TAIPEI - Agence France-Presse
The Taiwan army fire artillery from self-propelled Howitzer M110A2 cannons during a defensive drill in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Thursday, July 5, 2012. AP photo
Taiwan for the first time tested how a fleet of advanced submarine hunting aircraft and attack helicopters would be utilized in the event of an attack by rival China, officials and media said today.
The weapons were included at the beginning of the five-day "Han Kuang No 28" computer-aided wargame - the biggest of the military's series of annual drills.
The defense ministry confirmed the drill started today but refused to provide further details.
However Taipei-based Liberty Times said: "The authorities will use the event to evaluate how Taiwan's defense capacities could be boosted after the military obtains the two weapons." The paper said Taiwan was expecting to receive six Apache AH-64D Longbow helicopters and six P-3C submarine hunting aircraft from the United States next year.
Washington agreed in 2007 to sell 12 refurbished P-3C Orion patrol aircraft, along with three non-operational machines for spares, in a $1.96 billion arms deal. The P-3C fleet is intended to replace the island's ageing S-2T anti-submarine aircraft.
Despite protests from Beijing, the Pentagon in 2008 notified Congress of a $6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan that included advanced interceptor missiles, 30 Apache attack helicopters and submarine-launched missiles.
Ties with Beijing have improved since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 on promises of ramping up trade links and allowing an increase in the number of Chinese tourists.
But Beijing still refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan should it declare formal independence, even though the island has governed itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.
This has prompted Taipei to keep modernizing its forces, with weapons mainly supplied by the United States, despite a lack of official ties after Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.