When I was offered a seat on a trial trip with 4Aviation destination Taiwan I did not hesitate and signed in immediately. I heard a lot of positive things about this country regarding spotting. The diversity of aircraft types is noteworthy giving it is not such a big country. A combo of imported (French, American) and own designs. Exploring this with a small group of friends sounded sweet.
The main reason for our visit were the aircraft. And these we saw in great numbers. Even with the two major setbacks we experienced. The first one was the weather. We had a lot of cloudy and sometimes rainy days. Not typical for the time of our visit. Secondly a F-CK-1 aircraft suffered an engine failure resulting in a day of no flying, when we were at one of the bases were these birds are stationed. So a change of plans was necessary to compensate for this unfortunate event. Luckily the island is not that big so plans can be changed rather quickly.
Spotting is allowed in Taiwan, but not as easy as for instance in Japan. All the bases have a high concrete wall around it, with manned guard towers. Impossible to see what is happening on base. But that is only a minor setback. Only exception is Hsinchu. Here it’s also a hide and seek game between the spotters and the military police. Resulting in checks and discussions at one base and a friendly greet at another one.
The following bases were visited.
Located in the North of Taiwan. It is the home to the 499th Tactical Fighter Wing, with three squadrons of Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighters. Spotting at this location is no problem. There are many spotters around so the security will leave you alone. Spots to see the aircraft are plentiful. We stood on the south side of the base on a raised dam. So a good view on the base and even better for the landing aircraft.
Ganshan (Kangshan) airbase
Located in the Southwest of Taiwan. Home of the Air Force Academy. AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chiang and Beech T-34C aircraft are stationed here. We were standing at the south side of the airbase and then you really have no clue what is going on at the airbase. So it’s old school spotting, keeping your eyes open for arriving aircraft. Spotting surrounded by fish farms is quite calming and was a first for me.
Located in the West of Taiwan, is the home to the 455th Tactical Fighter Wing, with four squadrons of Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters. Another perfect example of old school spotting. Luckily F-16’s are noisy so you have an idea how many are taking off. For the rest it is waiting for arrivals. We also had the biggest issues at this base. The security was at our location within minutes from arrival. One of them never left our group during our stay.
Located in the Northeast of Taiwan. It is the home to the 445th Tactical Fighter Wing, with four squadrons of Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters. And one squadron with F-5F and RF-5E planes. Absolutely the best place to go spotting. The mountain backdrop is quite spectacular. As always only landing pictures are possible. The spotting places themselves are near busy roads. The only exception is the north side of the base. Then you have the calming sounds of the ocean to deal with, while standing in a pedestrian park.
Located in the West of Taiwan, is the home to the 427th Tactical Fighter Wing, with three squadrons of AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo air-defense /attack fighters. It is also used by the army's airborne and special operations command. Spotting in a newly developed park was very peaceful. Only main drawback was that the aircraft are still quite high at this location. Supposedly the spotting places at the north side of this base are much better.
Located in the Southwest of Taiwan. It is the home to the 443rd Tactical Fighter Wing, with three squadrons of AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo air-defense /attack fighters. Similar like spotting at Kleine Brogel. Nice and quiet in the fields. Friendly security checks, no hassle. Only drawback is that they have two parallel runways. So it is anyone’s guess which one they will use to land. Luckily the flying is plentiful so if you stick with one location you see a lot at this base.
Located in the Southeast of Taiwan. It is the home to the 7th Tactical Fighter Wing, with three squadrons of Northrop F-5E/F fighters. The only airbase where we were able to photograph the aircraft during take-off and landing with a splendid elevated view on base. Thanks to our ideally located hotel. The roof terrace gave us a splendid view on base. A complimentary breakfast while spotting was even more relaxing. Sometimes things just work out.
All in all it was nice relaxing trip with some minor setbacks. But we saw a lot of planes. And had heaps of fun. But I never got the feeling of going back, like I got during my first time in Japan.
As a rebellious state of China I was hoping they would lean more towards the Japanese way of thinking and living. But sadly this was not the case. The country is overcrowded and run down.
Text & Photography: Ludo Kloek