The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF, Taiwan) is sending its Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft on subhunting and intelligence gathering missions to the Spratly Islands. The announcement, made by the country’s leadership, is controversial as several countries claim the Spratlys are theirs.
Taiwan received the first ex-US Navy Orions in September 2013. Flying out of Pintung North Airbase a dozen P-3Cs are planned to be operational at the end of this year, with eight delivered so far. Back then neighbouring China objected to the deal and the recent announcement by Taipei will probably not make Beijing happier. Both China’s claim the archipelago and are joined in their dispute by Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei that all seek the same thing: territory worth exploring because of expected oil reserves.
By 2016 both 33rd and 34th Squadrons at Pintung North are expected to reach full operational capability on the Orions. The island areas of Dongsha and Nansha and everything else of the southeastern coast of Taiwan have been given priority for the P-3 patrols. The Spratly Islands are 870 miles (1,400 km) away, well within the combat radius of the Orion which is 1,300 miles (about 2,500 km).
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An ex-US Navy P-3C Orion of the Republic of China Air Force (Image © Lockheed Martin)