The Ministry of National Defense is to go ahead with its plan to test-fire its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles at a US base in New Mexico in July next year.
The plan calls for the ministry to send units from the Air Defense Missile Command to the US for operating, launching, flight surveillance, target interception and other tests of the PAC-3 system.
Under the current planning, about 40 military personnel from the Air Defense Missile Command will go to the US White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico for training and to carry out the tests, a high-level defense ministry official said.
They will be joined by top deputies and representatives from General Staff Headquarters to supervise and monitor the Patriot missiles launch operation and test-fire results, according to the official, who declined to be named.
Japan was the first of the US’ allied nations in the western Pacific to conduct PAC-3 flight tests at a US military base, and Taiwan is to be the second next year.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force had carried out its testing at White Sands, with the successful launch of two PAC-3 missiles and the interception of their targets, on Sept. 17, 2008.
Arrangements with Washington had been underway for some years for the military’s PAC-3 missile test-fire plan at a US base.
At first, the government spoke to Washington about test-firing the missiles at a Taiwanese military base, but the US side turned down the request, after declining a similar request by Japan, the official said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said Washington would charge Taiwan US$4 million for the test when he questioned then-minister of defense Yen Ming (嚴明) regarding the negotiation progress at a legislative session in December last year.
At that time, Yen said the ministry decided not to spend the money and put the plan on the backburner due to constraints in the defense budget.
“The PAC-3 currently is a vital air defense and anti-missile attack system relied upon by the US and several of its allies,” the ministry official said. “It is a top-priority target for espionage and data-collection by Chinese military and intelligence agencies.”
“If the test-firing takes place in Taiwan, then China could gather the PAC-3 missile’s electronic signal and other flight data. That would undermine Taiwan’s national security, and could also endanger the air defense systems of Japan and the US,” he said.
PAC-3 missiles were included in Taiwan’s October 2008 and January 2010 arms procurement notifications to the US Congress — 330 in the former and 114 in the latter notification, for a total cost of about US$5.9 billion.
The latest procurement came in January 2012, when Taiwan placed a US$921 million order for PAC-3 missiles as the military sought to bolster the nation’s air defense systems.
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