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Sat, Feb 17, 2001 - Page 3 News List

US military to help army with new air defense system

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A US military delegation is to arrive in Taiwan to assist the army in bringing a newly-delivered anti-aircraft missile system into service on schedule, a defense source told the Taipei Times yesterday.

The delegation is comprised of active-duty officers ranging from lieutenant colonel to major. They are to fly from South Korea, where they are stationed.

The mission of the delegation is to help Taiwan's army deploy the vehicle-mounted Avenger air defense system, which uses the Stinger missile against fighter jets.

"South Korea is topographically similar to Taiwan. US military personnel stationed in South Korea can provide us with advice on how to accommodate the Avenger system within the context of Taiwan's topography," an army official said.

The Avenger was delivered to Taiwan last year and is scheduled to become operational this March. It is not clear how many units the army has bought.

"It is normal and necessary for the US military to provide technical assistance for weapons bought from their country. It doesn't mean we have problems in deploying the new Avenger system into service," the official said.

The Avenger is based on a HMMWV (high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle) with a turret launcher in the rear, which is loaded with eight Stinger missiles at the same time.

It is to become the army's best short-range air defense missile system. For longer-range targets, the army has the HAWK and Patriot PAC-II missiles. The Avenger's maximum effective range is 4.5km.

The Avenger is to be deployed in both Taiwan proper and a number of offshore islands to enhance the air defense capabilities of local missile troops.

Besides the Avenger, the army has also bought in the DMS (dual-mounted stinger) variant of the Stinger missile, which is pedestal-mounted and requires two to three soldiers for handling. The two variants of the Stinger missile, the Avenger and DMS, were part of an arms sales agreement which Taiwan reached with the US in 1998.

The coming into operation of the two new air defense systems casts a shadow on prospects for locally-developed weapons of similar capabilities to win orders from the military.

The Avenger has an equivalent in Taiwan -- the indigenously-made land-based Sky Sword I air defense system. It is a variant of the Sky Sword I air-to-air missile now in service with the air force. It was developed by the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST).

The army has never shown interest in buying the land-based Sky Sword I missile system, which boasts double the range of the Avenger.

The air force is the only branch of the armed forces to have placed orders to purchase the system, but only a small number for what the air force describes as "experimental purposes."

"There's already a place in the weapons museum for the land-based Sky Sword I," said Erich Shih (施孝瑋), a senior editor with the Defense International magazine.

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