An eight-wheel armored vehicle was added to the growing list of home-made military systems yesterday.
The CM-32 light-armored vehicle (LAV), dubbed "Yunpao" (Cloud Leopard), made its debut yesterday at a launch ceremony attended by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Chen said the name was chosen to represent the vehicle's "mobility, agility and firepower."
"After two years' exhaustive research and hard work, the new armored vehicle has completed its initial trials and has proven able to meet its demands on the battleground," Chen said during the ceremony, which was held at a military base in Nantou County.
"We named the armored vehicle `Yunpao' because it is agile and swift, just like Taiwan's cloud leopard," he said.
The Yunpao was developed by the military and industrial research institutions in a NT$700 million (US$21.9 million) project launched in 2002. Three prototypes had been produced, with the latest recently completing its testing phase.
Chen said the military will pass on technological know-how to private companies to produce more units of the new armored vehicle.
"We believe the Yunpao project will create business opportunities worth billions of dollars for the private sector, including production, components, maintenance and repairs," Chen said, adding that the project would be a "win-win" scenario for both national defense and economic development.
Chen called on the public to support government policies aimed at strengthening self-defense and to recognize the government's efforts in developing a partnership between the public and the armed forces.
He said that Taiwan faced constant hostility from China, which had increased its military spending and was suppressing the nation's "breathing space" in the international community.
Yesterday's ceremony included demonstrations of the Yunpao climbing a steep grade and driving over low walls. With a thumbs-up, an animated and helmeted Chen posed for photographers in the gunner's seat before going for a ride in the vehicle.
Chen also rebutted a report which said one Yunpao unit had been manufactured solely for the use of the president and his family.
"It's not like that at all. That report has maliciously vilified the nation's forces as well as A-bian," Chen said, using his nickname.
He added that neither he nor members of his family would use the armored vehicle.
"The Yunpao armored vehicle will only be used to defend the nation and its people," he said.
The Yunpao can travel at more than 100kph and is equipped with a 25mm gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. The Yunpao will become the army's most powerful armored vehicle when mass production starts in 2007. Its firepower will surpass that of the armored personnel carriers now in service.