Friday, March 18, 2011

PRC missile could render PAC-3s obsolete

A new type of ballistic missile, added to intelligence on short-range missiles with submunitions, does not bode well for Taiwan’s even most advanced missile interceptor

A new longer-range ballistic missile allegedly deployed by China and the introduction of multiple warhead capabilities could render obsolete Taiwan’s most advanced missile interceptors, analysts said yesterday.

National Security Bureau (NSB) Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) told the legislature on Wednesday that China had recently begun deploying Dong Feng-16 (DF-16, 東風16) ballistic missiles with a range of between 800km and 1,000km, and that some were targeting Taiwan.

One US expert with years of experience monitoring developments in China’s missile arsenal told the Taipei Times that while literature on the DF-16 was scarce, the fact that a different designation had been referenced implied that the system was sufficiently different from existing missiles.

Another, Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, said chances the DF-16 is the “real deal” were high, adding that the new system would likely incorporate advances in solid rocket fuel, guidance and warhead design. He admitted this was the first time he had seen references to the DF-16 designation.

Alarmingly, the faster re-entry of a longer-range ballistic missile such as the DF-16 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of Taiwan’s PAC-3 missile interceptors that were acquired at great cost from the US and which are still in the process of being deployed.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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