Taiwan displayed on Wednesday its most advanced fighter jet, the missile-equipped F-16V, in a rare nighttime demonstration in the wake of China’s unprecedented military drills around the island.
Beijing staged days of air and sea drills in the Taiwan Strait this month after visits by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to the self-ruled island territory.
Taipei has carried out its own drills to simulate defence against invasion by China and on Wednesday air force personnel loaded an F-16V fighter with a US-made anti-ship missile in a “combat readiness” exercise at an airbase in eastern Hualien county.
Six F-16Vs later took off for night reconnaissance and training missions, including two armed with missiles, according to Taiwan’s air force.
“In the face of the threat from Chinese communist forces’ recent military exercises, we have stayed vigilant while establishing the concept of ‘battlefields everywhere and training anytime’… to ensure national security,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as part of its territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.
Taipei has accused Beijing of using the trip by Pelosi—the highest-ranking elected US official to visit in decades—as an excuse to kickstart drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.
Taiwan has been upgrading its ageing fleet of fighters in recent years, as fear of military action by Beijing rises and as its air force is kept under constant pressure by more frequent Chinese incursions into its air defence zone.
In November, the island deployed its first squadron of US-made F-16Vs—an upgraded and much more sophisticated version of its other F-16 fighters, which date back to the 1990s.
The F-16V deal was approved by the administration of then US President Donald Trump as he feuded with China on a host of issues, but his successor Joe Biden has maintained similar support for Taipei.