Friday, December 24, 2010

Taiwan Modernizes, Streamlines Spec Ops 

Defense News


Taiwan Modernizes, Streamlines Spec Ops 


PINGTUNG COUNTY, Taiwan — Taiwan’s airborne and special operations forces have undergone significant streamlining and modernizing in the past 10 years.

The Army’s Aviation and Special Forces Command (ASFC) showed off many of its new capabilities and equipment during an airborne exercise Dec. 14 at the Dawu Airborne Training Center here.

The Ministry of National Defense allowed the media direct access to ASFC troops and equipment in an effort to ward off concerns that Taiwan’s defense capabilities are faltering as China’s military improves.

The airborne exercise featured several specialized parachute jumps, including a display by the Shenlung (Heaven Dragon) skydiving demonstration squad, a powered paragliding demonstration and a basic jump by trainees from a C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft.
The Shenlung squad has 21 members, including six women. The average team member has conducted between 500 and 1,000 jumps.

Taiwan’s airborne training program is modeled after the U.S. Army’s at Fort Benning, Ga., an ASFC officer said.

“Jump school lasts three weeks and they have to make five jumps, including a night jump, to graduate,” the officer said.

Taiwan’s Army reduced its special ops forces from two airborne brigades to two groups and placed all those forces and aviation helicopter units under one command, the ASFC, stood up in 2007 in Tainan county.

The ASFC’s 9,500 personnel include 300 women. The order of battle encompasses the 601 and 602 Aviation Brigades; 603 Aviation Training Command; the Air Transport Battalion; 101 Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion; Airborne Special Service Company (ASSC); and Special Forces Command, which contains the 862 and 871 Airborne Groups, each with three battalions.

The 603 will be activated as a combat aviation brigade during times of war, an ASFC official said.

The ASSC just celebrated its 30th anniversary, a member said, noting there are 150 personnel and the unit “is similar to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force.”

Airborne Special Service Company

The 101’s “Army Frogmen” handle outer-island special operations on Kinmen, Matsu, Penghu and Dongyin. The battalion is one of the most notable and oldest special operations units in Taiwan and traces its history to the Cold War, where it earned its reputation for coastal infiltration of China’s Fujian province.

ASFC forces are equipped with the older static line-deployed T-10B parachutes, but “we hope to replace all of them” with the newer T-11 Non-Maneuverable Canopy Personnel Parachute System now used by the U.S. military, an ASFC officer said. The ASFC also uses the MC1-1B steerable parachute and MT-1X ram air-pressurized gliding canopy parachute for special jumps. Members are armed with the new Taiwan-built 5.56mm T91 assault rifle and 7.62mm T74 machine gun.

The ASFC also provides airborne training for the Marine Corps’ elite Special Service Company. The Marines also have two amphibious reconnaissance patrol units responsible for special operations missions.

Taiwan has been modernizing its aviation capabilities with new helicopters.

The 601 and 602 are preparing to take delivery of 30 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 60 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters. These will gradually replace aging Bell UH-1H Huey utility copters procured during the 1970s and supplement two squadrons of Bell AH-1W SuperCobras in service since the 1990s.

In 2003, the Air Transport Battalion took delivery of nine Boeing CH-47SD Chinooks, which replaced three B-234s, civilian variants of the Chinook.

In February, Taiwan’s Air Force announced a decision to buy three Eurocopter EC225 helicopters for search-and-rescue missions. The $111 million deal includes an option for 17 additional helicopters.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Japan To Seek More Subs, Fighters

Defense News


Japan To Seek More Subs, Fighters

Defense Policy Overhaul Includes Acquisition Reform


TAIPEI — Japan’s new 10-year defense policy calls for more fighter jets and submarines, fewer tanks, and a wary eye on China, North Korea and Russia.

Released Dec. 17 by Japan’s Cabinet, the long-awaited policy revision also calls for procurement reforms and industrial-base goals.

“Japan will procure equipment more efficiently by improving its contract and procurement system” and will “set out medium­and/or long-term strategy to maintain and develop defense production capabilities,” the National Defense Policy Guidelines (NDPG) said.

