Missiles a priority, Tsai tells ministry

EVOLVING THREAT::A defense ministry official said the ministry has pushed up production of Tien Kung III missile systems to finish two years ahead of schedule

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Jan 30, 2019 - Page 1

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has ordered the Ministry of National Defense to prioritize deploying air defense missile systems to counter the changing nature of the military threat against Taiwan.

Tsai yesterday spoke to military recruits after her tour of Taichung’s Chenggong Ling (成功嶺) military training camp, where she inspected live-fire sharpshooter practice and had lunch at the canteen.

Tsai said she recently toured an installation of Tien Kung III air defense weapons systems in Hualien, visited the 53rd Engineer Group in Taoyuan, and instructed the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology to accelerate missile production.

She has a personal interest in seeing the policies through, thus fulfilling her promise to develop a self-sufficient defense industry, Tsai said.

The Tien Kung III is a hypersonic anti-ballistic missile that was developed by the institute following the 1996 Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.

Tsai said her earlier activities in Taichung that day included inspecting the Indigenous Defense Fighter jets at Taichung’s Ching Chuan Kang Air Base (清泉崗) and presenting commendations to the 58th Artillery Command for outstanding performance in a recent drill.

An advanced training jet is expected to make its first flight soon, she added.

“Your reasons for joining the armed forces, whatever they might be, are the right reasons, and your commanding officers made the same important decision before you,” she said.

Army Commander General Wang Shin-lung (王信龍) joined the service from a poor family and forged his future through military service, she added.

“As the commander-in-chief, I hope that good soldiers will become catalysts for social change, and that rigorous training will give troops combat skills, teamwork, endurance and professionalism,” she said.

Officers in charge of troops must employ effective training techniques, protect the welfare of recruits, and inspire by leadership and personal example, she said.

The Tien Kung III and the US-made MIM-104F Patriot missile are to become the backbone of the nation’s air defense arsenal, a defense official said yesterday, on condition of anonymity.

The military in 2007 began to procure Patriot missiles and the missile batteries would be fully deployed in two years if delivery of the remaining orders is not disrupted, the official said.

Total cost of the Patriot missiles is estimated to reach NT$26 billion (US$843.85 million) by next year, the official added.

Ministry officials are complying with Tsai’s instructions to speed up mass production of the Tien Kung III, the official said, adding that the completion date has been pushed up to 2022, two years ahead of schedule.

As a result, over the next four years, the defense budget would balloon faster than anticipated, they said.

Additional reporting by Lo Tien-pin