Sunday, August 16, 2009

Taiwan Shows Off Missiles, UAVs at TADTE

Military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) showed off its wares, including new missiles, at the biennial 10th Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition and Conference (TADTE), August 13-16.

In a surprise move, CSIST displayed the Hsiung Feng 3 (Brave Wind) anti-ship missile and Tien Kung-3 (Sky Bow) air defense missile. It is only the second time the military has allowed public access to the two missiles. The first time was in 2007, when both were displayed during the Ten-Ten military parade.

CSIST also exhibited a sounding rocket. A Taiwan defense analyst said the rocket was originally a cover program for Taiwan's ballistic missile development. However, CSIST officials denied this, stating the rocket was for scientific experiments conducted by the National Space Program Office (NSPO).

"CSIST and NSPO joined together on this program in 1997," said a CSIST official. "We have 10-15 sounding rocket launches planned with the NSPO before 2018. We build them as NSPO needs them."

The two-stage solid fuel rocket is 7.7 meters in length, has a speed of Mach 7, a maximum altitude of 280 km and can carry a 130 kg payload. The Taiwan defense analyst said the fact that it is a two-stage sounding rocket raises questions and "CSIST was careful to make sure they only acknowledged a maximum altitude of 280 km," just short of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) 300 km/500 kg range/payload minimum.


UAVs showcased

CSIST also displayed a wide variety of UAVs at this year's TADTE, including an operational Chung Shyang for the first time. A CSIST representative said the first one was built in 2007 and CSIST now has five operational prototypes.

"The army and air force are interested in the Chung Shyang," he said. "With the recent typhoon, the army could have conducted a damage assessment, but the army has no UAV capability at this time. We expect a decision from the military in 2010 with a potential order of twenty."

The Chung Shyang has both day and night surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. It can also serve as a communications relay. It has a range of 100 km, cruising speed of 60 knots with an eight-hour endurance. The Taiwan coast guard has dropped interest in the platform for budgetary reasons, he said.

CSIST also showed off its Cardinal mini-UAV system and Blue Magpie mini-UAV system, both hand-launched platforms. The 2.1 kg Cardinal began development in 2007 and there are now ten in production for further testing. It has a range of 15-20 km, speed of 30 knots, endurance of 1.5 hours, and a maximum altitude of 4.5 km. Payload options include a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera, night vision camera, goggle manual and autopilot. The military has expressed interest in procuring the Cardinal, but no decision has been made.

However, the Blue Magpie has garnered no interest by the military. The system is extremely small with a weight of only 1.0 kg. It has a CCD payload and can be flown by autopilot or manual. It has a range of three kilometers, maximum altitude .6-1.5 km, cruising speed of 25 knots with a one-hour endurance. The UAV can "transmit real-time images and can be used for reconnaissance and target acquisition," said a CSIST representative. It has been in development since 2006.

Clouded Leopard

A representative of the Combined Logistics Command, under the Ministry of National Defense, confirmed the 8x8 CM-32 Clouded Leopard was still being considered by the military, despite local media reports the program had been killed. "The army will make a final decision in 2010 on the fate of the platform," he said.

There have been reports in the local media the CM-32 was overweight, suffered from transmission problems, lacked amphibious capabilities, and the turning radius was too wide.

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