Some industry officials hoped the guidelines would recommend an overhaul of the 1967 three principles of arms exports, but this appears to have been toned down in the final draft. The principles say Japan shall not export arms to countries that are Communist, under a U.N. arms exports embargo, or involved in international conflicts.

But a Tokyo-based U.S. defense industry source said any effort to reform Japan’s arms export and manufacturing policies would be “a welcome relief.” Japan’s defense industry has “been banging the drum for years” for reform, the source said. “One of the reasons costs are so high for the production of arms is that they can’t export anything.” He said Japan needs to rethink the ban on exporting defense items, particularly components in high demand in the U.S. defense market.

“Defense items U.S. manufacturers no longer produce are still in production in Japan,” he said. The guidelines say change is necessary in light of a “global shift in the balance of power” with the “rise of emerging powers and relative change in the U.S. influence.” Among the issues of growing concern are Chinese military modernization, North Korean nuclear weapon development, increases in Russian military activity, cyber warfare and terrorism.

In response, the guidelines recommend cutting “Cold War-style” equipment such as tanks, whose numbers would be cut by one-third to about 400. But the 16-boat sub fleet should be boosted to 22, and purchases increased of fighters, air defense systems, anti-ship missiles. Forces should be reshaped as well, emphasizing rapid-reaction forces, particularly maritime and amphibious units, and improvements made to over-the-shore logistics and joint operations.

In part, the NDPG reflects a reorientation of military strategy and forces from Hokkaido Island in the north to the outer islands in the south, particularly in defense of Okinawa and the Senkakus.

The guidelines say Japan’s policy­makers and military will shift their focus to “gray zones,” defined as confrontations over territory, sovereignty and economic interests.

The guidelines repeatedly emphasizes the threat of an “attack on Japan’s offshore islands,” a reference to recent disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Japan is officially recognizing that China will continue to make claims on the Senkakus and that “strong emotions of Chinese nationalism are fed by those claims,” said Peter Woolley, a Japan defense specialist and author of book, “Geography and Japan’s Strategic Choices.” The Chinese refer to the chain as the Diaoyutai Islands, and there has been a steady increase in Chinese naval activity in the area over the past five years.

In September, a Chinese fishing vessel collided with a Japanese Coast Guard ship near the islands. Beijing protested the arrest of the crew and stepped up rhetoric over its territorial claims.

Though the NDPG reflects continuity, there are number of changes that reveal a new consensus that is crucial to successful defense policy development, Woolley said.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Newsmakers: Patrick Choy, Executive VP of International Marketing, ST Engineering

Defense News


Newsmakers: Patrick Choy, Executive VP of International Marketing, ST Engineering

Singapore’s leading defense manufacturer, Singapore Technology (ST) Engineering, has been expanding into the world market, securing sales to Britain of the new Warthog Bronco all-terrain tracked carrier and developing more sophisticated unmanned systems. ST Engineering is actually a group divided into four sectors: ST Aerospace, ST Electronics, ST Land Systems (also called ST Kinetics) and ST Marine. 

Q. Where do you see ST Engineering going in the next few years in defense exports? 

A. We see new opportunities in heightened security needs and the transformation of the Army in areas such as homeland security, disaster relief, intelligent systems, unmanned technologies, solutions for greater connectivity, precision capabilities and less-than-lethal solutions. 

Q. Do you see the world defense export market shrinking as national budgets continue to be cut because of the recession? 

A. The trend of reduced defense spending is likely to continue, but this does not mean that the role of the armed forces and their capabilities are reduced. Conflicts and territorial disputes still exist, and armed forces must now find new approaches, innovative ways to perform their roles. Smaller budgets would mean fewer capital buys, and this could give rise to new requirements for upgrades and retrofitting of existing equipment; new capabilities that can be added to existing equipment; and reducing the logistics/manpower through automation and robotics for “dull, dirty and dangerous” tasks.

Military operations, as we know it, have also changed. There is increasing involvement by armed forces in new areas, such as homeland security and disaster relief. 

