Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Glitches tarnish slickly choreographed exercise

NATIONAL DEFENSE The military showcased its prowess in missile defense and anti-invasion operations, but not without a few hiccups

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN ILAN

The military held its biggest-ever live-fire exercises in Ilan County yesterday, but the tightly scripted show was slightly marred by technical problems, including two missiles that exploded prematurely as the president watched.

"The Han Kuang military exercises actually began on Monday [July 17] and will last for a week," said Colonel Max Yu (余宗基), a spokesman for the 901st Reserve Brigade. "The main purpose of the exercises is to practice and simulate the resolution of anti-landing and urban warfare."

Approximately 21,000 military personnel, including 13,000 active duty troopers and 8,000 reservists participated in yesterday's Han Kuang (Han Glory) exercise, which is an annual large-scale military drill.

The entire event was organized at Litsechien Beach in Ilan County, and began at 9am, when two Hawk anti-air missiles destroyed two Sky Bow missiles simulating Chinese Dongfeng-11 ballistic missiles. Following this, two Patriot PAC-2 anti-air missiles destroyed two more simulated attack missiles.

After the missile show, PFG-933 -- the Knox-class frigate Fong Yang -- launched an SM-1 surface-to-air missile to shoot down an aerial flare, which was simulating a People's Liberation Army Air Force aircraft.

Two Ching-kuo Indigeneous Defense Fighters (IDFs) -- locally produced two-engine fighters -- flew by at high speeds, launching two Sky Sword air to air missiles to destroy two other simulated Chinese aircraft.

However, another two IDFs aborted their missions to launch their AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, because -- officials said -- the pilots could not aim at the targets due to the angle of the sun.

In his speech after the drill, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who was accompanied by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), did not comment on the glitch.

"Today, national defense does not only concern the military anymore. We want to promote the idea that it is everybody's job to protect his country instead of leaving the job to the military. I think the military has done a good job," Chen said.

As the missile show came to an end, one AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile malfunctioned and plunged into the sea after it was launched, while two TOW-2B anti-armor missiles failed, exploding less than 500m in front of Chen's observation stand.

A military officer told the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity that the expiration date for a TOW missile is about 15 years, however, most of the army's TOW missiles are more than 20 years old, which increases their chance of failure.

After the missile show ended, the observers were taken to the Ilan County Council building, where "Chinese" paratroopers were trying to land, occupy buildings and destroy infrastructure, while reserve troops were trying to defend the area.

A total of 144 paratroopers, including Major General Meng Ching-yu (孟慶宇), head of the 862nd Airborne Brigade, jumped out of C-130 Hercules tranports and landed in front of the Ilan County Council building. The exercise ended around 1pm.

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