Taiwan (or as many find it, the Republic of China) has recently been on MAR’s radar due to the vast number of possibilities for photography and the unique and vast array of aircraft that can be found in this country. In October 2019, MAR spent roughly a week travelling all around Taiwanese Air Bases, and in most cases the weather cooperated beautifully resulting in amazing shots that the team will treasure forever.
The first day of our trip let us to an open day held by the Taiwanese air force at Tainan Air Base. We had to apply beforehand to be able to access and enter the base as usually these open days are not open for foreigners. Following the necessary checks, we were finally able to enter and start taking pictures of the static. This was already a success for us as during these air shows, Taiwan shows off almost every type from its military aviation portfolio, from air force trainers, to army helicopters, to cargo aircraft and frontline fighter aircraft.
The following day was a Sunday, and we spent the morning in the approach at Chiayi air base. Chiayi is home to three squadrons flying the Lockheed Martin F-16A/B (21st TFG, 22nd TFG, & 23rd TFG) as well as a rescue squadron flying the UH-60M/S-70. While doing some research we learnt that Taiwan Air Force flies in the weekends too. We were treated to several F-16s landing after their morning missions, including the solo demo F-16 that had participated in the airshow the day before in Tainan. We were also treated to several examples of the new F-16V that Taiwan has recently purchased, in a contract worth 8.1 billion dollars for 66 F-16V aircraft. A new ‘ninja’ squadron will be formed soon and will consist of a squadron of the F-16V operating from Chiayi Air Base. Despite the fact that we were tired, we enjoyed sitting in the shade waiting for F-16s to land on a sunny Sunday morning, not something you can easily do elsewhere around the world.
The following day was spent at two air bases. In the morning we went to Gangshan air base, home to the T-34s and AT-3s of the air force training academy. Firstly, a mass takeoff of around 15 T-34s took off early in the morning and after landing, another mass of approximately the same number of aircraft in the form of AT-3s took off for their missions. This was repeated again throughout the morning, leading to non stop action, much to our delight.
In the afternoon we relocated ourselves to the approach of Tainan air base, where we captured a whole lot of 20 AIDC F-CK-1D Ching Kuos (indigenous fighter manufactured in Taiwan). We had spent just 3 days in Taiwan until now, and we could already feel that we had already successfully achieved most of our objectives from this country.
The following day was a spare day, and we decided to travel to Chiayi early in the morning to capture the landings of the early morning wave. This was followed by a quick visit to Pingtung air base, that led to us capturing an E-2T hawkeye, and later on we travelled back to Chiayi to capture the landings of the afternoon waves. We then left early as we had a 3 hour drive to Taitung.
On Wednesday we woke up and stayed on the roof of our hotel, as we had booked a hotel close to the air base that provided elevated views on the base, allowing for some takeoff shots of the ROCAF F-5s. Similarly to other air bases, the F-5s all flew non stop for all morning, much to our pleasure as we were able to capture different serials and configurations, as well as different liveries of the various F-5s that are in service with Taiwan’s Air Force. Since the weather had deteriorated by 1pm, we decided to call it a day and travel up north towards Hualien, as we had a 4 hour long drive before reaching our destination.
Thursday proved to be the most difficult day weather-wise in Taiwan, with cloudy weather surrounding the base also owing to the mountains surrounding the base. However, pictures of F-16s were still possible due to the contrast created by the mountains. In the afternoon, we relocated onto a supermarket car park were we were able to view the base from an elevated position, allowing us to experiment with the types of photos we wished.
On Friday, we woke up at Hsinchu air base, home of the Mirage 2000s of the ROCAF. Again, we were surprised at how much the ROCAF flies, as we noted not less than 20 mirages just in the first morning mission. In the afternoon we relocated to another side of the base in order to try and capture frontal shots of the mirages as they taxied for departure from the left end. Again, this was a success a we managed to take perfect pictures by standing on a disused container present in a field.
This brought to an end our trip to Taiwan. It was truly an unbelievable experience and the weather helped make the tour unforgettable. Many thanks to the hospitality of the Taiwanese citizens and the military police who cordially helped us enjoy our hobby without creating too much hassle.