Weapons: The Menacing Missiles of Taiwan

May 1, 2007: For a long time, Taiwan has been relatively quiet about its long range missile programs. But recently, senior officials mentioned that Taiwan does have missiles that can reach targets deep inside China. Also mentioned was a recent wargame, where Taiwanese used these missiles to defeat a Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan. Apparently, someone is sending a message.

Two years ago Taiwan tested a cruise missile version of its Hsiung Feng anti-ship missile. With a range of over 500 kilometers, and a highly accurate guidance system, the missile could do a lot of damage to the many Chinese military targets near the coast. Taiwan had held off on mass production of the missile, so as not to alarm China, and to avoid the enormous expense of building up a Hsiung Feng stockpile. The missiles cost over $300,000 each. There are already over 700 Chinese ballistic missiles across 160 kilometers wide the Taiwan Straits. The Hsiung Feng is capable of hitting land targets along the Chinese coast, and deep inland, via a GPS guidance system.

Last year, Taiwan revealed that it had developed yet another version of its Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missile. This one is launched from trucks or fixed launchers, has a range of at least 600 kilometers and is intended to go after targets on the Chinese mainland. Only if China attempts to invade Taiwan, of course. Three prototypes have been built, and production has apparently already begun. Current plans are for 500 of these one ton Hsiung Feng IIE cruise missiles to be put in service. They apparently use GPS guidance and some stealth features, to make them less liable to getting shot down. Using a more efficient engine, range could be extended to 1,000 kilometers or more. The Hsiung Feng IIE is pretty cheap, about $300,000 each, and carries a 500 pound warhead. The Hsiung Feng IIE project has been kept quiet, with few details released officially. Apparently this was done so as to not alarm the Chinese, at least in public.

Taiwan also built their own version of the American AGM-154A JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon). The Taiwanese version is called the Wan Chien. JSOW is basically a smart bomb with wings. That enables it to glide up to 70 kilometers from the aircraft dropping it, to a target on the ground. Range is about 25 kilometers if dropped from low altitude. JSOW also contains more elaborate fins and software that enables it to follow a specific route. Like the wingless JDAM smart bomb, JSOW uses GPS and inertial guidance (as a backup) to find its target. Like JDAM, JSOW hits within 30 feet of its aiming point. The U.S. pays about $250,000 for each JSOW. The Taiwanese could use their Wan Chien. JSOW as a form of HARM to take out the latest Chinese air defense radars. Taiwan is also building its own version of HARM, called Tien Chien 2A. JDAM technology is a lot simpler than these two other projects, and Taiwan could easily design and build its own. Refusing to sell them just costs the U.S. export sales. On the other hand, it allows the United States to tell China that it didn't sell JDAM to Taiwan, thus "defusing" tensions over Taiwan. In reality, of course, Taiwan can just go build their own JDAM, which they will probably do.

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