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Tue, Nov 07, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Tests of new air-to-air missile successful

DEFENSE The latest successful test of the domestically developed missile has fueled hopes in the air force that it can reduce its reliance on US-made Sparrow missiles


Tien Chien-II (TC-II) air-to-air missiles on display at Tainan Air Force base.


The air force recently successfully test-fired the indigenously developed Tien Chien-II (TC-II) air-to-air missile and has future tests planned, military sources said yesterday.

In the test, an Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF, 經國號) successfully shot down two of four target drones which the plane had simultaneously locked onto.

The TC-II, also known as Sky Sword-II, can track targets with its own radar.

It was not the first time that the TC-II had been tested since it entered service in 1994. But the recent successful test was important for the air force.

The test was significant in that it gave the air force its first chance to see whether the TC-II would work as well as it was supposed to in tough conditions.

The result was satisfactory to the air force because the TC-II was tested at its maximum level, scanning eight targets in sequence and securing a lock on four of them.

The successful test boosted the confidence of the air force about putting the missile to another test -- a more difficult one -- in the months to come.

The next test of the medium-range missile will determine whether it is capable of locking down and engaging hostile targets at low altitudes, as it was designed to do.

The TC-II is similar to its French and US equivalents, the Mica and the AIM-120. The three types of missiles fall into the same category -- the beyond-visual-range and fire-and-forget air-to-air missile.

Taiwan has already bought the Mica for use on the Mirage 2000-5 fighter plane. As for the AIM-120, Taiwan will not be able to acquire it for two years.

An air force official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the TC-II test means much more to the service than the test of the US-made Sparrow air-to-air missile, which also took place several months ago.

"The two missiles are on different footings. The TC-II has already joined the club of fire-and-forget missiles, while the Sparrow is an earlier-generation of medium-range air-to-air missiles," the official said.

"It is important to be aware that the TC-II is not only a much better weapon than the Sparrow but also more cost-effective," the official said. "We usually need to fire two Sparrows to ensure that the locked target will not be missed ... But we only need one TC-II to do the same job. What is the comparison?"

"If we have to count on the Sparrow to engage with invading aircraft from China, we will run out of the missiles very soon," he said.

"The TC-II has scared off even the most advanced fighter plane in the Chinese air force -- the Su-27. China has taken delivery of the equivalent to the TC-II -- the R-77 -- from Russia, but still has a long way to go because it is not yet fully capable of utilizing the new weapon," he added.

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