Taiwan's IDF fighter conducts a drill on May 15, a week after a local fisherman was killed when his boat was fired upon by the Philippine coast guard. (Photo/CNA)
The ROC Air Force will increase its patrols over waters around the country's southern coast, Air Force Commander General Liu Chen-wu said Thursday.
"In the past, southern airspace was not a priority patrol area, but we will increase our sorties in the region in the future, using various types of aircraft," Liu said in an interview with local radio station UFO.
The Air Force will also adjust its pilot training zones in line with this new policy to improve the flexibly of its combat force, Liu said.
Noting that the Air Force's mission is to ensure the country's airspace security, Liu said the Air Force sent Ching-kuo IDF and Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters to take part in a drill in collaboration with Navy and Coast Guard Administration personnel in waters between southern Taiwan and northern Philippines May 16.
The drill was staged to underscore Taiwan's determination to protect its fishermen after Philippine coast guard personnel strafed a Taiwanese fishing boat May 9, killing a 65-year-old crewman.
"We dispatched our IDF and Mirage fighters to offer aerial protection for naval and coast guard vessels taking part in the drill in the Bashi Channel," Liu said, adding that an Air Force E-2K early warning aircraft also took part in the exercise.
In the future, he said, E-2Ks will regularly monitor the situation in the area near overlapping waters of Taiwan's and the Philippines' exclusive economic zones overlap to better protect safety of Taiwanese fishermen operating there, in partnership with the Navy and the Coast Guard.
Three naval vessels — a Kidd-class destroyer and two Lafayette frigates — and four CGA patrol boats, as well as French-built Mirage 2000-5s and locally developed IDF jet fighters took part in the exercise.
Prior to the drill, the Kidd-class destroyer Ma Kong crossed the 20 degrees north latitude line, in waters near the location of the May 9 strafing.
It marked the first time the 10,500-ton warship had entered the area to assist the Coast Guard in its efforts to protect local fishermen.