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Talk of the Day -- Taiwan steps up international military exchanges

2012/09/16 21:24:03

The military will send personnel to the United States to take part in a joint air transport and evacuation training exercise next year, according to the Ministry of National Defense's (MND's) budget report for 2013.

As part of its efforts to promote international defense technology exchanges, the MND will also send staff members to attend a symposium in a European country on the development of missile defense systems, the budget report said.

In a quite uncharacteristic move, the report further revealed a plan under which the Air Force's C-130 transport planes will fly to Singapore's Changi Airport as part of its long-haul aviation training program.

Because of the absence of formal diplomatic ties, Singapore has traditionally kept its military cooperation programs with Taiwan behind the scenes.

The following are excerpts from a special report in the Sunday edition of the United Evening News on the Defense Ministry's international military exchange plans for the coming fiscal year:

The MND has referred its 2013 budget plan to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation and approval in the next legislative session scheduled to open Tuesday.

According to the budget report, the Air Force will send aviation crew members to the U.S. to participate in aerial refueling and medical transport and evacuation training drills.

The Air Force's transport fleet personnel need to receive in-flight refueling training because Taiwan does not have an aerial tanker fleet of its own.

Military sources said the joint refueling training exercise over U.S. skies will mark progress in bilateral military exchanges.

It also symbolizes the strengthening of an informal Taiwan-U.S. military alliance, the sources said. Through such an alliance, Taiwan's transport planes can extend their flight range during emergencies with the help of U.S. aerial tankers, according to the sources.

In the coming year, the Air Force will also send crew members to take part in a joint aerial search and rescue training exercise.

In the past, the Air Force also sent personnel to Southeast Asian countries to receive long-distance aviation training. In the coming year, the training destination will be changed to Guam, the budget report said.

To reinforce Taiwan's air and missile defense capabilities, the MND will send officers to the United States to receive training in new air and missile defense strategies and flight command and control technologies, according to the report.

In the past, Singapore tended to express concern or lodge protests whenever its military cooperation or exchange programs with Taiwan were leaked to or reported by news media.

The MND's 2013 budget report revealed for the first time the details of a transport plane training cooperation plan.

Under the program, the Air Force's C-130 transport planes will fly to Singapore's Changi Airport on long-haul aviation training. On their return flights, the C-130s will help transport military supplies and goods needed for Singapore's "Starlight" military personnel who are receiving training in Taiwan.

For years, Singapore has maintained a military cooperative project, code-named "Starlight," with Taiwan, under which Taiwan's military help with Singapore troops training.

Military sources said Taiwan-Singapore military cooperation has been proceeding smoothly. Many Taiwanese aviation fans have often spotted Singaporean Air Force's C-130s deliver troops or military supplies to Taiwan.

Local military experts said it's not necessary to continue keeping bilateral cooperative projects behind the scenes. (Sept. 16, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)