Taiwan's Pacific coast is becoming an 'Achilles' heel.' Photo: Google Maps

A joint drill by the Taiwan navy and air force has been scheduled for this week off the island’s Pacific coast to mock a People’s Liberation Army circumnavigation operation turning into a full-blown attack.

Other scenarios include simulations of extracting pilots from jets downed by enemy fire.

Fighter jets from bases in western Taiwan will ascend in a deployment to fly to the three eastern counties of Yilan, Hualien and Taitung during the drill, while F-5 jets will fly in the opposite direction to fill the void to guard against China.

The navy is to rearrange its fleet formations and divide them into red and blue teams to simulate an invasion by the PLA Navy from the east, according to the Central News Agency.

An air force lieutenant has said the exercise would simulate real  combat and encourage the use of live armaments.

The Taiwan Army has just wrapped up its 34th annual anti-aggression war-game coded the Han Kuang in June, aimed at heightening preparedness and response levels on the island’s west coast in the event of a head-on strike from across the Taiwan Strait.

But analysts warned that the Pacific coast may become a potential “Achilles’ heel” now that Taiwan has effectively fortified the west coast and garrisoned much of its weaponry and defense capabilities there. The scenario of the PLA’s “attacks on the back” cannot be ruled out and the upcoming drill is a sign that Taiwan is also beefing up its defense on its “strategic rear.”

In another development, the defense ministry has indicated extra funding for F-16 upgrades to install automated ground collision avoidance systems and to boost the number and types of missiles the aircraft can carry, to maintain parity with the PLA’s tactical fighters.

The ministry is to increase the budget to NT$140.2 billion (US$4.56 billion) for this specific initiative.

The US government has agreed to supply the armaments and equipment identified in the budget, while an earlier scheme for F-16V performance improvement packages is to be followed as planned, according to the ministry.

Read more: F-16V to beef up Taiwan’s air defense against China’s J-20

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