One of the top priorities of Taiwan's military this year will be to upgrade the individual equipment carried by its soldiers, President Tsai Ing-wen (???) said Thursday during an inspection of a live-fire drill in Pingtung County.
Noting that the soldiers participating in the exercise were wearing more modern locally designed digital camouflage uniforms, the president said the process of upgrading individual troop equipment and gear has to be speeded up.
"I promise you that the Ministry of National Defense will make it one of its top priorities this year to upgrade individual troop equipment," Tsai said during her first inspection of the annual Han Kuang series of exercises as commander-in-chief.
The modern digital camouflage uniforms, which were designed in 2011, are being distributed gradually to troops throughout the military, replacing older camouflage uniforms.
However, there have been reports that some military units in eastern Taiwan had not yet received the new uniforms as of May this year. The military has promised that the replacement will be completed by November.
The president said the military will improve if it faces its problems squarely, and reform will be achieved if everyone works together, despite the challenges.
"Safeguarding the country and its people is the responsibility of the military," said Tsai, who took office May 20. "We should all work together on that mission."
Tsai also expressed condolences to the families of four soldiers and officers who died in a tank accident last week on the way back to a military base after a drill in Pingtung.
The four soldiers will be promoted posthumously, she said.
During her speech, the president also said that a new military strategy, aimed at charting a fresh direction and changing the culture of Taiwan's armed forces, is being drafted and will be completed by next January.
The challenges in Taiwan's defense forces stem from structural restrictions both outside and inside the military, Tsai said.
She said that she stands firmly with Taiwan's troops, as their failings and accomplishments are hers as well.
Thursday's live-fire drill at a military training base was the largest of its kind in this year's five-day Han Kuang exercises that will run until Friday, simulating various scenarios of attacks by China. A total of 1,297 military personnel participated in the drill.
Various military aircraft, ships and tanks, as well as other equipment and weapons, have been deployed in the drill, the military said. Around 8,000 shells were fired during the drill, it added.
For the first time, the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter and the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter -- two recent additions to Taiwan's Army -- participated in the annual Han Kuang exercises.
In one of the scenarios, four Army Special Forces soldiers rappelled from a Black Hawk helicopter to join ground forces that were fending off a hostile force, while the Apaches were dispatched to fire rockets.
The artillery force on the ground was scheduled to fire four Javelin anti-tank guided missiles at simulated tank targets but one firing was canceled, while the other three missiles hit their targets, the military said.
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chen Chung-chi (???) explained that the source of heat on the fourth target disappeared, which meant the gunner of the portable anti-tank weapon could not find a specific target, and the launch was aborted for safety reasons.
The Javelin system incorporates a passive target acquisition and a fire control unit with thermal imaging capability.
Chen stressed that there was no problem with the weapon itself.
Also on Thursday, an anti-air landing drill was held on a farm in Pingtung to test the military's ability to fend off an air-landing attack.
The Han Kuang exercises, Taiwan's most important annual war games involving all three branches of the military, feature a set of live-fire drills that test the joint response by the Army, Navy and Air Force to simulated threats from China, according to the Ministry of National Defense.
The drills are usually held annually at several locations around Taiwan over a five-day period.
Source: Focus Taiwan