Taiwan Rolls Out Multiple Launch Rocket System
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — Taiwan has begun production of a new multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) designed to “counter an amphibious assault” by China, said a Ministry of National Defense (MND) source.
China continues to threaten to invade the self-ruled island of 23 million should it declare independence.
Production of the Ray Ting (RT-2000 or Thunder 2000), about five years behind schedule, began in 2010 and is set for 50 systems, the MND source said. MND has denied recent local media reports that the military plans to deploy the Thunder 2000 on the outlying island of Kinmen, the site of intense artillery duels between China and Taiwan during the Cold War.
The primary objective of the new MLRS is to derail an amphibious landing by Chinese troops by targeting landing ships at sea and troops coming ashore, MND sources said.
Taiwan military exercises are largely geared toward thwarting an invasion. Anti-amphibious and antiairborne drills are a common staple of their war games. Because Taiwan has little strategic depth because of the mountains, it must inflict maximum damage on an invading force before it comes ashore.
Developed by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), the system can fire three types of highly accurate free-flight solid-propellant rockets: 117mm Mk15 (20 rockets per box); 180mm Mk30 (nine rockets per box); and 230mm Mk45 (six rockets per box).
The Mk designation indicates the range in kilometers. The rockets can be armed with dual-purpose, anti-personnel and anti-materiel submunitions and high-explosive warheads that can cover a 200-square-meter area with shrapnel.
The system is outfitted on an eight-wheel-drive Oshkosh Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, which is self-supporting with its own GPS fire control system. According to information provided by CSIST, the Thunder 2000 has an “onboard position and attitude determining system.”
CSIST conducted the first public live-fire demonstration of the Thunder 2000 during the Han Kuang 17 exercise in April 2001 in Pingtung County, along Taiwan’s western coast. The rockets successfully struck a decommissioned ship.
Subsequent live-fire exercises in 2002 and 2003 were less successful. In 2002, a Thunder 2000 caught fire, but the problem was later fixed. Then in 2003, local fishermen operating off the coast of Ilan County, along Taiwan’s northeastern coast, discovered unexploded bombs from a live-fire test during Han Kuang 19. These problems were also fixed, according to sources.
The military had considered procuring the Lockheed Martin M270 MLRS but opted for an indigenous design instead. The military did have a requirement for 150 MLRS, but it has been scaled back to 50.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Taiwan has been attempting to market the Thunder 2000 to the Middle East, including potential customers attending the 2003 International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
CSIST has successfully developed a variety of indigenous MLRSs in the past, including the 126mm Kung Feng-3/4 and the 117mm KF-6. CSIST has developed an assortment of advanced missile systems, including the Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) anti-ship missile and Tien Kung (Sky Bow) air defense missile, and is working on a land attack cruise missile, the HF-2E, and a short-range ballistic missile.