debating the purchase of UH-60 Black Hawk or UH-1Y Huey helicopters. Budgets for the AH-64D and new utility helicopters are expected to be submitted in the 2008 defense budget.