Taiwanese Jets Land on Highway in Pineapple Field Amid Annual Drills on Defence Against China
© AP Photo / Wally Santana In this Sept. 16, 2014, file photo, a Taiwan Air Force F-16 fighter jet takes off from a closed section of highway during the annual Han Kuang military exercises in Chiayi, central Taiwan
© AP Photo / Wally Santana
The authorities on the island, claimed by China as a part of its territory but which maintains de-facto independence, have intensified contacts with the US in recent years, seeking to buy military equipment and weapons despite objections from Beijing.
Several Taiwanese Air Force jet fighters landed on a highway running through pineapple fields in the south-western part of the island. The aircraft were fine – they were practicing landing on makeshift runways as part of annual drills that the island's military has been carrying out to prepare for an allegedly possible attack from China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan.
All three fighter jets participating in the exercise – an American F-16, French-made Mirage and Taiwan-manufactured Ching-kuo Defence Fighter – successfully landed on one of five highways designed specifically to be straight and flat to serve as a reserve runway in the event the main airbases are destroyed by an adversary. Taiwan's head Tsai Ing-wen praised the skills of the pilots.
"Such splendid combat skills and rapid and real actions come from solid everyday training and also demonstrate the confidence of the Republic of China Air Force in defending its airspace".
Most of the island's air bases are located on the west coast, close to China, and have little geographic protection. However, Taiwan also has two bases located in the mountains on the east of the island.
China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and has reacted harshly to its muscle-flexing, as well as recent talks of buying advanced weapons from the US. The island's head Tsai Ing-wen was elected on the promises of standing up against China's claims as well as modernising the island's military.
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Apart from negotiating a potential weapons sale, the US also routinely sends its warships to the region, including to the Taiwan Strait, which separates China from the island. Beijing has strongly condemned such missions carried out under the pretext of freedom of navigation operations, accusing Washington of violating its territorial waters.