Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taiwan Proceeds on LACM

Defense News


Taiwan Proceeds on LACM

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI — Next year, Taiwan will begin producing its first land attack cruise missile, the Hsiung Feng-2E (Brave Wind).

First to come off the line will be a 600-kilometer variant that completed test-firings in 2004. An 800-kilometer variant, which wrapped testing this year, could be canceled due to warming relations with China.

“This is basically a tactical weapon designed for use against military target sets, particularly air-defense fire units and command-and-control facilities,” a Taiwan defense analyst said.

“The missile’s relatively small warhead size and the rather limited number of missiles planned for procurement clearly suggest that this is not a counter-value weapon.”

That would seem to soothe U.S. fears that the HF-2E could be used as a “first strike” weapon, something Taiwan agreed not to develop. “I think much of the U.S. concern over Taiwan’s development of something like the HF-2E has been the irresponsible rhetoric that certain Taiwan politicians — often on both sides of the aisle — used when discussing the weapon and its purpose 
 — for example, threatening to attack Shanghai or the Three Gorges Dam,” the analyst said.

“The U.S. finds such behavior even more destabilizing than Taiwan’s possession of a land-attack missile capability per se.”

Some have speculated that President Ma Ying-jeou of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who has pushed for better cross-strait relations since he took office in May, will cancel the HF-2E.

But Ma’s government has drawn fire for what domestic critics call concessions.

Ma has the difficult position of making friends with China while also demonstrating a willingness to defend Taiwan with an adequate and reliable defense, said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies. 

Taiwan is also preparing to begin production of the new HF-3 anti­ship missile, with the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) tooling up and funding for production and storage facilities included in the proposed 2009 defense budget.

“Maximum range of the current version [of the HF-3] also does not lend the weapon readily to deep strike applications, being around 85nm [nautical miles], which is actually shorter than the late-block HF­2 subsonic anti-ship missiles that have been in service for some time,” the Taiwan defense analyst said.

There are also concerns the HF­3 could be canceled for political reasons. HF-3 testing is currently on hold, but research is continuing.

“I find it curious that various observers, including the U.S. government, should voice concerns about the so-called ‘offensive potential’ of such a weapon” as the HF-3, the analyst said. “It is not inherently more capable of being used in an offensive strike mission than a Harpoon Block II (with littoral suppression capability), which the U.S. has sold to Taiwan.”

The Hsiung Feng 2E was developed by CSIST, the Taiwanese military’s main research and development institute whose older missiles include the Tien Chien (Sky Sword) air-to-air missile, a Tien Chien anti­radiation variant, the Hsiung Feng anti-ship missile series and the Tien Kung (Sky Bow) air defense missile series.

CSIST is also working on a new Tien Kung 3 (Sky Bow) air defense missile, but no production decision has been made yet. Taiwan has a midterm requirement for a “national air defense missile system,” which could be fulfilled by the TK-3.

“This is basically an improved TK­2 with a Ku-band active radar seeker and better precision controls for engaging high-speed, low-RCS targets such as TBMs,” the Taiwan analyst said.

“The missile system also incorporates a mobile phased-array fire control radar, quite similar to the AN/MPQ-53 used in the Patriot SAM system; such a radar should greatly improve system survivability.”

CSIST is also working on the Tien Chien 2A anti-radiation missile for the Indigenous Defense Fighter. The TC-2A has completed development and will be part of the IDF­MLU package to start in 2009.