Taiwan Prepares for Live-Fire Exercise
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Taiwan will stage the field training exercise (FTX) portion of its annual Han Kuang 23 (Han Glory) war games May 15-17, the Ministry of National Defense said May 8.
The command post exercise (CPX) portion — a computer simulation — was held April 16-20 at Hengshan Command Center, with the U.S. military observer delegation led by Dennis Blair, a retired U.S. Navy admiral.
U.S. military officials attached to the de facto U.S. embassy here, the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT), will attend the FTX. AIT officials regularly attend Taiwan military exercises and play a role in meeting Taiwan’s defense procurement needs and as consultants on defense issues.
Though Han Kuang is the largest annual exercise, the military holds numerous training programs throughout the year. These include two mobilization exercises, two nuclear-biological exercises and 11 multiservice exercises.
The Ministry of National Defense said in a statement that the exercises have undergone serious re-evaluation.
“In order to ensure national defense by enhancing overall combat capability and readiness, relevant training program workshops were held since late August 2006, on all levels in all forces, gathering comprehensive opinion and suggestion, concerning existing obstacles and proposed solutions. The ultimate aim is to elevate overall combativeness nationwide,” it said.
The result has been a change in the way Taiwan conducts military exercises.
“The main direction for exercises and maneuvers in 2007 will be an intensified ‘military zones’ battle command system: by effectively synthesizing tri-forces, with live ammunition and actual combat training,” the statement said.
A ministry officer said, “The result of this evaluation has been to divide the Han Kuang 23 into 10 separate exercises over a four-day period rather than a one-day period. This will allow the public to better judge our training. It will also help demonstrate the military’s ability to defend the country and demonstrate that Taiwan’s military modernization, training and teamwork are par one.”
This year, the FTX is divided into 10 different exercises, with media attention focused on three primary exercises: an Air Force highway demonstration, an anti-amphibious warfare exercise and an anti-airborne exercise, the ministry statement said.
On May 15, the Taiwan Air Force will practice emergency landings in Chang-hua County. Two F-16 fighters, two Mirage 2000s and two Indigenous Defense Fighters will use a freeway as an alternative landing strip on the assumption that airbase runways will be destroyed by Chinese missile attacks. This is not the first time the Air Force has practiced on highways. In 2004, two Mirage-2000E fighters landed for the first time on a highway, refueled, loaded ammunition and took off again.
The cause for concern is China’s deployment of 800 to 900 Dong Feng (East Wind) short-range ballistic missiles. The Taiwanese military expects to lose most of its airbases within a short time after a conflict erupts. Taiwan has some rapid runway repair equipment, including the Folded Fiberglass Mat Rapid Runway Repair system purchased in 2002 for $43 million. However, most here believe that a multiwave saturation missile attack would destroy the airbases within a short time.
The second part of the exercise will begin on May 16 with a joint intercept operation on Taiwan’s east coast. This is an anti-amphibious landing exercise designed to inhibit Chinese forces from securing a beach landing and is part of every Han Kuang exercise. China has been beefing up its amphibious warfare capabilities, but most analysts agree that it still lacks the numbers and training to successfully invade Taiwan.
The third part of the exercise will be an anti-airborne and “heliborne” operation in Hsinchu County on May 17. This exercise will demonstrate Taiwan’s preparedness in handling an airborne assault from China’s 44th and 45th Airborne divisions. The heliborne portion will demonstrate Taiwan’s rapid-reaction capabilities, supported by the 601st Aviation Brigade.
Taiwan has AH-1W Super Cobra, OH-58D Kiowa, CH-47SD Chinook transport helicopters and aging UH-1H helicopters. Taiwan is looking at an upgrade program with Bell Helicopter to extend the life of the UH-1Hs.