The US agreed last month to sell to Taiwan high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), a counter to China's radar sites along the coastline, defense sources said yesterday.
The platform for the HARM is the F-16 fighter plane, which already has an interface for the operation of the missile.
The missile would be used mainly against the radars for the Russian-made S-300 air defense systems deployed in Fujian Province, which faces Taiwan across the Strait.
Given that the HARM is an offensive weapon, the US agreed to sell just 20 of the missiles.
The US made the agreement last month as a Taiwan military delegation led by deputy chief of the general staff Admiral Fei Hung-po (費鴻波) visited Washington for top-level military talks between the two countries.
Taiwan had asked the US to sell the HARM last year during annual arms talk between the two countries, but without success.
Although the US agreed to sell just 20 HARMs, it could help neutralize the threat that the S-300 systems pose to Taiwan's fighter planes.
China now deploys two batteries of S-300 systems in Fujian's Fuzhou and Xiamen.
Another one is in Guangdong Province's Shantou.
The three batteries form a tight air defense network along China's southeastern coast, with coverage of the entire Taiwan Strait.
The radar of the S-300 has a detection range of 200km, which means that most fighter planes taking off from bases in western parts of Taiwan would be spotted shortly after takeoff or before entering the Taiwan Strait.
The Taiwan Strait has a width of between 130km and 220km.
The S-300 air defense network, though a great threat to Taiwan's fighter planes, would be vulnerable under the attacks of HARMs, which were successful against Iraq's air defense radars during the Gulf War.
A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the first 20 HARMs will be deployed at a squadron in the Chiayi-based 455th F-16 fighter wing. The official declined to reveal which F-16 squadron would be equipped with the HARMs.
"No matter which F-16 squadron is to have the lethal weapons, that squadron is surely to become the only unit to be assigned with the task of attacking China's radar sites," the official said.
"The 20 HARMs the US is to sell to us do not include any training missiles. It will put the air force in a difficult situation. The air force will not be able to launch any live-fire tests of the missiles since it has only 20," he said.
The HARM would likely cost around US$300,000 each.
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