Two AH-64E Apache attack helicopters fly during a Dec. 13 ceremony in an army airborne special force unit in Tainan, southern Taiwan. (Mandy Cheng / AFP)
TAIPEI — Taiwan Monday launched computerized war games featuring its newly acquired AH-64 Apache helicopters helping counter a simulated attack by a Chinese aircraft carrier group, officials and media said.
The five-day drill, part of the island’s biggest annual military maneuvers to be held in September, is aimed at testing the island’s defense capability against the fast expanding military might of the giant neighbor, defense ministry officials said, declining to go into details.
A scenario of the drill was attacks on the east by a Chinese aircraft carrier group, Taiwan’s Apple Daily said.
With military deployments focused on the west coast facing mainland China, the east is relatively vulnerable to any Chinese invasion, analysts say.
The drill for the first time features weaponry acquired last year, including the latest variant of US-made Apaches which military gurus say is the world’s most lethal attack helicopter, P-3C submarine hunting aircraft, and an upgraded version of Taiwan’s Indigenous Defence Fighter, the paper said.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since President Ma Ying-jeou’s China-friendly administration came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in January 2012.
But Beijing has still not ruled out the use of force against the island should it declare independence, even though Taiwan has ruled itself for more than six decades since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
The People’s Liberation Army launched ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan during a series of live-fire drills in 1995 and 1996, aiming to deter the Taiwanese from voting for Lee Teng-hui, the independence-minded president then seeking another four-year term.
China halted its saber-rattling only after the United States sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near the island.