Taiwan Air Force hardly a match to China’s military prowess
Taiwan is being equipped with such defence systems as can enable it to defend itself against any potential Chinese aggression. However, the TAF is hardly a match to its Chinese counterpart.
In a videotaped address to the Concordia Summit, an unofficial conference, held in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's high-level meeting, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen warned against China's broader military intimidation efforts. She said, "We have to educate ourselves on the authoritarian playbook... Securing Taiwan's democracy is imperative in securing freedom and human rights for our collective future."
It is well recorded that since her day one in Taiwanese presidency, Tsai has been determined to defend her island nation's democracy. In August this year, at a meeting with visiting former US officials and foreign policy experts from Stanford's Hoover Institution, President Tsai announced "no threat of any kind can shake the Taiwanese people's resolve to defend their nation... the people of Taiwan have both the resolve and the confidence to safeguard peace, security, freedom and prosperity."
On Taiwan's National Day last year, she said that Taiwan was "standing on democracy's first line of defence". The island would not "act rashly" but would bolster its defences to "ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us."
Observers say Taiwan is also being equipped with such defence systems as can enable it to defend itself against any potential Chinese aggression. The Taiwan Air Force (TAF) today has about 70,000 personnel and over 400 combat aircraft. Its current inventory includes approximately 180 F-5E/F fighters, 60 French-built Mirage 2000-5s and over 100 modern Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs).
Taiwan has been converting 141 F-16A/B jets into the F-16V type. It has ordered 66 new F-16Vs, which have new avionics, weapons and radar systems. Taiwan is planning an upgrade programme for about 100 F-5 fighters. Taiwan has established an air defence early warning network.
Taipei has replaced its old SKY NET air defence network with a new network called STRONG NET to provide a comprehensive picture of the surrounding airspace. The TAF's strategy is to employ the IDF for low altitude interception and ground attack; the F-16 for mid altitude offshore interception and ground attack; and, the Mirage 2000-5 for high altitude offshore interception.
However, the TAF is hardly a match to its Chinese counterpart's prowess. China's Air Force and its Naval Air Force operate a fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft. Since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August , the People's Liberation Army has drastically increased its military activities in the region, including by sending jets across the Taiwan Strait median line.
(Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He is also Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, New York)
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