Electronic fortress: Taiwan’s military grapples with a major C4ISR upgrade
By Wendell Minnick
March 02, 2007
Deterring and perhaps confronting the armed might of the People’s Republic of China might seem a tall order, but Taiwan is investing billions in modern defense systems, with new C4ISR technology at the top of the list.
The Asian economic powerhouse is acquiring new and upgraded radar systems, long-range early warning ultra high frequency phased array radar, and upgrade of its air defense command-and-control capabilities, Link 16 and improved battlefield intelligence hardware.
Current projects include an expansion of regional air defense command centers (Anyu 4), installation of the Management Information and Commitment Control System, Ta Chen (Grand Conglomeration) C3I data link system ship-to-ship/ship-to-shore high-frequency (HF) communications project, domestic manufacture of a Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (Sincgars), Link 16 (Po Sheng) project, and the Army Improved Mobile Subscriber Equipment (IMSE) program.
The catalyst for the decision to upgrade Taiwan’s C4ISR system came with the 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis, in which China fired several Dong Feng (East Wind) missiles across the Taiwan Strait. The event shook up Taiwan’s military establishment and forced a major rethink about its defenses.
An evaluation by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense and the Pentagon concluded that Taiwan had an urgent requirement to upgrade its C4ISR capabilities.
At the time, fighter aircraft could not communicate with naval vessels. Army units relied more on cell phones because of antiquated radios and unreliable computer links. The navy lacked real-time intelligence not only on Chinese naval movements, but also commercial shipping passing through the strait.
Taiwan’s military communications network consisted of fixed telephone lines (coaxial and fiber optic), microwave and HF/VHF radio. However, Taiwan has begun replacing many of the fixed lines with a broadband fiber-optic cable communications network.
In 2000, Taiwan’s army also began incorporating the IMSE system. The system was first used during the catastrophic 1999 earthquake, which destroyed fixed lines of communications and left much of the island cut off from Taipei. The earthquake also showed the ease of disrupting islandwide communications.
Taiwan was also experiencing its first taste of cyber warfare. Mainland Chinese hacker attacks exploded in the late 1990s. Since 2000, every government and military computer has been attacked. Attempts to identify the attackers have, in many cases, led to computer facilities in Fujian Province believed to belong to the Chinese military.
Taiwan has since upgraded its anti-cyber warfare capabilities. It has beefed up the Communications, Electronics, and Information Bureau’s efforts by creating new units to fight hacker attacks. The military conducted its first cyber war exercises in 2000.
Although at present the cyber attacks are relatively harmless, there are fears that China is developing “acupuncture warfare” that could be used to paralyze Taiwan’s military command, as well as energy, transportation and banking systems in a pre-invasion strategy designed to cause panic.
ANYU 4 UPGRADE
The Anyu Program was initiated to upgrade Taiwan’s air defense command-and-control capabilities. It is divided into four programs. Anyu 1-4 entailed the purchase of 11 FPS/ TPS-117 surveillance radars (four mobile and seven fixed), an upgrade of TPS-43 radars to TPS-75 standards, constructing a new radar station, and the creation of a Automated Air Defense System and Regional Operations Control Center (AADS/ROCC), dubbed the Anyu 4 program, to replace the aging 10-1-E Strong Net (Chiang Wang) system.
Strong Net is based on a system of 35 radars on 21 radar stations that are able to identify enemy aircraft up to 600 kilometers. Built by Hughes, the system was able to integrate the navy, army and air force air defense capabilities using the E-2 Hawkeye aircraft. Taiwan acquired four Northrop Grumman E-2Ts in the 1990s and an additional two E-2C 2000 aircraft in 2005.
Strong Net incorporates fighter aircraft and a variety of air-defense missile batteries that dot the island. Taiwan uses Patriot PAC-2 Plus batteries to protect the capital city of Taipei. The rest of the island is protected by indigenously produced Tien Kung (Sky Bow) air defense missile batteries. Plans to purchase PAC-3s have met opposition from pro-China supporters in the legislature, and anti-war activists managed to pass a referendum that bans the purchase for the time being.
Now, Strong Net is being replaced by the AADS/ROCC system (Anyu 4). Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor, with a subcontract for software with the Israel-based Ness Company.
Strong Net was viewed as too vulnerable to attack. Taiwan relied on a central Air Operations Center in southern Taipei. Should it be destroyed by a missile attack from China, Taiwan would lose its air defense command and control. The Anyu 4 program automates the system and expands the number of centers from one to four.
EARLY WARNING RADAR
Fear of saturation missile attacks from China increased after the 1996 crisis. China’s collection of Dong Feng-11 (M-11) and DF-15 (M-9) short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan has grown from 400 in 1996 to 800 at present. China’s 2nd Artillery Corps has been adding about 50 missiles a year to its inventory in Fujian Province.
Acquiring a long-range phased array UHF early warning radar (EWR) capable of penetrating deep inside Chinese territory became a major goal of the military. Discussions first centered on the AN/FPS-115 Pave Paws radar but finally settled on a modified version of the radar built by Raytheon.
