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Fri, Feb 02, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Military to test-fire new anti-ship missile in April

DEFENSE Designed to be Taiwan's answer to the Russian Sunburn missile being deployed by China, the Hsiung Feng-III resembles a US Harpoon missile

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The military plans to test-fire the domestically developed Hsiung Feng-III (雄風三號飛彈) anti-ship missile in April as part of the final trials of the new weapon system before putting it into service, according to defense sources.

The test-firing is to take place off the east coast to coincide with the Hankuang No. 17 joint-force exercise, which will be launched around the same time in southern Taiwan.

It is expected to cause spy ships and submarines from various countries to converge off the east coast to collect information on the new high-tech weapon.

Several years ago, a US navy Los Angeles-class submarine was spotted off an island near the east coast where the air force was testing Mica air-to-air missiles bought from France.

The result of the test-firing of the Hsiung Feng-III will affect the scheduled time for the new missile to enter mass production and become operational.

The missiles are set to go into production at the end of the year.

In June, the military leadership will make a decision on the matter according to the performance of the new missile during its pre-service trials.

In this year's defense budget, there is an unidentified sum of money for preparations for the missile to become operational.

The Hsiung Feng-III missile will become the latest and highest-specification locally built anti-ship missile in the armed services, if it passes muster.

It is the third generation of Hsiung Feng-series anti-ship missiles. Its developer is the military-run Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST).

CSIST staff say that the new missile surpasses the lethal Russian-made Sunburn anti-ship missile in range. The Chinese navy has acquired dozens of Sunburns for use on its two Sovremenny-class destroyers.

The Hsiung Feng-III is said to have a range of around 600km and a speed of over Mach 2, while the Sunburn, which also travels at twice the speed of sound, is reportedly limited in range to 240km.

Powered by a ramjet engine, the missile can attack not only surface targets but also targets in harbors, a defense official said.

"It is equivalent to the newest version of the US Harpoon anti-ship missile, which can either engage moving ships or static targets in harbors," the official said.

"There is only a minor distinction between an anti-ship missile of this kind and a cruise missile. The Hsiung Feng-III missile is to have a cruise missile variant in the future. CSIST is working on it," he said.

Unlike its two previous versions, the Hsiung Feng-III is a vertically launched missile like the US Harpoon missile. This marks a breakthrough in CSIST missile launch development technology.

A vertical launch can greatly widen the angle of attack of the missile while at the same time reducing the radar cross section of the weapon.

It is not known what type of ships will be equipped with the Hsiung Feng-III missile, but it could end up on either Lafayette-class or Chengkung-class frigates.

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