Fri, Jul 13, 2001 - Page 12 News List

A better indigenous missile defense

By Wendell Minnick

The US and France provide many of the missiles of choice for Tai-wan's military, but times are slow-ly turning in favor of Taiwan's indigenous missile program.

The military-run Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (中科院, CSIST) has designed a wide range of missiles, and Tai-wan has the engineering talent to push the envelope of missile development.

Taiwan often complains that its missile development has been encumbered by US pressure. It is true that the CIA stopped Tai-wan's nuclear weapons program and halted production of the surface-to-surface Tien Ma (天馬) missile during the 1980s.

The Tien Ma had a range of 1,000km, capable of hitting Shanghai. Taiwan managed to produce an unknown number before production stopped. It is unlikely they are still operational, but rumors persist they are hid-den in the Central Mountain Range.

A brief look at Taiwan's indigenous missile program will ex-plain why China should think twice about attacking and why US interference appears to be in vain.

The first reason is the air-to-air Tien Chien (天劍) missile which was first test-fired in 1986. Since then, the Tien Chien-1 has evolved into the fire-and-forget TC-2 in 1994, with a range of 100km at Mach 4, and is outfitted on Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Fighter. The earlier TC-1 has been adapted into the mobile ground-to-air Antelope Air De-fense System.

The surface-to-air Tien Kung (天弓) missile was developed during the early 1980s as an anti-aircraft ground-based system. In 1985 a TK-1 successfully intercepted a Hawk missile. Development improved and in 1996 the TK-2 was deployed with an active radar seeker, 90kg warhead, and a range of 200km at Mach 4.3.

TK-3 development began in 1996 as a low-altitude anti-missile defense system expected to be in service by 2005 if development continues. Many fear the acquisition of more US Patriot anti-ballistic missiles will hamper the TK-3's development.

Considered one of Taiwan's most mysterious projects, the surface-to-surface short-range Tien Chi (天戟) missile is an advanced version of the TK-2 with a larger warhead and a range of 100km. Reportedly, the Tien Chi was first test-fired in 1997 at about the same time the TK-3 was being developed, but little else is known about the missile.

Taiwan has also developed the anti-ship Hsiung Feng (雄風) missile. The Hsiung Feng 1 began development in the 1980s. It is used as a land-based coastal defense weapon and is carried aboard navy ships. In the early 1990s the HF-2 went into service on Cheng Kung-class (Perry-class) frigates. The HF-2 has a range of 150km and features dual infra-red/active radar.

A marked improvement over the HF-1 was the development of an air-launched version for the IDF in 1996.

The next step was the HF-3 with increased range to 200km at Mach 2.0. Improvements include a vertical launch system, which widens the attack angle, and a ramjet engine. The HF-3 is sche-duled to go into production at the end of this year.

The land attack cruise missile, designated Hsiung Feng 2E, based on the HF-2, has a range of 1,000km. Though only in its development stages, the HF-2E will be a major advance for Tai-wan. For the first time, Taiwan will be able to attack targets as far away as Shanghai.

In December 1999, officials from Taiwan hinted at plans for the development of medium-range surface-to-surface missiles. Many analysts saw this as the resurrection of the Tien Ma. Recent press accounts have described a medium-range missile with a range of 1,000 to 2,000km. This would put all of China's major political and economic hubs in range, including Beijing.

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