Once upon a time, the ROCAF (Republic of China Air Force) – aka Taiwanese Air Force – caught my eye: an interesting mix of aircraft types, still some colourful schemes and nice photos were seen floating around the web. The plan to go there was kept in mind and finally realized in connection with a visit to the “Airshow China” in 2012.
Where? Taiwan / Republic of China (ROC)
When? November 2012
After a short one hour hop from Hong Kong the tropical island in the Taiwan Street is easily reached. However getting around the country is a bit more cumbersome due to high mountains that form the central part of the country, especially if you want to drive from East to West. Maybe this is not the case for the typical tourist, who comes to Taiwan and is attracted by the “Taipei 101” skyscraper in the capital or the scenic “Sun Moon Lake”. But if you plan to visit airfields on both sides of the mountains, it is another story. And this had to be done, as the RF-5E Tigereye and the S-2T Turbo Tracker, based on opposite sides of the island, were high on the wish list of aircraft types to see – and to photograph – on that trip.
Unfortunately some hassle with the weather (=rain, clouds and thunderstorms) prevailed during the week and thus precluded a complete “photographic satisfaction”. Nevertheless that can be taken as an excuse to come back again and catch some more aircraft. Photographing them is however not that easy as it might seem on these pictures due to the ongoing tensions with mainland China and nearly inaccessible airfields, but with the great help of the local photographers, that were regularly met around the airfields, some decent spots were nevertheless found to get nice shots.
Hualien in the East of the country hosts F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-5 Tigers. The nice tail markings with the stylized sun on the F-16s and the rare RF-5E Tigereye made a visit to that airfield worthwhile. The ROCAF still uses the aged F-16A models, though they are scheduled to receive some proper avionic upgrades in the near future. Seeing the combat air patrol (CAP) flying with live AIM-7 Sparrow missiles was of course a special treat!
The second airfield on the Eastern coast during the tour was Tainan, where amongst 3 Squadrons flying the F-5E/F Tiger II the Aggressor Squadron is based. Regrettably no flying activity that day left the memory cards rather empty with just some photos of the green surroundings…
The aforementioned bad weather dictated also the schedule for the visit to the airfields in the South-West of the country: Pingtung, Gangshan and Tainan.
A rather interesting mix of aircraft can be seen there: amongst others the indigenous AT-3 used as jet trainer aircraft at Gangshan as well as the ROCAF Museum, the interesting mix of the venerable anti-submarine S-2T Turbo Tracker and the modern airborne early-warning E-2T/E-2K Hawkeye at Pingtung and of course the locally-build fighter-bomber AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo based in strength at Taitung.
Many days and kilometres spend in-between these airfields helped a lot to get the desired shots, and some sights of the Taiwanese nightlife made the missed photo opportunities forget.
The visit to the museum at Gangshan is also a ‘must see’: not only does the outside display area offer a multitude of different ROCAF aircraft types, but also additionally to the stories about ‘Mainland China’ defectors – or freedom-seekers, as they are also being called – several MiG-types and even an Il-28 flown in by PLAAF pilots are displayed outside. Furthermore the spy flights over mainland China form a big part of the exhibition as well as the story about the world-famous “Flying Tigers”.
What remains from this trip are impressions of a beautiful landscape, very nice people and the desire to come back again!