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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Long-Range Missiles

Tien ChiBallistic200120-200SolidNA
Tianma / Sky HorseBallistic350950Solidcancelled
Tiangong II B (TK-2B)Ballistic900Solidcancelled
JifengBallistic 1,000Soliddevelopment
Hsiung-Feng II ELACM200600-800Solid + TurbofanDeployed
YunfengLACMNA1,200-2,000Solid + TurbofanOngoing
As with Iran, there seem to be too many project names
chasing no enough hardware, and as with Iran,
the confusion of observers surely results from
disinformation from Taiwan.
Taiwan’s ballistic program was developed to deter the People’s Republic of China from attacking the island. The forces established had the aim to inflict significant losses on the adversary, notably using anti-air capabilities, to resist an assault long enough for the United States to intervene in Taiwan’s defence. The program received some support from Washington, despite the fact that out of concern of appeasing Beijing, the United States favored collaboration on missile defence rather than the provision of offensive systems. While Taiwan acquired US missile defence technologies, Taiwan did not subscribe to a purely defensive approach, as demonstrated by the opposition of certain Taiwanese experts to the installation of long-range radars on the island, following a bilateral visit in June 2014.

The first ballistic missile commissioned by Taiwan in 1982 was called Ching Feng. It was designed to be a battlefield weapon to protect the island against Chinese invasion. Its launch mass of 1500kg allowed it to be mobile and deployed rapidly. Little information is available regarding its current status. Although the first short-range ballistic missile (Qing Feng) bore significant resemblance to the American Lance MGM-52 missile (along with characteristics in common with the Israeli Gabriel missile), the program, established by the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology, has become increasingly more autonomous, with the launch of the Tien-Chi missile in the 1980s, followed by the Tien-Ma.

The Tien-Chi missile was designed to cover a range of 300km with a payload of 500kg, but it seems in fact to only have proved effective with a lighter payload and over a shorter distance (around 120km). It is not officially known whether this missile has been deployed, but the 2012 edition of Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems reported that between 15 and 50 missiles were believed to be situated on the islands in the Straits of Taiwan.

Following an initial attempt that was abandoned during the 1980s under American pressure, a second version of the Tien-Ma was launched in 1996, against the backdrop of substantial tension with Beijing. It was designed to reach a range of almost 1000km with a single warhead payload of 350kg, thereby principally targeting military facilities in mainland China. The missile was abandoned in 2000 due to its obsolescence, and its actual status is unknown. Some observers suggested that a new intermediate-range missile program based on the Tien-Ma had been initiated in 2005, but this report was denied by the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence.

The Taiwanese ballistic program was shrouded in obscurity, no less than the lack of available information on its cruise missile program. The program referred to in NPM n°79 favors long ranges, a fact that could bear witness to an increased desire on Taiwan’s part to free itself from dependence on the United States. It also illustrates the importance of fully including cruise missiles in international strategies against the proliferation of offensive weapons.

Israel is believed to have aided Taiwan in building its Ching Feng (100 km/275 kg), a Lance-look-alike. This model was never deployed, but its development aided later work on the Sky Horse, a ballistic missile estimated to have a range/payload capability of 1,000 km/500 kg. Work on the Sky Horse apparently was abandoned in 1981. If it were developed and deployed in the future, the Sky Horse would put the eastern part of mainland China within striking distance.

In 1989, Taipei announced space launch plans and saying that it "should be able to launch an approximately 200-pound satellite within the next 5 years." This suggested that the Sky Horse might be resurrected as a space launch vehicle. However, progress in a space launch enterprise has not been evidenced.

Taiwan is trying to develop its own missiles with an offensive capability. The possibility is that Taiwan is developing a medium-range ballistic missile with a range that is less than or approaching one-thousand kilometers [about 600 to 700 miles]. This missile would be designed for what are called counter force purposes, which is to attack military sites on mainland China in the event of a conflict between China and Taiwan.

In late December 2003 a scientific space exploration rocket was launched from a base in southern Taiwan as part of the work of Taiwan's space program, according to an official from the National Science Council (NSC). The space exploration rocket, the third of its kind to be built by the military Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CIST), was launched in the evening from a CIST base located in Chiupeng, Pingtung County. The CIST builds and launches the rockets under a contract signed with the NSC Space Program Development Preparatory Office at a cost of NT$25 million (US$750,000) per unit. The launching of the horizontal rocket, whose range is not in excess of 300 kilometers, was mainly aimed at gaining better observation capabilities of the earth's ionosphere.

The first such rocket was successfully launched three years earlier, but it did not carry any research gear.

The second rocket of its kind did carry such equipment, but its launch 25 October 2001 failed. The rocket lifted off from the Chiupeng base in southern Taiwan, but the second stage of the rocket failed to ignite after the first stage shut down as planned. The rocket, which was going to study the upper atmosphere, reached an altitude of only 15 km before plummeting into the sea.

The second phase of Taiwan's space program would expand beyond developing satellites to building a scientific space exploration rocket. Earlier plans to develop a satellite launch vehicle were abandoned because of international missile anti-proliferation treaties, strong opposition from the United States, and other factors.

In October 2013, the Kyodo News agency estimated the number of annual violations of national export regulations by Taiwanese companies as being close to one hundred, notably regarding re-exported goods bound for Iran. These questions recall the fact that Taiwan possesses advanced delivery system technology, and provide the opportunity to shed some light on its ballistic activities, which, without being extremely concerning, are nonetheless a proliferation issue that merits vigilance. Indeed, although the country now claims to abide by international control regimes, particularly the MTCR, these revelations have reopened the debate on the island’s ability to control proliferating trafficking.

Page last modified: 25-03-2021 19:39:26 Zulu