Taiwanese air force jets screamed into the sky on Wednesday in a drill simulating a war scenario, showing combat readiness amid heightened military tensions with Beijing, which claims the island as its own.
Before take-off, flight crews at a base in the southern city of Chiayi - home to US-made F-16 fighter jets that are frequently scrambled to intercept mainland China's warplanes - rushed to ready aircraft as an alarm sounded.
The exercises were part of a three-day drill to show Taiwan's battle readiness ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of this month.
Tensions across the sensitive Taiwan Strait have been rising in the past few years, with Taiwan complaining of repeated missions by Beijing's air force near the island.
Mainland military aircraft frequently fly into the southwestern part of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ), airspace around the island that Taiwan monitors and patrols.
"With the very high frequency of Communist planes entering our ADIZ, pilots from our wing are very experienced and have dealt with almost all types of their aircraft," Major Yen Hsiang-sheng said, recalling a mission in which he was sent to intercept People's Liberation Army J-16 fighters late last year.
Beijing has not ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Taiwan has termed Beijing's activities as "grey zone" warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwan's forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test its responses.
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