Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Defense sector warns of Chinese laser-cannon threat

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

China has successfully developed a laser cannon with a range of over 100km and might have already deployed it in Fujian Province facing Taiwan, defense sources said yesterday.

Intelligence shows that the laser cannon might be able to paralyze the command and control systems of the military which are concentrated in the western parts of the country.

In response, the military has requested a NT$1 billion fund for preparations against potential laser attacks from China in the future.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that there were two different stories about the development and deployment of the new Chinese weapon.

"One version goes that the weapon is still under development. Another is that the weapon has already been deployed across the Taiwan Strait and that there are around 20 units in service," the official said.

"We tend to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We would rather believe that China has already developed such a weapon and that we should start making preparations as soon as possible," he said.

energy weapon

The laser cannon that China is believed to have successfully developed is a kind of high-energy weapon that only a few countries, such as the US and Israel, are developing.

Not much information is available from public channels as to the new Chinese weapon, but there have been quite some reports in the west about the development of laser cannons of similar or different sorts.

The US has plans to develop an airborne laser, carried on a Boeing 747 aircraft, for the purposes of shooting down ballistic missiles.

In 2000, the US and Israel successfully shot down two rockets with a jointly-developed laser cannon in tests held at a site in the US.

Chang Li-teh (張立德), a senior editor with Defense Technology Monthly magazine, said it is possible that China had successfully developed a laser cannon with Taiwan in its range.

"The US' airborne laser was designed to have a range of between 200 and 300km. If the system could strike that far from an aircraft, it should be able to reach much further launched from land," Chang said.

"Such laser weapons depend on power supply for effectiveness. A land-based laser cannon has a much greater power supply than airborne one," he said.

"I do not doubt China's ability to develop a laser cannon. We can also develop such a weapon. It is up to the government's support," he said.

"It might be too early to say that China's laser cannon is already a real threat to Taiwan. More observation is needed," he said.

China has recently upped its cross-strait rhetoric ahead of next March's presidential election.

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