Republic of China Air Force
Taiwan's geographical location makes air defense critical for overall defense of the nation. The Taiwan Air Force (TAF) has shrunk from roughly 55,000 to 45,000 personnel during the ching shih reforms, while preserving its basic organizational structure, aircraft fleet size, and defensive counter-air mission focus. TAF officers are highly professional and hard-working. The TAF exhibits ingenuity in its use and maintenance of older hardware. The TAF senior leadership is moving to rectify highly publicized pilot shortages by extending minimum terms of service, offering large bonuses, and enlarging the pool of prospective pilot applicants.
Although outnumbered by the PLAAF and PLANAF, TAF weapons systems and training qualitatively surpassed those of their cross-Strait peers. However, TAF personnel - especially its fighter pilot corps - reportedly are overworked. Pilot training continues to focus on the defensive counter-air mission. However, dissimilar air combat training is rarely practiced.
The Air Force General Headquarters is responsible for the Air Force's combat strength and commands and supervises all subordinate troops and units. The units include the Air Force Operations Command , the Air Force Logistics Command , the Air Defense Artillery Command , and various tactical wings. Under the wing in descending order are the group , squadron , and flight. Personnel are divided into operational and logistical support systems under the command of the Air Force GHQ.
The Chinese Air Force Academy (CAFA) trains pilots for jet fighters and other combat and transport aircraft. Cadets learn aeronautic navigation, combat tactics, and related skills in a program that lasts four years. They participate in supervised flight operations during their second year. At the beginning of their junior year, cadets are divided into five sections to receive specialized training in flight skills, aeronautic machinery, electronic communication, anti-aircraft warfare, and air control.
The main operational units in the ROC Air Force include the following:
- 6 tactical combat aircraft wings;
- 1 transport/anti-submarine wing;
- 1 tactical control wing;
- 1 communication and ATC wing;
- 1 weather forecasting wing; and
- 1 air-defense artillery guards command, comprising
- 4 commands,
- 14 air defense artillery battalions, and
- 11 guard battalions.
The Taiwan Air Force is organized in a Wing / Group / Squadron structure patterned on that of the United States Air Force. Evidently, the transition to the newer generation of aircraft is resulting in a reduction in the nominal squadron strength from 24 to 20 aircraft. When the current unit equipment transition is completed in 2000, each Wing will operate a single type of aircraft, with one Mirage 2000 wing, two IDF wings, two F-16 wings, and two wings retaining the older F-5. Inventory listings do not reflect aircraft losses, which to date have include four F-16s and two Mirage 2000 aircraft.
The Air Force, in a major shake-up 03 Sepember 2017, announced the formation of the ROC Air Force Air Defense and Missile Command, as a result of an integration of an anti-aircraft artillery unit and a missile defense unit. The Air Force hopes this will improve the speed and coordination of Taiwan''s air defense, while analysts say this is in response to the frequency of Chinese bomber jets circling the nation, events that could become routine.Taiwan''s IDF fighter jets and Mirage 2000 aircraft, along with F-16 and F-5 jets showed off their formation flying skills one by one. Finally, the ROC Air force Thunder Tiger Aerobatics Team released colored smoke. Air Force Commander Shen Yi-ming rode a jeep and then announced that starting in September two separate army units -the Air Defense Missile Command and the Air Defense Artillery Command - would be merged into one command center that would direct their operations. ROC Air Force Chief of Staff Fan Ta-wei would assume leadership.
The main reason for the restructure and the new air defense and missile command is that the anti-aircraft artillery forces and the missile forces are extremely important combat units when it comes to defending the air space and ensuring security in the Taiwan Strait. In March, the air force assumed command of the missile defense system in the first major restructure. With the addition of ground-based anti-aircraft artillery systems, there will be improved responsiveness to any potential air raid in a new strategy from the Air Force.
Reductions have occurred, in part, to rebalance the military from an Army-centric force supported by the Navy and Air Force to a more balanced military better structured to counter potential threats from the PLA.
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