Q. Did the U.K. sale affect ST’s confidence? 

A. Warthog was a breakthrough for ST Engineering as it is the first time a major world army has procured armored combat vehicles from Southeast Asia. The contract has also raised the overall profile of ST Engineering as a credible defense player in the global marketplace. 

Q. What changes have been instituted to explain this success and what are the challenges for the future? 

A. The challenges facing today’s forces are increasingly diverse and complex, require a multidisciplinary and multi-organizational approach. Leveraging our unique position to provide commercial and defense customers with solutions for air, land and sea, ST Engineering is able to look at the needs of our customers holistically, integrated across platform and system domains, to provide cutting-edge system-centric solutions. 

Q. Is ST Engineering working on any new products that excite you? 

A. Last month, Skyblade III, Singapore’s first locally developed mini UAV, was used for the first time by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in an operational exercise. The Sky­blade III was created through collaboration between the SAF, the DSO National Laboratories, ST Aerospace and the Defense Science and Technology Agency.

Another unmanned innovation is the Venus unmanned surface vehicle, a 9-meter vessel adaptable to fulfilling the needs of a range of naval and security missions. Its modular design concept enables multiple missions through different payload modules.

The Endurance series of Landing Platform Docks is a multipurpose and multirole ship, purpose­fully designed for naval and civilian operations.

By Wendell Minnick in Taipei.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Taiwan Readies Mass Production of Cruise Missiles

Defense News


Taiwan Readies Mass Production of Cruise Missiles


TAIPEI - Taiwan is preparing for the mass production of the Hsiung Feng 2E (HF-2E) land attack cruise missile (LACM) and the Hsiung Feng 3 (HF-3) anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM).

Taiwan's Deputy Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang told legislators on Nov. 8 that production for the two missiles had already begun. Chao made the comments during questioning by the Legislative Yuan's Foreign and Defense Committee. In response to a question about the missiles by legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling party Kuomintang (KMT), Chao said the programs, code-named the Chichun (Lance Hawk) and Chuifeng (Chasing Wind), were "progressing smoothly."

An official with the Ministry of National Defense (MND) clarified the confusion over the designations used to describe the programs. "The code names are changed every year or two for security reasons." The Chichun is the HF-2E and the Chuifeng is the HF-3, he said. The source also corrected some media reports that indicated Chao had stated "mass production" had begun. "A few have been produced and could be fielded in case of war," the MND source said.

The military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) produces the Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) missile family, which includes the HF-1 and HF-2 anti-ship missiles. CSIST is the primary research and development organization for the military. It is also developing a new air-defense missile system, Tien Kung 3 (Sky Bow 3), comparable to the Patriot PAC-2 air-defense system.

The HF-3 ASCM was unveiled to the public during the 2007 Ten-Ten (Oct. 10) Parade in Taipei. Defense News later sighted it in January 2008 being outfitted on the1101 Cheng Kung, a Perry-class frigate, at the weapons loading dock at Tsoying Naval Base, Kaohsiung. It was later spotted again on the same frigate earlier this year during a base visit.

The HF-2E LACM has been a source of controversy between Taipei and Washington.

There has been pressure by the U.S. to kill the program, according to a Taiwan defense analyst based in Taipei.

However, China continues to deploy more short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and new cruise missiles along its coast targeting Taiwan. The only alternative is to deploy a counter response to that threat, he said. China currently has roughly 1,300 to 1,500 SRBMs aimed at the island. Taiwan has no offensive missile capability.

The HF-2E could "be a tactical deterrent and strategic bargaining chip in possible military confidence-building measures" with China, said the analyst.

"Should military conflict become unavoidable, firing LACMs from Taiwan could indirectly give the U.S. some flexibility in diplomatic terms," he said. If the U.S. continues to insist Taiwan not have any offensive capability the burden for ground strikes on the Chinese mainland are placed directly on the shoulders of the U.S. military, the analyst said.

China Looks at Space Plane

Defense News


China Looks at Space Plane

Four Hypersonic Aircraft Concepts Unveiled at Airshow


TAIPEI — China’s aviation industry is nurturing the design of stealthy, hypersonic combat aircraft that might fly beyond the borders of space.

