Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ma ‘unhappy’ with major missile test

President Ma Ying-jeou and military officials deny a major missile exercise was in reaction to a visit to Washington by Chinese president Hu Jintao or the J-20 stealth fire recently unveiled by Beijing

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he was “not happy” with the results of a major air defense missile test at a testing base in Pingtung County that coincided with the departure of Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) for Washington on a state visit.

In the first major exercise open to the media at the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology’s (CSIST) Jiupeng missile testing base in Pingtung County since 2002, three services — the air force, army and marine corps — fired 11 types of surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, including the indigenous-made Tien Kung II “Sky Bow” (TK-II) and US-made RIM-7 “Sparrow.” A total of 19 missiles were fired during the air defense drill.

Months in the making and involving the participation of 576 members of the armed forces and the CSIST, the exercise showcased a number of platforms, including the F-16A/B, Mirage 2000, F-5E/F, Ching Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter, as well as various ground-based launchers.

However, despite the impressive array, six of the 19 missiles encountered technical problems, with one Sparrow climbing about 200m into the air before radically changing direction and plummeting into the South China Sea. Of the six malfunctions, four involved missiles coming close to their target, but failing to detonate, while the other two missed their target altogether.

The TK-II, which has a range of 200km, performed handsomely, the military said, reportedly destroying its target at a distance of 100km. At its narrowest point, the Taiwan Strait is about 130km wide.

Air force Political Warfare Department director Pan Kung-hsiao (潘恭孝) told reporters at a debriefing that the military and CSIST were investigating the causes of the malfunctions. Early reports pointed to problems with tracking mechanisms and target acquisition.

At a press conference following the exercise, Ma, who had watched from a building overlooking the sprawling testing base located deep in the mountains, appeared unimpressed.

My coverage on location of the United Air Defense Fire exercise, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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