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Military jet drill set to take place on highway

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's military yesterday announced the staging of a drill to allow the nation's fighter jets to test emergency landings and takeoffs on a section of highway in Southern Taiwan later this month, as part of this year's Han Kuang series of military exercises.

The drill will be held on Sep. 16 on the Minsyong section (民雄) of the No. 1 National Highway in the southern county of Chiayi, Air Force Major General Li Ting-shen (李廷盛) said at a news briefing yesterday.

Li noted that the backbone of the R.O.C. Air Force, including one Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), one F-16A/B, one Mirage 2000, one army OH-58D scout helicopter, two AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter, as well as E-2K airborne early warning aircraft, will take part in the drill.

The drill is intended to test Taiwan's military aircraft emergency landing and taking off skills in the event that most of Taiwan's military air bases are severely damaged in an attack by missiles from the People's Liberation Army, making fighter jets unable to return to their home bases, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND).

The Minsyong section is one of four sections of the No. 1 National Highway on which emergency runways have been established for use in the event of war, MND said.

In previous Han Kuang exercises, similar drills have been held on the emergency runways of three other sections of the No. 1 National Highway — Madou (麻豆) and Rende (仁德) in Tainan (台南), and Huatan (花壇) in Changhua (彰化).

To conduct the drill, the section between the Chiayi and Dalin exits of the freeway will be closed for 11 hours beginning at midnight on Sept. 16, it said.

The takeoff and landing drill will be part of the annual Han Kuang exercises, Taiwan's most important war games, which involve all branches of the R.O.C. Armed Forces.

The drill will be the second part of the Han Kuang drills, which feature live-fire exercises, scheduled for Sept. 15-19, the MND said.

The computer-aided war games, the first phase of the exercises, were held this May.

Civilian Aircraft to Feature in Drill: MND

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Mei Chia-shu (梅家樹) of the MND's Joint Warfare Planning Department yesterday said that civilian aircraft will feature in this year's Han Kuang exercises for the first time.

He would not disclose which local airliner the MND will be working with during the upcoming drill. Sources close to the matter said the drill will involve several civilian planes taking soldiers from Taiwan's outlying islands to Taiwan proper.

The Han Kuang military drills — Taiwan's most important annual war games involving all military branches — are held in two stages, with live-fire military drills normally held in April and computer-aided war games held in July.

But this year the MND announced that it would push back the scheduled live-fire drills to September.

The MND previously explained that the decision was made to avoid the nation's flood season that begins in May and runs until October.

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