ROC airmen contributed greatly to Taiwan's safety in Cold War

Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) Two Republic of China Air Force squadrons that were responsible for reconnaissance flights in China during the Cold War contributed greatly to Taiwan's safety after the ROC government was defeated by Chinese communists and relocated to Taiwan. The two units were the Black Bat Squadron and Black Cat Squadron, which worked with the United States Central Intelligence Agency to collect intelligence in China in return for U.S. assistance. The Black Bat Squadron, formally the ROC Air Force's 34th Squadron, made flights -- some as low as 30 meters to avoid radar detection -- over China at night to drop agents and gather military intelligence. Flying unarmed planes, the pilots relied on nothing but electronic equipment and their own skill to avoid enemy aircraft. From 1952 to 1972, the squadron lost 15 planes and 148 members -- about two-thirds of its force -- suffering the heaviest casualties of any ROC Air Force unit since the ROC government relocated to Taiwan in 1949. The Air Force's 35th Squadron, known as the Black Cat Squadron, was formed in 1961 and assigned to high-altitude reconnaissance missions using the famous U-2 spy planes, which are considered the most challenging aircraft in the world to fly. To maintain their operational altitude of 70,000 feet, U-2 planes have to fly at near maximum speed, which is only 10 knots above the aircraft's stall speed at that altitude, a narrow edge known as the "coffin corner." Twenty-eight airmen in that squadron flew a total of 220 high-altitude missions between 1962 and 1974, and 10 pilots died in the line of duty. (By Rogge Chen and Scully Hsiao)