Taiwan Ramps Up Indigenous Weapon Production
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - Taiwan's indigenous weapons development efforts are improving as fears arise that the U.S. will scale back arms sales to the self-governed island.
Taiwan has been expanding research-and-development efforts for a variety of exotic weapons the U.S. is reluctant to sell to Taiwan.
The military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) and the state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) are developing most of the new weapons.
New programs include an anti-radiation UAV, a graphite bomb, an electromagnetic pulse weapon, a hypersonic vehicle testing capability, a long-range UAV, ship stealth technology and a catamaran-hulled ship, said a Taiwan defense analyst.
Over the past several years, the U.S. has denied Taiwan's request for air-launched weapons considered offensive in nature, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition and AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile.
According to KMT legislator Lin Yu-fang in a Sept. 6 news release, Taiwan is going forward with the production of the air-launched Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) cluster bomb. Production is to begin around 2014 to 2018, he said.
Local analysts say the Wan Chien is modeled after the U.S.-built AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon and will be outfitted on the AIDC F-CK-1 Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF).
Taiwan's defense industry has adopted a "spiral or capabilities-based approach" to weapons development, where a "new system is rolled out in stages, with each stage producing a new version that is an improvement," the analyst said.
Examples are a new prototype of an advanced IDF-II by AIDC, improvements to the Po Sheng/Syun An command, control, communications, computers, intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance system, the ramjet-powered supersonic Hsiung Feng 3 (Brave Wind) anti-ship cruise missile and the extended-range Tien Kung (Sky Bow) surface-to-air missile by CSIST, he said.
To improve CSIST's research-and-development capabilities, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) plans to convert CSIST into an administrative institution under MND supervision and rename it the National Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology. The MND submitted legislation for the conversion earlier this year.
The conversion will expand the transfer of dual-use technologies to the private sector, and a board of directors will run it, making it more of a business-minded institution.
The topic will be among those discussed at the upcoming annual 10th U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference Sept. 19-20 in Richmond, Va. The conference will include speeches by U.S.-Taiwan Business Council Chairman Paul Wolfowitz and Taiwan Deputy Minister of Defense for Policy Nien-Dzu "Andrew" Yang.
Yang will lead a delegation of 14 MND officials to the conference, said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. "The meeting will focus on where we are in support of Taiwan. The big questions relate to air power, the role of Congress and the Taiwan presidential election," he said.
Taiwan is awaiting a final decision by the U.S. on its request for 66 F-16C/D fighter aircraft and an upgrade package for its older F-16A/B fighters. A final decision on both is expected before Oct. 1.