Army wants to share its creative missile expertise


Tue, Mar 09, 2004 - Page 4

The army plans to share its experience in the use of the US-made TOW anti-tank missile against sea-based surface targets with other countries, since it was the first armed force in the world to make such an attempt, defense sources said yesterday.

The army pioneered the new application of the TOW missile during last year's Hankuang No. 19 exercise, successfully hitting several sea-based surface targets with TOWs fired from a beach in northeastern Ilan County. This caught the attention of military experts worldwide, as the missile had never before been used in this way.

The TOW missile is one of the most popular anti-tank weapons in the world, and is used by more than 40 countries. The army has been using TOWs since 1977, and has recently acquired quantities of the two newest models, including the TOW-2A and TOW-2B. It remains the army's main anti-tank weapon, though orders have been placed for Javelin missiles, a similar weapon that is also made by the US.

An army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the army has provided relevant data to the original US manufacturer of the missile on the use of the TOW missile for anti-surface purposes.

"We plan to share our information with other users. The US manufacturer intends to introduce this information at an occasion where all countries that use the missile will be invited to witness a live-fire test against a sea-based surface target," the official said.

"It is a chance for us to establish links with other armed forces of the world," he said

Although the army takes pride in its innovation, some observers are skeptical. Erich Shih, a senior editor with Defence International magazine, said he did not consider the army to be justified in the use of TOWs as an anti-ship weapon.

"The army clearly intends to use the TOW missile against landing vessels. It has demonstrated this intention in the Hankuang No. 19 exercise," Shih said.

"But the army forgets that by the time the enemy is able to approach the landing zones, our air force and navy would have already been paralyzed. Under these circumstances, enemy landing vessels will have fire support from friendly warships and fighter planes that are not far away," he said.

"The weapons that these enemy warships and planes would use certainly have a longer reach than those our army could fire from the beach," Shih said.

He also criticized the army's plan to buy the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter, which he said was also to be used against ships.

"It is really a waste of re-sources," he said.