Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taiwan Tests ‘Brave Wind’ Cruise Missile



Taiwan Tests ‘Brave Wind’ Cruise Missile

By Wendell Minnick, Taipei

Taiwan reportedly test-launched a land-attack cruise missile (LACM), Hsiung Feng 2E (Brave Wind), at its Jiupeng Missile Test Range in Pingtung County on Taiwan’s southeast coast Feb. 2.

Lu Der-yeun, defense correspondent for the United Daily News, based here, wrote the original report. The report states that the tests were conducted but did not specify how many missiles were tested. With a reported range of 1,000 kilometers and armed with a 400-kilogram warhead, the new missile will be able to strike as far north as Shanghai.

Taiwan reportedly plans to build 500 Hsiung Feng (HF)-2E LACMs to be based on mobile launchers along the west coast facing China, and there are plans for a ship- and air-launched version. It is also possible that the HF-2E will be based on the outer island of Penghu, off Taiwan’s southwest coast, allowing it strike deeper inside China.

Hsiung Feng missiles are actually anti-ship missiles developed by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CIST). The HF-2E is not part of the HF anti-ship program, but was mislabeled to confuse outsiders. There have also been reports that the HF-2E program has been suffering setbacks in its propulsion and guidance systems.

A former CIST employee said the missile’s guidance and propulsion system continues to cause problems for the HF-2E.

A Taiwan military officer said the U.S. State Department had been pressuring Taiwan to kill the LACM program for more than a year. However, China has more than 800 Dong Feng (DF)-11 and DF–15 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, so Taipei is unlikely to stop the program.

In May 2005, National Defense Minister Lee Jye announced that CIST was developing missiles that could strike China. Lee reminded the public that it was consistent with Taiwan’s “active defense” policy.

“Politicians want this as their chip to deal with Beijing. If Beijing attacks or invades Taiwan, they think they can have the HF-2E as a strike-back force,” a former Taiwan defense official said.

A U.S. defense official said the ultimate goal is deterrence.

“Taiwan wants to hold China at risk,” he said. “I do not know if the missiles are intended for counter-value or counter-force. In either case, the objective is the same: to make China think before they resort to using force against Taiwan. In reality, the LACMs will have minimum effect on the cross-Strait balance. Taiwan could not produce sufficient numbers of missiles to deliver meaningful destructive power to make a difference in the fight.”

However, the defense official argues that the missiles might boost morale.

“Remember how the Doolittle raid on Tokyo [during World War II] boosted America’s morale even though it did not do any militarily significant damage? This could have a similar effect on Taiwan,” he said.

Fielding LACMs appears unlikely to reshape the balance across the Taiwan Strait, and development on the program is slow.

“There is a growing voice in Taiwan that we should develop offensive capabilities,” said Arthur Ding, a cross-strait military affairs expert at the National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations in Taiwan. “The HF-2E LACM should be viewed in this context, despite the fact that the capability is limited. It aims to allow Taiwan to have some countermeasure capability, and at the same time send a signal to China that Taiwan is serious about defense.

“I do not think the doctrine has been thoroughly discussed at this stage. It will not change the balance in the Taiwan Strait, because China’s growing economy enables China to continuously invest in military procurement and R&D,” Ding said. “Without external technological assistance, the progress on R&D will be slow. I do not know where the red line is for the U.S., and this is particularly the case if the missile has a range of 1,000 kilometers.”

Taiwan is also reportedly developing a short-range ballistic missile capable of striking targets within 1,000 kilometers. Dubbed the Tiching Project, it is based on an advanced version of the Tien Kung (Sky Bow) air defense missile system that is modeled after the U.S.-made Patriot missile. Little is actually known about the program, and there have been serious program delays related to problems with the guidance system.

Taiwan is also preparing to field a supersonic Hsiung Feng-3 anti-ship missile with a 300-kilometer range. Plans call for producing 120 HF-3s, and in 2006 photographs obtained by the local media showed HF-3 missiles outfitted on a frigate at Suao Navy Base on Taiwan’s east coast.

Once fielded, all three missile systems will be able to strike Chinese territory. Taiwan and China are separated by 220 kilometers at the Taiwan Strait’s widest point and 130 kilometers at its narrowest.