Mon, May 13, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Army plans to purchase new Patriot

NATIONAL DEFENSE Sources say the army has decided to buy the new Patriot PAC-III from the US to replace its Tien Kung systems at batteries in Taichung and Pingtung

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Tien Kung-II long-range surface-to-air missile was introduced to the public for the first time on Friday during a missile test held in Pingtung.

PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The army will deploy two batteries of the US-made Patriot PAC-III air-defense missile systems in Taichung and Pingtung counties next year at the earliest, defense sources said yesterday.

The army has completed a budget proposal for the purchase of the Patriot PAC-III system from the US and will send it to the legislature for screening and approval in the next session, the sources said.

The Patriots will replace locally built Tien Kung-series batteries at the two sites.

The replaced Tien Kung missiles will be taken out of service and stored as backup missiles.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Tien Kung missiles were being replaced because spare parts for the missiles were no longer being made.

"With two batteries of Tien Kung missiles serving as backup missiles, the army can use these missiles' components to keep other Tien Kung missiles still in service in good condition," the official said.

Two batteries comprise around 200 missiles.

The official declined to confirm that the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), the developer of the Tien Kung missiles, had already run short of spare parts, especially vital ones, for the missiles.

There are two types of Tien Kung missiles, I and II, and it is thought the components for both are made in the US, although the CSIST has never commented on this.

According to reports in the Chinese-language media earlier this year, the purchase of the Patriot PAC-III had been shelved because of budgetary constraints.

The arrival of the Patriot PAC-III will enhance the military's defensive capability as the Patriot PAC-II Plus system currently in service in Taiwan has only limited capabilities against ballistic missiles.

Taiwan has three Patriot PAC-II missile batteries deployed in the greater Taipei area.

The Chang Bai radar systems used in the missile systems will also be retired and can be used as the source of spare parts for other radar systems of the same kind still in service, sources said.

The army has six batteries of Tien Kung air defense systems around the country.

The six Tien Kung bases initially comprised only Tien Kung-I missiles, but have slowly been augmented since 1997 with the newly developed Tien Kung-II missiles.

The Tien Kung-II, which has been shrouded in secrecy since its development, was introduced to the public for the first time on Friday in a missile test held at a test site in Pingtung.

The missile test, watched by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), was a success, with the Tien Kung-II missile hitting a target drone at a ranged of 60km. The missile is said to have a range of 150km.

The missile test, held as part of the Hankuang No. 18 exercise, included the testing of the US-made Hawk anti-aircraft missile.

A retired Marines colonel at the test said the Tien Kung-II would be deployed on warships, especially the navy's Knox-class frigates.

China has deployed more than 300 short-range missiles along the coast facing Taiwan, although the Ministry of National Defense denied claims in the Washington Post earlier this month that another 20 missiles had been deployed recently.

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