In the aftermath of China’s unprecedented military drills near the island, Taiwan showcased its most modern fighter plane, the missile-equipped F-16V, in a rare nighttime demonstration.
Following visits to the self-governed island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a legislative delegation, Chinese soldiers conducted days of air and sea military drills in the Taiwan Strait this month.
Taipei has conducted its own drills to mimic defense against Chinese invasion, and air force troops loaded an F-16V fighter with a US-made anti-ship missile in a “war readiness” exercise at an airbase in eastern Hualien county on Wednesday.
Reporters were showed ground crews quickly uploading weaponry onto F-16s, including Boeing Co’s Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
According to Taiwan’s air force, six F-16Vs took off later for night reconnaissance and training missions, including two armed with missiles.
“In the face of the threat posed by recent military exercises by Chinese communist forces, we have remained watchful while building the concept of ‘battlefields anywhere and training anytime’… to maintain national security,” the air force stated in a statement.
While Taiwan decried China’s recent activities, Sun Li-fang, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, said the crisis provided an opportunity for Taiwan’s military to perfect their skills.
“We will take advantage of this opportunity to put all of our regular training to the test, improving our present methods and increasing our combat effectiveness,” he stated.
“The forces of the Republic of China are confident, capable, and committed to safeguard the Republic of China’s safety,” Sun continued, using Taiwan’s formal name.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that the self-ruled island does not wish to incite or aggravate tensions with Beijing.
Taiwan is constantly threatened by an invasion by China, which claims the democratically administered island as part of its territory and intends to capture it one day, by force if necessary.
Taipei has accused Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit – the highest-ranking elected US official to visit in decades – as an excuse to begin rehearsals to prepare for an invasion.
Taiwan has been updating its ageing fighter fleet in recent years, as the island’s air force has been under persistent assault from more frequent Chinese incursions into the island’s air defense zone.
The island deployed its first squadron of US-made F-16V aircraft in November, an improved and much more advanced version of its previous F-16 jets, which date back to the 1990s.
The F-16V deal was granted by then-US President Donald Trump’s government as he feuded with China on a variety of issues, but his successor Joe Biden has maintained similar backing for Taipei.
The Hualien airbase, which has hangers built into the side of a mountain, has two pilots on duty at all times, seated in flight suits and ready to take off in six minutes.