Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Manufacturers puzzled by navy's errant torpedo


The German manufacturer of a heavyweight torpedo that the navy secretly bought over a decade ago has sent representatives to Taiwan to help the navy find out why one of these torpedoes went out of control during the Sept. 4 Hankuang No. 19 exercise, but without success, defense sources said yesterday.

The German representatives and the navy failed to reach an agreement on why the SUT torpedo went out of control in the Hankuang No. 19 exercise.

An argument flared up in a recent meeting about the incident at the navy's general headquarters after navy representatives said that the torpedo might be a defective product.

The German representatives insisted that their product operates perfectly if the users strictly follow the instructions in the torpedo's manual, defense sources said.

With the two sides pointing fingers at each other, the real reasons why the torpedo malfunctioned remains a mystery.

The torpedo was the first live one that the navy had fired from a submarine in 15 years. It had been launched from one of the navy's two modern submarines and was supposed to hit a decommissioned Yang-class destroyer. The torpedo went out of control after the launch because a wire that connected it to the submarine snapped, according to the navy. It is still uncertain why the wire broke.

The out-of-control torpedo prompted the submarine to dive deeper to avoid being hit. The torpedo was missing for hours, but was recovered later the same evening at a beach in Ilan.

While the real cause of the incident remains unknown, the navy is on the verge of promoting some officials who could be held responsible if the torpedo were discovered to have malfunctioned because of human error, sources said.

Rear-Admiral Shen Po-chih (申柏之), deputy commander of the Kaohsiung-based fleet command, is one of the naval officials who is about to benefit from his participation in the Hankuang exercise.

Shen, who was responsible for arranging the navy's ma-neuvers in the exercise, is sche-duled to be promoted to Vice-Admiral next month at the earliest. He specializes in submarine warfare, being one of the followers of former navy commander-in-chief and incumbent Chief of the General Staff Admiral Li Chieh (李傑).

Shen's planned promotion has raised some eyebrows in the navy. Opposing naval officials have said that Shen's promotion should be held back until he is cleared of responsibility for the incident.

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