Taiwan denies military plane flew too close to PLA aircraft

11/30/2020 04:41 PM
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A Taiwanese P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft. CNA file photo
A Taiwanese P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft. CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Monday denied a news report that a Taiwanese interceptor had flown dangerously close to a Chinese military plane during a recent monitoring mission.

According to a report Monday in the Taiwanese daily China Times, the P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft from the Taiwan Air Force came within 300 meters of a Chinese military plane that had recently entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

Citing unnamed sources, the report said the Taiwanese aircraft was taking photos of the Chinese plane, but it did not say when the flights occurred.

According to the sources cited in the report, the Taiwanese pilot has a history of poor judgment and work relations, as evidenced by his harsh words towards his subordinates during a search and rescue mission on Nov. 21 and his demand that they fly much lower than the minimum safe altitude.

Commenting on the report, the defense ministry said it was inaccurate, as all the aerial maneuvers carried out by the pilot at the time were in accordance with the military's rules and regulations.

"Faced with a tough external situation, the best way we can build our combat capabilities is to conduct strict flight training in compliance with safety regulations," the MND said.

Asked to comment on the report, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Chang Yen-ting (張延廷) said that a distance of 167 meters between military aircraft is considered acceptable, in terms of aviation safety.

For a low-speed aircraft like the P-3C, however, there is danger of a mid-air collision, because it is not as agile as a fighter jet and has a wider wing span, Chang said.

Furthermore, given the typically ineffective communication between Taiwanese and Chinese military aircraft, flying too close could lead to misunderstanding and trigger unnecessary conflict, he said.

If Taiwan's military aircraft wish to take photos of other planes, they do not have to fly that close, as their cameras are equipped with high quality zoom lens that can do the job well from a safe distance, Chang said.

Over the past few months, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has increased the frequency of its military maneuvers near Taiwan's airspace, at times entering Taiwan's southwest ADIZ, which has prompted Taiwan's Air Force to scramble planes to intercept the intruders.

In November alone, Taiwan reported some 40 PLA incursions into its ADIZ.

(By Matt Yu, Justin Su and Emerson Lim)

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