Surface Forces: The Speedy Secret Terror


May 18, 2011: A Taiwanese official recently revealed that Taiwanese warships were already equipped with the new Hsiung Feng 3 anti-ship missile. This weapon has been in development for over a decade, and it was announced that production began three years ago. At least 250 of these missiles are believed to be in service.

The 6.1 meter (19 foot) long Hsiung-feng 3 weighs a 1.5 tons (with a 181 kg/400 pound warhead) and has a top speed of 2300 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.

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 is currently only 150 kilometers, again because of teething problems. The Hsiung-feng 3 is being installed on destroyers and frigates, and possibly the new Kuang Hua-6 (KH-6) missile boats.

It was only last year that the first of 21 KH-6 guided missile patrol boats entered service. These 34.2 meter (106 foot) long, seven meter (22 foot) wide, 170 ton ships have a crew of 19. They were initially armed with four Hsiung Feng-2 anti-ship missiles (subsonic speed, range of 160 kilometers, half the weight of the Hsiung Feng-3), a 20mm autocannon, two 7.62mm machine-guns and two decoy (for incoming missiles) launchers. Top speed is 55 kilometers an hour. At cruising speed of 22 kilometers an hour, the ships can stay at sea for about two days at a time. The other twenty KH-6s are expected to enter service over the next two years. The KH-6s replace thirty older, and smaller (57 ton) Hai Ou class boats. These patrol boats guard the coast, and especially the 180 kilometers wide Taiwan Straits that separate China and Taiwan.


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