The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said it was looking into how a top-secret computer from a “stealth” warship went missing, amid concerns it might have fallen into Chinese hands.
The laptop, installed on board a Kuang Hua VI (KH-6)-class guided-missile vessel, disappeared late last month while the vessel was anchored at Zuoying (左營) in Greater Kaohsiung, the nation’s largest naval base, the military said.
After an initial investigation, the navy was unable to account for how the computer had gone missing.
“We admit that the navy exhibited some flaws in the control of personnel at the base,” a naval spokesman said, adding that military prosecutors had taken over the investigation of the case.
The laptop had been installed aboard the vessel for a six-month period, during which the ship’s crew carried out tests of confidential communications equipment and procedures.
Military spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) told a press conference that the notebook went missing on May 25.
“If China obtained the laptop, it would get the navy’s highly sensitive communications code as well as related missile data,” said Erich Shih (施孝瑋), an editor at the Taipei-based Defence International magazine.
However, Lo said the missing computer would not jeopardize the missile ship’s warfare capability because no military secrets were on the computer.
Major General Chang Kuan-chun (張冠群), vice head of the military’s Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, said the computer was used to conduct simple communication tests for the missile ship, and was consequently not equipped with advanced communications software.
The machine did not contain any software related to weapons systems, he said.
Colonel Lin Gau-joe (林高洲), acting general director of the information and communications research division at the institute, also denied that the device contained confidential information.
The laptop was only used to test a communications system for the navy and no classified information was involved, Lin said, adding that the case poses no threat to national security.
The institute — the defense ministry’s main research and development unit — is tasked with testing the communications systems on the Kuang Hua missile boats.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily reported that Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) was angered by the incident and ordered stiff punishments to be handed down after the investigation.
The boats are all equipped with “stealth technology,” enabling them to reduce their exposure to radar detection, the navy said.
The missile boats are each armed with four locally developed Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles, which have a range of 150km. A total of 31 KH-6s, split into three squadrons, have entered service since 2010.
Additional reporting by CNA