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Taiwan Goes All Supersonic
by James Dunnigan
March 16, 2013

Taiwan is equipping 16 of its frigates with its supersonic Hsiung Feng 3 anti-ship missile. Taiwan has already armed four destroyers, 12 corvettes, and 31 patrol boats with this missile. The Hsiung Feng 3 will now replace subsonic missiles on eight Perry class and six Lafayette class frigates, as well as two more Perrys coming from the United States.

The 6.1 meter (19 foot) long Hsiung-feng 3 weighs 1.5 tons, has a 181 kg (400 pound) warhead, and a top speed of 2,300 kilometers an hour. Max range is 300 kilometers. It uses inertial and GPS guidance to get to the general vicinity of the target, then several other sensors to lock on to a specific ship and hit it. The smaller Hsiung-feng 2 has a range of 160 kilometers and less extensive electronics.

Taiwan tends to develop its new weapons quietly and then suddenly reveal them. The Hsiung Feng 3, for example, suddenly began showing up in military parades, with little official comment, several years ago. One reason for keeping quiet about new weapons is that it keeps the press away from embarrassing development problems. There were some additional difficulties with the Hsiung-feng 3, after it went into production. The worst of these had to do with the very high speeds and damage that this caused to some components. It's also believed that the max range was reduced to only 150 kilometers for a period of time because of teething problems.

The Hsiung-feng 3 is also being installed on a new 500 ton class of stealth corvettes. For these ships the designers are being asked to get as many of the large (for a 500 ton ship) Hsiung-feng 3s on it as possible (up to eight). In addition there will be eight of the smaller Hsiung-feng 2. These new corvettes are the continuation of a trend in the Taiwanese Navy, which sees small ships carrying a lot of anti-ship missiles as the key to success against the Chinese navy.

Taiwan already has a number of sub-sonic cruise missiles. The Hsiung Feng 2E is a 6.1 meter (19 foot long) cruise missile that weighs a ton, has a204 kg (450 pound) warhead, and a top speed of 800 kilometers an hour. Max range is 600 kilometers. It uses inertial and GPS guidance. The Hsiung Feng 2E was developed from the Hsiung Feng 2 anti-ship missile. This was a smaller weapon (.685 ton), with a range of 160 kilometers. It entered service in the early 1990s, and by the late 1990s, developers were working on turning it into a cruise missile. The Hsiung Feng 2E can be launched from ships or from land and can threaten Chinese targets several hundred kilometers inland.

Two years ago Taiwan admitted that some of their warships were already equipped with the Hsiung Feng 3. This weapon was in development for over a decade, and it was rumored that production began four years ago. Some 300 of these missiles are believed to be in service (aboard ships or in land based launchers).

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