Taiwan's air raid alert systems include sirens and text messages sent to residents. Photo: handout

Taiwan’s annual air defense drill to prepare the island against an aerial and missile offensive by the Chinese military will see expanded use of an island-wide air-raid alert system that, among other functions, will send text messages to civilians when a major blitz is imminent.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry revealed that the system, already tested last year in central and southern counties, would be tried out more extensively throughout the island this week during a simulated missile strike as part of a broader air defense drill.

The ministry said the drill, held alongside the annual Han Kuang anti-invasion exercise, is aimed at testing the coverage of civilian alert systems, checking whether they would be activated promptly to assist evacuation and rescues by first responders.

The Taiwanese military is of the view that it’s unlikely the People’s Liberation Army will launch an indiscriminate air strike or aerial bombing that targets urban centers, given the fact that the PLA favors precision strikes in its bid to recapture the self-ruled island.

However, Taiwan’s military strategists still stress the need to install extensive air-strike warning systems in major cities to alert residents to seek shelter – by hiding in nearby underground air-raid shelters, for example.

Dissemination of information via radio, television and internet has also been carefully coordinated. The focal point of the warning system is the capital city of Taipei, home to more than 3 million residents.

If the Defense Ministry declares a state of emergency due to attacks, invasion or simply what it deems a very high risk of military conflict, sirens will warn the public. The sirens are controlled by the Taiwanese army.

Other than the ongoing drill, there are annual or semi-annual test runs that are often held on commemorative dates, usually associated with World War II. There have also been some commemorative blarings during the memorial periods of some major disasters.

Another training method is to have fighter jets, including the F-16 and the Mirage 2000, as well as other military aircraft conduct emergency landing and takeoffs on some sections of national expressways in the island’s Changhua county when an air-raid warming is in force.

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