Secret Taiwan missile program aims at Mainland targets

Special to World
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Taiwan is planning to develop surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting key targets on the Mainland as China continues its own missile buildup. has learned that Taiwan is involved in a secret program, dubbed Tiching, to develop both a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) and medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM).

Taiwan's military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) is attempting to develop a surface-to-surface missile (SSM) capable of hitting Shanghai and Hong Kong. Tiching is believed to be the replacement for the now-defunct Tien Ma (Sky Horse) SSM program that was canceled during the 1980s.

Tentatively, Taiwan plans to produce 30 MRBM (1,250 mile) and 120 SRBM (620-mile) missiles over the next 10 years. The missiles are based on the Tien Kung (Sky Bow) surface-to-air missile (SAM). China has deployed some 500 short-range CSS-6 and CSS-7 missiles opposite Taiwan. These missiles are becoming more lethal and accurate, U.S. officials say.

At present the Tien Kung SAM has a range of only 100 km (20,000 m altitude/trajectory), a 90 kg warhead and a speed of Mach 4.5. CSIST has been experimenting with a modified version of the Tien Kung, having an additional booster, in an effort to enhance range with a larger warhead.

There has been a recent setback. In August 2003, a test launch reportedly failed at the Chiupeng Missile Testing Range in southeast Taiwan. In August 2001, CSIST successfully launched a Tien Kung in what was called a "scientific atmospheric research" test, but many believed it to be further SSM testing.

Insiders have complained that the central problem has not been range, but producing a reliable guidance system. Many have argued that Taiwan risks violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which restricts a missile's range to 300 km and the warhead to 500 kg. Though neither the Taiwanese government nor CSIST has admitted that the program exists, some in the military have justified the program by citing the fact that the Mainland has approximately 500 Dong Feng-11 (M-11) and DF-15 (M-9) tactical ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

It has been reported, but not confirmed, that during the 1996 Taiwan Straits Crisis around 50 Tien Kung missiles were temporarily modified into SSMs.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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