Taiwan’s top military research institute last month test-fired a powerful new anti-ship missile that could send a strong signal to China as it launches its first aircraft carrier, a reports said yesterday.
According to the Chinese-language United Daily News, the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology completed a series of tests of the missile, which has been referred to as a variant of the Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) anti-ship missile.
The HF-3, showcased at the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition in August last year as a “carrier killer,” is a ramjet-powered, 120kg payload supersonic anti-ship missile with an estimated range of between 130km and 150km and a maximum speed of Mach 2, or about twice the speed of sound.
Because of their limited range, HF-3s deployed on ground launchers along the west coast of Taiwan are unable to reach certain targets across the Taiwan Strait or out at sea, and force ships armed with the missile to come dangerously close to their targets, thus exposing them to strikes before they can launch an attack.
The variant, which the Ministry of National Defense, citing protocol on weapons development, refused to discuss, is reported to have a range of 400km and is capable of reaching Mach 3.
Quoting an unnamed defense industry source, the US-based Defense News reported in April that Taiwan was developing a new type of anti-ship cruise missile that, once operational, would be deployed on the east coast and directed across the Strait at the Chinese coast. Such positioning would use mountain range cover against Chinese missiles while still bringing targets navigating the Strait within range. It would also extend the range within which land-based launchers can attack vessels in the Western Pacific.
The reports did not provide a payload for the variant, though a payload greater than 120kg would be necessary for it to constitute a real threat to aircraft carriers.
The news comes about one month after the Chinese military commissioned the Liaoning, its first aircraft carrier, following years of refurbishing work on a Ukraine-built hull formerly known as the Varyag.
The Chinese defense ministry only officially confirmed late last month that naval pilots on board indigenously built J-15 aircraft had conducted “touch-and-go” exercises last month as they learn to operate at sea.
The Liaoning embarked on a 19-day sea exercise on Sunday, during which pilots will reportedly conduct further landings.
In addition to the Liaoning, military analysts believe China is developing two or three aircraft carriers, with a possible entry into service as early as 2020.