Taiwan expects to strengthen its tiny military outpost on an islet off the mainland province of Fujian before the end of this year, with the deployment of its home-grown short-range automated defence system. The plan to step up Dongyin’s combat capability follows concerns raised in February when a small civilian aircraft from the mainland flew near the islet, which is part of the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago. There was speculation the People’s Liberation Army was using the Harbin Y-12 to ramp up pressure on Taiwan by testing its response measures ahead of a potential attack aimed at returning the self-ruled island to mainland control. Dongyin lies less than 50km (30 miles) east of Fujian and has often been regarded as one of the islets which might be seized by the PLA before launching an attack on the island of Taiwan itself. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to take Taiwan, which it claims as part of its territory, and has heaped pressure on the island’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen in a bid to push her to agree to unification talks. In a report sent to the legislature last week, the Taiwanese defence ministry said testing of the weapons system was complete, and asked lawmakers to unfreeze funding for its deployment. “The army is expected to finish installing the weapon before the end of September and a full inspection and takeover of the system is expected before the end of November,” the report said, adding the system should be operational before the end of the year. The military has budgeted NT$725 million (US$24.8 million) for seven sets of the system, four of which should be deployed in Wuchiu – another small islet in the Taiwan-controlled Quemoy islands, also known as Kinmen, near Fujian province – around June, according to the report. The deal, with the top Taiwanese weapons builder National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, includes two sets of command-and-control systems, as well as site construction and the installation of associated facilities. The developer said the short-range automated system features two T-75 20mm autocannons mounted side by side, along with associated sensors, power, and command-and-control equipment. Some military experts have said the Taiwanese system is comparable to the US Phalanx close-in weapon system which can fire against incoming threats – such as small boats, surface torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters – at close range. Mainland Chinese Y-12 plane sent ‘to test Taiwan’s frontline response’ The home-grown system can be mounted on armoured vehicles, naval vessels and in fixed ground positions. Its turrets can rotate 360 degrees at a maximum speed of 60 degrees per second at an elevation from 15 degrees to 85 degrees. The system also features on-board optical imagery identification, target tracking, and fire control which ensures fast, fierce, vicious and accurate firepower, according to the institute. The mainland Chinese aircraft’s fly-by of Dongyin in February was first reported by local residents. The Taiwanese defence ministry later confirmed the plane did not fly directly over the islet, contrary to initial reports. The ministry said military units on the islet had taken appropriate measures to monitor the plane’s movements and would not rule out the possibility the PLA was using the plane to test Taiwan’s response measures.