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Pingtung welcomes submarine-hunting craft

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The military has recently turned a former civilian airport in southern Pingtung County into an airbase for the newly acquired P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft from the United States.

The former Pingtung Airport has now been revamped into a P-3C aircraft base and it will be home to a total of 12 P-3Cs after the last of the model is scheduled to be delivered and arrive at the base by the end of 2015, military sources told local media yesterday.

The Pingtung Airport began operation in 2005. However, due to its low usage rate, the Executive Yuan approved a plan to cease its operations in July 2011.

After its closure, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) reached an agreement with the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to relocate an airbase near Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to the Pingtung Airport.

The Air Force later decided to turn the airport into an airbase for the P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft Taiwan bought from the U.S.

The U.S. government approved the sale of 12 P-3Cs with T-56 turboprop engines and related equipment and services, a package valued at US$1.96 billion, in 2007.

Taiwan delivered the first of 12 P-3C from the U.S. in September 2013 when the plane arrived at the airbase in Southern Taiwan from Guam.

The country is supposed to receive another three by the end of 2013, but the delivery of two of the aircraft was behind schedule due to a malfunction in its flight control system, according to the Air Force.

The two later arrived at the Pingtung airbase this January.

According to the delivery schedule, Taiwan will receive five more planes this year and another three in 2015, when the 12-aircraft squadron will be commissioned.

P-3C Gives Taiwan Naval Edge

According to the Air Force, the aircraft is the most capable of Lockheed's P-3 family of submarine-detecting aircraft. In addition to detecting ships on and below the surface, the P-3C also has powerful anti-ship and anti-submarine attack capabilities, an Air Force statement said.

The Air Force added that the P-3C fleet will help Taiwan better protect navigation safety and give Taiwan a naval edge with its highly advanced reconnaissance, surveillance and communications systems.

The P-3Cs are capable of flights lasting 12 hours with a range of 2,800 nautical miles.

The aircraft's long flying hours and extensive range will help upgrade the military's anti-submarine warfare capabilities, according to the Air Force.

The new planes will replace a squadron of 11 aging S-2T anti-submarine aircraft that have been in service in Taiwan for over 40 years, the Air Force said.

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Air Force officers unveil the new sign of an airbase in Pingtung, yesterday. The former Pingtung Airport has been revamped to accommodate P-3C aircraft and will soon be home to a total of 12 P-3Cs. The final model is scheduled to be delivered to the base by the end of 2015, military sources told local media yesterday. (CNA)

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