Han Kuang drills to feature F-16Vs, Perry-class frigates

A wide range of military equipment, weapons, and vehicles, including F-16V fighter jets from the United States, will take part in this Han Kuang live-fire drills May 27-31. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A wide range of military equipment, weapons, and vehicles, including F-16V fighter jets from the United States, Taiwan’s indigenous Clouded Leopard armored vehicles and two U.S.-made Perry-class guided missile frigates will take part in this year’s Han Kuang live-fire drills (漢光演習) May 27-31.

The Han Kuang exercises, Taiwan’s biggest annual military drill, are divided into two parts, which are computer-aided war games held April 22-26 and nationwide live-fire drills to be staged May 27-31, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official said under condition of anonymity.

The live-fire drills will involve the Army, Navy and Air Force to test their coordinated response to simulated assaults by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from air and sea.

Taiwan’s first F-16V modified by the local Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) will take part in an exercise on a freeway-based emergency airstrip in Huatan Township in Changhua County May 28.

In addition, the Clouded Leopard eight-wheeled armored vehicles, which are equipped with Orbital ATK 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II cannons, and the two Perry-class vessels, the Ming Chuan (PFG-1112) and the Feng Chia (PFG-1115), which were commissioned in Kaohsiung in November 2018, will also take part.

During the May 27-31 military exercises, the drills to be staged on the Huatan section of National Freeway No. 1 May 28 and on a military firing range in Pingtung May 30 will be open to media coverage.

Ahead of the live-fire drills, the Navy will conduct military training in the East China Sea May 20 and May 21, including port security and emergency operations, and air control operations, as well as joint anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare training with the Army.

The Air Force is spending NT$129.6 billion (US$4.21 billion) to upgrade 144 existing F-16A/Bs to the F-16V version under the Phoenix Rising project. This year’s budget for the upgrade is about NT$9.17 billion and the total upgrade is slated to be completed by 2023.

Taiwan is also considering procuring up to 66 F-16 Viper fighter jets from the United States.

In addition, it has begun mass production of its indigenous CM-34 Clouded Leopard armored vehicles, with a production of 284 of the vehicles scheduled for completion by 2023, according to the official.

The MND is also proceeding with mass production of a model of the vehicle equipped with a 30mm chain gun, the official said.

Taiwan has ordered Orbital ATK 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II cannons that will be mounted on the vehicle.

Compared with the CM-32 models, which are armed with 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, the 30 mm cannon has better anti-tank capabilities and can fire several accurate rounds in rapid succession, the official said.

The Perry-class frigates, meanwhile, have high mobility and are equipped with the AN/SQQ-89 anti-submarine warfare system, the SQR-19 sonar system and the SQQ-89 undersea warfare combat system, all of which the Navy said will beef up its anti-submarine capabilities.

By Matt Yu and Evelyn Kao