Critics of the program argued that a large stationary radar would be susceptible to China’s anti-radiation missiles or simple sabotage, and would not survive long enough to provide valuable intelligence on China’s course of action. However, others argue that the new radar would serve also as surveillance radar that could collect intelligence on Chinese aircraft movements before an attack.
In addition, some critics have argued that Taiwan has sufficient radar coverage of China, including two long-range radars built recently on Tungyin Island, part of the Matsu Island chain and 16 kilometers from the Chinese coast. Additional radars are further south on Kinmen Island, also near the Chinese coast.
At present, the new radar is being built on Loshan Mountain near Hsinchu, northern Taiwan, at an estimated cost of $830 million. Originally, a second EWR was planned for Longshan Mountain in Pingtung County, but because of funding cuts, the second was scrapped. Some have complained that this will limit Taiwan’s overall surveillance capability.
PO SHENG/LINK 16
Taiwan launched its biggest C4ISR program, dubbed Po Sheng (Broad Victory), in 2003. Po Sheng is a foreign military sales program designed to enhance C4ISR capability for the air force, navy, army, joint defense platforms, and command and operations centers.
This system will include only U.S. aircraft and systems. Taiwan has about 60 French-made Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighters that will not be incorporated into the system. Its six French-built Lafayette-class frigates also will be excluded.
The program will provide Link 16 capability, via the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System/Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS), to all branches of the military. The overall value of the program is about $1.5 billion. A subset to the program is the installation of 102 MIDS/Low Volume Terminals and 20 MIDS On Ships Terminals.
Taiwan has an assortment of U.S. equipment, including F-16, F-5, C-130 and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft and Perry-class, Knox-class and Kidd-class warships.
Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) is involved in a major signals intelligence (SigInt) collection program with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Although the U.S. and Taiwan do not have diplomatic ties, both countries share a wide variety of intelligence on China’s military activities. The relationship stretches back to the Cold War era when the U.S. had a close working relationship with the Nationalist government in power in Taipei.
The NSA and NSB established a SigInt antenna facility at Pingdun Li on Yamingshan Mountain, just north of Taipei. The facility was begun in the late 1980s, when the U.S. and the United Kingdom began closing the U.K.’s SigInt facility (Project Kittiwake) at Chung Hom Kok, Hong Kong, in preparation for the 1997 handover to Beijing.
The Pingdun Li facility has 10 fixed HF/DF dipole antenna masts arranged in an interlaced oval design that is similar to a spider web. The facility has undergone numerous upgrades since its completion and the technical work is contracted out by the NSA to Summit Telecom Systems (STS) in Maryland. STS sources have said the facility is a major producer of SigInt on Chinese military communications.
One U.S. officer from the NSA’s Sigint Liaison Branch manages the facility.
Taiwan is in a unique geographic position that gives it access to southeast Chinese military communications. The U.S. has similar sites in Japan and South Korea, but these facilities are too far north to capture radio communications coming from Guangdong and Fujian Province.
Taiwan also has a variety of SigInt antenna facilities around Taiwan that serve a variety of functions. These include a large 90-plus-direction-finding antenna facility in Linkou in northwest Taiwan and an air force SigInt facility similar to Pingdun Li in Dahzi near Sungshan Air Force Base.
Taiwan’s intelligence-gathering capabilities include the ROCSAT-2 satellite, launched in May 2004 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Taurus XL rocket.
Built by EADS Astrium for $70 million, the satellite is described as a scientific platform by Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSO).
Although the NSO has denied ROCSAT-2 is a spy satellite, there leaves little doubt among sources connected to the program that the primary mission of the platform is military.
ROCSAT-2 is fitted with an image-processing system that provides 2m resolution that combines with a front-end X-band antenna, allowing for complete satellite image-data receiving and processing. The 750-kilogram ROCSAT-2 is a low-earth-orbit remote-sensing satellite that circles the Earth 14 times a day at an altitude of 891 kilometers. It crosses over Taiwan twice daily.
It has since been learned that the satellite has been hobbled by pressure from China. Astrium reportedly placed technical limitations on the ROCSAT-2, which included shutter controls that blinded the satellite over China.
Taiwan is planning a $300 million program to replace the satellite with a more advanced ROCSAT-3. Debate is raging over buying, building or borrowing. In the past, Taiwan has contracted satellite services from US Space Imaging (Ikonos), Israel’s ImageSat (EROS) and the French Spot Image (SPOT).
Taiwan’s overall C4ISR upgrade program involves a wide variety of domestic and international companies. Local companies include state-run Aerospace and Industrial Development Corp., state-owned China Shipbuilding Corp., military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, and the National Defense Industrial Association of Sino.
International defense contractors involved in these programs include Alion Science and Technology, BAE, Bell-Textron, Cisco Systems, Colsa Corp., Dassault, Data Link Solutions, General Dynamics, Indus Technology, INS, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Ness, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Sayres and Associates, Sierra Cybernetics, SRA International, Thales, Ultra Electronics, ViaSat, and Wyle Laboratories. •