Military experts push for rethink of weapons plans

WRONG PRIORITIES: Experts urged focusing on offensive weaponry such as a strategic sub fleet, and cast doubt on the efficacy of Patriot missiles

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Mar 13, 2005 - Page 2

Military experts suggested that offensive weapons might best improve the nation's deterrent force, as the Ministry of National Defense (MND) seeks to make submarines a budget priority.

Lin Tsung-ta (林宗達), a senior editor of Defense International and an expert on China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), told the Taipei Times that Taiwan needs to build a force with better offensive capabilities, including a strategic submarine force, instead of focusing purely on defensive weapons.

Liao Wen-chung (廖文中), a research fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States, said if Taiwan wants to upgrade its submarine force, it must swiftly develop Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite technology. Liao said such technology allows for precise mapping of underwater landscapes, and direct guidance of submarines.

He said Taiwan had successfully delivered the high-resolution Earth observation satellites FORMOSAT 1 and FORMOSAT 2 (also known as ROCSAT 1 and 2), and is scheduled to deliver FORMOSAT 3 this year.

But there are still technical hurdles to surmount if Taiwan wants to equip the newest satellite with SAR technology, he said.

Meanwhile, Lin questioned the effectiveness of Patriot missiles.

Lin said China currently had an arsenal of more than 700 short-range ballistic missiles on the coast opposite Taiwan. According to the "two plus two theory," a defender must simultaneously launch four missiles -- two Theater High-Altitude Area Defense missiles and two Patriots -- ?for each incoming missile in order to have a 95 percent probability of intercepting it. To achieve that success rate, Taiwan would therefore need nearly 3,000 missiles to effectively counter China's short-range ballistic missile threat.

However, Taiwan, the proposed purchase of 384 additional Patriot missiles would only bring Taiwan's total Patriot arsenal to 584.

Worse, said Lin, China has been developing mid-range ballistic missiles that can hit targets at speeds of more than Mach-10, but Patriot missiles cannot hit ballistic missiles traveling at more than Mach 6.

Most worrisome, Lin said, is China's improving cruise missile capabilities. China currently has more than 200 cruise missiles which can be launched from bases, fighter jets, ships or submarines with more accuracy than ballistic missiles. Patriot missile also cannot intercept such cruise missiles.

To minimize the impact of an intensive PLA missile attack, Taiwan needs to spread its air force and navy installations and equipment over a large number of small bases "because China can't to destroy one hundred bases in a short time," Lin said.

Since the legislature has blocked the NT$480 billion arms budget, the Defense Ministry has made the procurement of eight diesel-powered submarines and 12 P-3C sub-hunting aircraft its priorities.

Meanwhile, the ministry is mulling the transfer of the PAC-3 missile battery procurement to next year's annual military budget.