Monday, February 22, 2010

Taiwan Missile Base Identified Near China

Defense News
Taiwan Missile Base Identified Near China
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI — Taiwan has a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) base near China, according to a new assessment of the self-governing island’s air defense and air power status by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The report, DIA-02-1001-028, de­livered to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 16, reveals new information on the locations, numbers and types of air defense weaponry. This is the first U.S. government acknowledgment of the existence of the base and its capabilities. Though some media reports have surfaced over the years, the missile base has never been officially acknowledged by the Taiwan or U.S. governments.

The report identifies the location of a SAM base on Tungyin Island, north of Matsu Island, just 45 kilometers from China’s coastline along Fujian province.

According to the DIA report, the Taiwan military has deployed Tien Kung I (TK-I) and TK-II SAM batteries on the island. Taiwan uses a layered SAM network throughout the island and the outer islands of Penghu and Tungyin, according to the assessment.

“The air defense network consists of 22 SAM sites utilizing a mix of long- and medium-range systems, augmented by short-range tactical SAMs to provide overlapping coverage,” it states.

These include the long-range U.S.­built Patriot PAC-2 Modified Air Defense System, the long-range Taiwan-built TK-1 and TK-2, and medium-range U.S.-built Improved-Homing All-the-Way Killer (I-HAWK).

The military has roughly 500 Tien Kung SAMs deployed at six sites around Taiwan, Penghu and Tungyin, the report says. With ranges of 120 kilometers and 300 kilometers, respectively, the TK-I and TK-II deployment on Tungyin gives Taiwan the capability of shooting down combat aircraft over China. Tungyin’s unique location places a number of vital Chinese air bases and missile launch sites within Taiwan’s SAM umbrella.

“Taiwan positions several of these systems on outer islands to provide coverage along key air avenues of approach from the mainland,” the DIA report said.

In addition to Tien Kung batter­ies, Tungyin has two large radomes. A Taiwan military officer identified the radars as the 740­kilometer-range AN/TPS-59 tactical missile defense radar used also for early warning and situational awareness, and the 445-kilometer­range AN/TPS-75V tactical radar system for aircraft threats.

The radars can see deep inside China and at 130 kilometers can cover Fuzhou Airbase and Longtien Airbase. Also, Tungyin is 230 kilometers from Nanping Missile Base and 210 kilometers from Xianyou Missile Base, where China’s 2nd Artillery Corps has Dong Feng-15 (East Wind) short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

During the onset of a war, China plans to strike the island with both land-based missiles and rockets along with air strikes, a Taiwan military official said.

Defense News visited the island in 2004. The island fortress is defended by the 195th Infantry Brigade and special operation forces belonging to the 101st Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (Army Frogmen). The island is solid granite and honeycombed with tunnels and bunkers. The TK-II missiles, numbering about 50, are dug into the granite in individual silos. 

Other SAM Issues 

The DIA report further revealed plans to replace some I-HAWK batteries with TK-II systems beginning this year. Taiwan has 13 I-HAWK batteries with about 375 missiles.
In 2008, the U.S. government authorized the sale of four Patriot PAC-3 missile fire units to Taiwan with delivery in August 2014. However, the report notes that Taiwan is developing an indigenous TK-III missile system that will “operate at the same ranges as the U.S.-produced Patriot PAC-3 system.” Deployment is scheduled for 2012.

Taiwan’s air defense SAMs are augmented by short-range tactical SAMs, including shoulder-fired man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). “These units are primarily subordinate to tactical combat forces to provide organic air defense support, but can be stationed at airfields and other military installations to augment longer-range systems,” the report said.

These include 74 U.S.-built Avenger systems armed with 1,300 FIM-92 Stinger missiles, 800 MAN­PADS with 728 FIM-92 Stinger missiles, 37 M-48 Chaparral units with 727 MIM-72 missiles, and tentative plans for the deployment of six batteries of Taiwan-built Antelopes armed with Tien Chien infrared missiles mounted on a Humvee.

The Tien Chien (Sky Sword) is similar in design and performance to the U.S.-built AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.