onsdag 15. januar 2020

On Taiwan's front line with China, a constant state of alertness

An alarm sounds and the pilots rush to their jets, sitting at the ready under a hardened shelter in the warm winter sun of southern Taiwan. Their scramble into the air was only a drill before an audience of journalists. But for Taiwan’s Air Force and its most advanced fighters, the newly upgraded F-16V, the threat from China across the narrow Taiwan Strait is very real.

Surrounded by farmland near the coast, the Chiayi air base is Taiwan’s first to be equipped with F-16Vs, which carry upgraded radars, avionics and will eventually field new air-to-air missiles. Chiayi’s F-16 pilots are on call around the clock to see off the Chinese jets that regularly try to probe the airspace of the democratic island China claims as its territory, to be taken by force if needed.

“If anything happens and we’re needed, we can scramble,” said pilot Yen Hsiang-sheng, 33, a lieutenant colonel who did his flight training at Luke Air Force base in the United states.