The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has said that a live-fire drill conducted at a missile base in southern Taiwan on June 27 did not go entirely according to plan and that local fishermen protested against the exercises.
Video footage of the drill was only released online on Friday, because the ministry had imposed a media ban on coverage of the event and only permitted the armed forces’ own news agencies to cover the live-fire tests at the Jioupeng Military Base (九鵬基地) in Pingtung County.
According to reports by the Chinese-language Apple Daily, a military source said a US-made Harpoon anti-ship missile and a land-based Hsiung Feng II (“Brave Wind” II) anti-ship missile failed to hit their targets and plunged into the sea.
It is said to be the first time that Taiwan’s two main anti-ship missile systems failed in the same instance during a live-fire drill, according to the Apple Daily.
Developed by McDonnell Douglas, the Harpoon missile packs a 221kg warhead that can take out a destroyer and has an operational range of more than 124km, which makes it a key component of the nation’s air and sea defenses due to its destructive power.
The Hsiung Feng II missile was developed by the military-affiliated Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology and can be deployed at land-based facilities or aboard ships.
The ministry released a statement on Monday in which it countered some of the claims made in the Apple Daily report, but did admit the failure of the Harpoon anti-ship missile on June 27.
It said that “a navy special project unit is conducting an investigation to determine the cause” of the failure.
The statement said the Hsiung Feng II was fired from a mobile missile launcher and it hit its intended target, in contradiction to the Apple Daily report.
It added that the live-fire drill involved all of the Republic of China’s armed forces and was a big success, because most of the other weapons systems tested, including eight Mark 82 (Mk82) bombs, had successfully reached their target zones.
However, some media organizations and netizens criticized the ministry for restricting news coverage of the drill, because the video footage released was edited, and was merely praising the virtues and trumpeting the success of the drill, without appraising it.
The ministry said that the media ban was instated because live-fire drills at the Jioupeng base had met increasingly vigorous protests by local fishermen and residents.
During the last two weeks of last month, fishermen in the Hengchung area in the vicinity of the Jioupeng base carried out several rounds of protests against military drills there.
Chung Yu-fang (鍾玉芳), secretary-general of the Hengchun Fishermen’s Association, said the munitions testing and drills have destroyed much of the natural marine habitats and fishing grounds.
“We have complained so many times over the years, but the military only said they heard our voice and did not change anything. Depletion of fish stocks and the marine habitat is very serious, so we will step up our protests this year,” Chung said.
On June 18, about 100 fishermen in more than 30 boats of various sizes positioned themselves in an offshore target zone close to the base to carry out a “naval blockade,” which prevented a scheduled live-fire drill from taking place that day.