Revealed at the recent 8th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (2010 Zhuhai Airshow), the winners of the 4th National Future Aircraft Design Competition were the Merlin fighter-bomber, SkyNet airship, Wolf Rider unmanned combat aircraft and the Shadow Dragon unmanned bomber. Though the four design concepts are well beyond China’s technical capabilities and “smack of science fiction fantasy,” all four represent a real effort on the part of the People’s Liberation Army to militarize space, said Ian Easton, a specialist in Chinese aeronautics at the Washington-based Project 2049 Institute.

Easton said a lot of intellectual capital and time went into the designs.
“Clearly, the PLA is demonstrating a well­developed interest in a hypersonic near­space platform here — something you could also refer to as a space plane,” he said.

Sponsored by China Aviation Industry Corp. (AVIC), the contest gave two first prizes to Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU), China’s top aeronautics research institute, and two second prizes to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Engineering College, the PLAAF’s top aeronautics school.

The designers made numerous references to Boeing’s unmanned X-51 scramjet, said to be able to hit speeds up to Mach 6.

Another analyst, Richard Fisher with the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the design contest indicates an effort by China’s defense industry to encourage “future gazing … which as we know from our experience leads to efforts that achieve real advances.”

Easton said that the vehicles represent many of the “most troubling aspects of China’s military modernization program, in the sense that, like China’s ongoing ballistic missile and cruise missiles programs, they would all be highly destabilizing and could be used for both conventional and nuclear attack roles.” 


“China urgently needs a new bomber for the 21st century,” the NPU team wrote in their contest entry, citing limitations with the H-6 medium-range bomber and JH-7 fighter­bomber.

So they designed their Merlin twin-engine near-space hypersonic fighter-bomber to perform reconnaissance, precision strikes, and attacks on satellites and spacecraft in low Earth orbit.

The designers drew on existing technologies such a “pneumatic bionic design” that allows the wings to bend slightly “like a bird.” They also admitted borrowing from the Boeing 787 wing design.

Wing-body integration, a rear intake, oblique shape and radar-absorbent composite materials help make the aircraft stealthy. The engines also have “two-dimensional nozzles” giving it more maneuverability. Technical specifications include a speed of Mach 6, combat radius of 5,000 miles and 22,000-pound payload. 


The PLAAF’s SkyNet looks nothing like the other near-space designs; it proposes an airship that rides to space atop a ballistic missile, then divides into a “hexagonal structure” and inflates using hydrogen and nitrogen.

Its designers say SkyNet could handle battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance, mapping, communications relay, early warning and command, electronic warfare, and targeting for laser-guided bombs.

Also, they say, the aircraft could be armed with a “laser for self-defense.” SkyNet is delivered into near space using a conventional ballistic missile.

“The SkyNet concept as outlined is bold but will require real advances in materials and propulsion in order to produce a large enough space platform for the suggested small launch package,” Fisher said. One day, he said, a SkyNet-like platform could “provide a vital force multiplier.” 

Wolf Rider 

The NPU’s unmanned Wolf Rider design uses three propulsion methods: a scramjet, pulse detonation and a reusable tri-rocket. Missions would include reconnaissance and launching “hypersonic cruise missiles” with a range of 1,800 miles.

The Wolf Rider itself would fly up to 13,000 miles and reach a maximum speed of 6.5 Mach. The aircraft was described as a “deterrent” to potential adversaries and for protection of “national dignity.” 

Shadow Dragon 

Perhaps the most complex design was PLAAF’s hypersonic near-space unmanned bomber, intended to modify its structure as it shifts from low speeds to supersonic.

To accelerate to its top speed of Mach 15, it “throws away the host wings.” Primarily intended for strategic bombing, the aircraft might also be used for reconnaissance, early warning, electronic and information warfare, communications relay, command and control, and space defense missions.

The craft might be armed with lasers, microwave weapons and kinetic arms that could hit targets on earth or in orbit.

