The autonomous island is strengthening its army as China asserts itself more and more.
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan Air Force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday during an exercise to simulate a war scenario, showing the combat readiness of its fleet after dozens of planes Chinese combat aircraft flew into the island’s air defense zone over the weekend.
Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been at the forefront since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers in the southwestern part of its air defense identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with the entry of a group of US carriers into the South China Sea contested.
The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles planes to intercept the Chinese Air Force.
In a hardened shelter, the flight crew of the First Tactical Fighter Wing rushed to prepare two IDFs as an alarm bell sounded, aimed at having them take off within five minutes of an emergency call , armed with American-made and nationally developed Sidewinders. Wan Chien air-to-ground cruise missiles.
Colonel Lee Ching-shi told Reuters news agency their planes usually come up armed with Taiwan-made rifles, sidewinders and Sky Sword missiles when they react to Chinese jets and can respond “to anything. moment”.
“We are ready,” he said during a visit organized by the government to the base. “We will not give up an inch of our territory.”
China has stepped up its activities since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected to the presidency in 2016.
She sought to strengthen the island’s defenses by increasing the asymmetric war capabilities, and buy billions of dollars in weapons from the United States, including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems, and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting sea and land targets.
Last November, the island also started work on its first domestically produced submarine to improve coastal defenses.
Washington has been supportive, not only selling the island a record number of arms sales, but also visits by senior officials and ending decades of restrictions on trade between US and Taiwanese authorities.
Four IDFs conducted tactical formation landing and roll-off exercises, roaring away from the runway.
China has offered no public explanation for what its planes were doing over the weekend. Washington responded by calling on China to stop pressuring Taiwan and reaffirming its commitment to the democratic island.
The Taiwan Air Force is well trained, but has far fewer fighter jets than China, and has been forced to scramble almost constantly in recent months, responding to increased Chinese activity by from the island.
“All the wings are under a lot of pressure, but as long as the air force is there, we will react according to the rules of combat readiness,” said pilot Wang Chih-chan.