Mon, Jul 25, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Draft report attributes missile firing to errors

SNEAK PEAK:The ‘United Daily News’ reports a working draft of the military’s report into the July 1 accident cites a lack of simulator devices contributed to the mishap

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter

A confluence of human errors were to blame for the accidental firing of a missile that sank a Taiwanese fishing boat near Penghu on July 1, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday.

The newspaper said it was given access to the working draft of the military’s report on the incident, which it characterized as “in a mostly finished form.”

Personnel on the navy’s Chinchiang-class corvette had primed and loaded the vessel’s pair of double-barrel anti-ship missile launchers for an in-port military drill that the ship was participating in, the newspaper cited the draft as saying.

During a drill, the tubes of the missile launchers are supposed to be individually loaded with live missiles and connected to simulator devices, so that the training simulator, and not the missile, receives targeting data and fire commands, which prevents the launchers from firing, the newpaper cites the draft report as saying.

However, the corvette had just two simulators for the four tubes on its double-tube launchers, which meant that the exercise began with each of the ship’s launchers having a “hot” tube — loaded with a live missile that was ready to fire, the newspaper said.

Contrary to protocol, the acting senior sailor in the combat information room had left the room to study for an promotion exam, leaving the weapons operator — Petty Officer Second Class Kao Chia-chun (高嘉駿) — alone and unsupervised, the newspaper said.

With no senior sailors or officers present, Kao decided to rehearse the firing sequence for the scheduled exercise simulation, but erroneously set the firing mode on “salvo of two missiles,” instead of single-firing the missile tubes that were connected the simulators, the draft report says, according to the paper.

As the ship’s automated fire control system responded to Kao’s command to fire to the northwest, it selected the portside missile launcher for the salvo fire, and the anti-ship missile was fired toward the seas near Penghu, striking the Hsiang Li Sheng (翔利昇), killing its captain and injuring three crew members, the newspaper said.

In related news, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday announced an initiative to improve the armed forces’ handling of precision-guided munitions.

Selected members of the General Staff and the Air Defense Missile Command are to draft new protocols to enhance training, weapons handling and accountability, with the process to be completed before Aug. 15, Feng said.

The military had received direct instructions from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to address the missile mishap, he said.

Meanwhile, asked about Tsai’s promise to thoroughly investigate the incident, and that ranking service members might be subject to disciplinary action following the conclusion of legal proceedings, a general officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that such considerations would have to wait for the legal process to be completed.

The military is assisting the prosecutors’ investigation of the incident “without any reservation,” the officer added.

In other news, sources said that the military has demanded the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the developer of the missile fired in the incident, to add a circuit to enable their use in training without the need to prime the munition.

It also asked that the missile software be altered to require codes from a combat ship captain prior to firing.

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