President touts Taiwan's first sub-hunter aircraft
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Oct. 31 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou touted Thursday the functions and capabilities of Taiwan's first P-3C submarine-hunter aircraft, saying that it will bolster the military's anti-submarine capabilities.
'The P-3C fleet will help Taiwan better protect navigation safety and give Taiwan a naval edge, thanks to its highly advanced reconnaissance, surveillance and communications systems,' Ma said at an acceptance ceremony at the Air Force's 439th Combined Wing based in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan.
The aircraft was manufactured in 1973 and has been mothballed ever since. 'After changing key parts and components, it is as good as those currently in service in the United States,' he added.
Taiwan took delivery of the plane Sept. 25.
'Despite the warming ties with China over the past five years, it does not mean that we can allow our national defense to slacken off,' Ma said.
As China has not changed its military policies against Taiwan, 'we have to be fully prepared,' he said, adding that the P-3C fleet will boost both the country's naval and aerial defenses.
According to the delivery schedule, three more will arrive by the end of the year, five more in 2014 and another three in 2015, when the 12-strong squadron will be commissioned, the president said.
Capable of flights of 12 hours with a range of 2,800 nautical miles, the P-3Cs will help upgrade the military's anti-submarine warfare capabilities, according to the Air Force. It is said to be the most capable of Lockheed's P-3 sub-hunters.
They will replace a squadron of 11 S-2T anti-submarine aircraft that have been in service for over 40 years, the Air Force said.
The S-2Ts, which can stay in the air for only four hours at a time and have a range of 450 nautical miles, will be totally decommissioned in 2017, the Air Force said, adding that the components and engines will go to private groups for exhibitions or schools for educational purposes.
Currently, there are 16 pilots undergoing PC-3 flight training in the U.S., who are due to finish in mid-2014, the Air Force said.
The U.S. government approved the sale of the 12 P-3Cs, along with T-56 turboprop engines and related equipment and services in 2007 and estimated the price of the package at US$1.96 billion.
(By James Lee)
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