“Shadow Dragon is a new stage in the PLAAF’s combat design thinking. Its main operational goal is a global quick strike ca­pability,” said the paper’s authors, thus providing a deterrence capability. “If necessary, it can also enter orbit in space and re-enter into near space at ultra-high speeds to close in on a target.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Options Limited on N. Korea

Defense News


Options Limited on N. Korea


SEOUL and TAIPEI — A North Korean artillery barrage on the remote South Korean island of Yeonpyeong and revelations of a new uranium enrichment facility last week have shaken Seoul and Washington.

a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington (CVN 73), is moving into the area as part of continuing exercises started in response to the North Korean sinking in March of the Cheonan, a South Korean Navy corvette. The sinking, which killed more than 40 sailors, and the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong that killed four, are turning 2010 into one of the most violent years since the Korean War ended in 1953.

There are fears this is “only the beginning of similar North Korean provocations over the coming year or so,” said Bruce Bennett, a Northeast Asia defense analyst at the Rand Corp. The artillery attack and revelations of a new uranium enrichment facility appear to have “been part of a well-planned effort” to bring South Korea and the U.S. to the negotiating table.

There are also fears North Korea will conduct its third nuclear test, he said.

Despite threats by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to attack a missile facility near the North Korean artillery base, there are few retaliatory military options that do not risk escalation.

Seoul is constrained by the same factors that hindered a strong response to North Korea’s attack on the Cheonan, said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst on North Korea, now with the Heritage Foundation. There are legitimate fears that even a “limited retaliatory attack could degenerate into an all-out conflagration,” Klingner said.

North Korea has “escalation dominance” that allows them to up the ante in any conflict with the South, said Mark Fitzpatrick, who runs the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

South Korea has far too much to lose in any military escalation with North Korea, Fitzpatrick said. Seoul, well within artillery range of the North, is a financial powerhouse in Asia. In contrast, Pyongyang’s economic foundation has crumbled and the government is desperate for assistance.

Pyongyang’s long-running strategy of alternating provocation and conciliatory behavior has consistently thrown Washington diplomats off balance, Klingner said.

However, the increasing violence also heralds desperation within Pyongyang’s leaders as the economic situation deteriorates. They might launch a limited “diversionary war” to tamp down political dissent against North Korea’s paramount leader Kim Jong-il, now reportedly ill and dying, Bennett said.

There are also fears that Kim’s death will touch off a power struggle. Kim’s son, Kim Jong-un, is heir apparent, but military hardliners may see him as too young and inexperienced.

Ken Quinones, a North Korean specialist and former U.S. State Department official, said Kim Jong-il’s ill health and desire to encourage the military to accept his son as heir might have influenced his decision to allow the Nov. 23 bombardment. “As for Kim Jong-il, Pyongyang’s apparently erratic behavior is not a consequence of Kim’s ‘irrationality,’” he said. “If anything, Pyongyang’s split behavior appears to be a consequence of a deeply divided civilian-military leadership headed by an increasingly weak leader.” 

China’s Lethargic Response

Hopes that China would lean on Pyongyang after the Cheonan incident have been largely dashed.

The Nov. 23 artillery attack occurred the same day as a meeting with Beijing officials by Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy. Both sides discussed the North Korean problem in a “candid, in-depth manner” with pledges for an “early reopening of the six-party talks,” said a Chinese Foreign Ministry press release. There was no condemnation of the attack by Chinese officials.

“China has shown itself to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” Klingner said. Beijing is unwilling to be the “responsible stakeholder that many had hoped it would be.” North Korean behavior will no doubt overshadow the planned visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to the U.S. in early 2011, and distract from China’s goals of pressuring the White House to curb arms sales to Taiwan and recognize its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China will not punish North Korea, despite being annoyed by the timing of the attack and revelations of a new nuclear facility, said Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Glaser said Beijing’s priority is to preserve “peace and stability” in North Korea, which it views as a strategic asset, Glaser said.

She said China is taking a paternal approach to North Korea, convinced Pyongyang will eventually implement Chinese-style economic reforms.

“Even when your child misbehaves, you must encourage it to do the right thing, but it is still your child,” she said.