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2004-06-19 17:38:50

    Taipei, June 19 (CNA) ROC Air Force jet fighters will practice takeoffs and landings at the Jenteh section of the Sun Yat-sen Expressway in July as part of the Hankuang (Chinese Glory) No. 20 exercise, a senior official confirmed Saturday.

    Tsai Mao-hsiung, director of the Southern District Engineering Office under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), said the 2.7 kilometer Jenteh section in the southern county of Tainan has been refurbished in preparation for the upcoming military exercise.

    The MOTC's Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau (TANFB) has also drafted an alternative traffic plan to minimize the possible adverse impact of the closure of the Jenteh section during the exercise, Tsai said.

    It will mark the first time in 25 years that the military has conducted training exercises on the island's first north-south expressway since its inauguration in 1979.

    The Air Force General Headquarters (AFGH) issued a news statement around noon confirming that jet fighters practicing landings and takeoffs on the expressway is one of the scheduled maneuvers for the upcoming Hankuang No. 20 exercise, the largest combined services training drill of the year, which usually lasts for several months and covers computerized war games and live-fire exercises.

    The AFGH statement said the planned expressway takeoff and landing drills are mainly aimed at evaluating the feasibility of using alternative runways during wartime to sustain the armed forces' combat capabilities.

    The statement further said the AFGH is negotiating with relevant civilian authorities and will work out a comprehensive operational plan to minimize possible inconveniences for local citizens.

    Noting that using alternative runways can help diversify military aircraft deployments, the AFGH statement said the upcoming training drill is part of the Air Force's efforts to upgrade its overall combat capabilities to defend national security.

    The Sun Yat-sen Expressway accommodates several sections which can be used as runways for military aircraft takeoffs and landings during wartime.

    The Jenteh section is close to President Chen Shui-bian's hometown of Guantien. MOTC officials said they don't think that there is any correlation between the military's choice of the Jenteh section and mainland China's possible attack plan.

    According to Tsai, one of the expressway sections that can be converted into military aircraft runways has too many private houses in its vicinity and has thus been ruled out as the venue for the training drill.

    Tsai said the MOTC was informed of the military's plan to conduct training drills on the Jenteh section in early January. "We have since launched a renovation plan which was completed late last month, " Tsai said, adding that the ministry has paid special heed to material quality and workmanship in the refurbishing process.

    Tsai said the expressway from the Jenteh intersection to the Luchu intersection will be closed to traffic for at least 12 hours on the days of rehearsal and formal exercise. "The MOTC has worked out a detailed traffic control plan and will designate several alternative highways for motorists," Tsai said.

    Some local citizens said they hope the training drill can be open for public viewing under proper security measures because they have never seen any aircraft using the expressway as alternative runways for takeoffs and landings.

(By Sofia Wu)


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