US technical assistance would help Taiwan upgrade its indigenous missile systems and could provide key technologies needed to develop a vertical launch system for warships, a defense official said on condition of anonymity.
Commenting on the Taiwan-US cooperative agreement in defense-related research, the official said that US technical assistance is expected to speed up the nation’s ongoing efforts to upgrade the Hsiung Feng, Tien Chien and Tien Kung families of missiles.
Moreover, US know-how could facilitate the military’s program to develop a vertical launch system for the navy’s planned next-generation frigate and the principal surface warfare combatant, which has struck a technical bottleneck, the official said.
Although US officials have suggested directly selling vertical launch systems, Taiwanese officials have expressed a preference to obtain the necessary technologies and develop a system locally through visits to US research facilities and joint research programs, the official said.
The Hsiung Feng family of missiles is Taiwan’s most important means of defense against the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s large warships and the nation’s main strategic deterrent, the official said.
The military fields three variants of Hsiung Feng missiles: the Hsiung Feng II subsonic anti-ship missile, the Hsiung Feng III supersonic anti-ship missile and the Hsiung Feng IIE land attack cruise missile, the official said.
While the military is confident in the missiles’ ability to strike Chinese ships and installations, the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology believes that it is both desirable and practicable to improve their effective range and precision, the official said.
The Tien Kung III surface-to-air missile is mainly used as an anti-aircraft weapon, but can also be used as a missile defense interceptor, the official said.
However, the missiles’ top operational altitude is deemed insufficient and the institute is focusing on boosting the maximum altitude of effective interception for its next round of upgrades, the official said.
The Tien Chien II air-to-air missile has met all of the military’s operational requirements and it is the main anti-fighter armament of Indigenous Defense Fighter jets, which are undergoing upgrades to carry more Tien Chien missiles, the official said.
The navy has adopted the naval variant of the Tien Chien II missile for use on all new Tuo Jiang-class corvettes slated for production, while the land-based variant has been fully tested and can be fielded, should the army decide to adopt the weapon, the official said.
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