8 Jul 2011 By WENDELL MINNICK DefenseNews
TAIPEI - Recent local media reports that Taiwan test-fired an anti-ship Hsiung Feng 2 (Brave Wind) missile from a Dutch-built Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) submarine during an exercise in late June now appear to be false.
On July 7, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported the missile test, which was picked up by an English-language media service in Taipei without confirmation. The Liberty Times is closely linked to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which opposes unification with China.
Taiwan's Hai Lung's have "absolutely no capability" of launching anti-ship missiles from their torpedo tubes, said a former Taiwan Navy official who worked with ordnance used on the submarines. "This is common sense since they still have problems with just launching torpedoes with the old fire control system."
A former U.S. defense official agreed the fire control system was antiquated.
"This technology is believed to require significant and costly annual care and maintenance," he said.
Taiwan has only two combat operational diesel submarines acquired in the 1980s from the Netherlands and midlife upgrades on both are on hold until the Navy can secure the funds. Taiwan also has two World War II-era Guppy submarines used for training. In 2001, the U.S. offered to sell Taiwan eight diesel submarines, but political and technical problems haunted the program from the beginning.
The U.S. released a $200 million package for 32 UGM-84L sub-launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in 2008, but the Navy has not gone forward with the order due to submarine upgrade delays and other budgeting issues.
"One of the optimal solutions is to replace the existing fire control system with a new one that would have Harpoon processing and also the existing torpedo launch capability embedded in it - the upgraded or new fire control system also would be able to handle future torpedoes," the former U.S. official source said.
However, the Taiwan Navy appears to favor a stand-alone processing and control system with links to the Harpoon or Hsiung Feng missile. This creates problems because all interaction between the torpedo and the missile would have to be "manual and not automated - meaning more time, weight, efficiency; not to mention the missile would be fired with less accurate data," he said.
Taiwan's Air Force and Navy have been using Harpoon anti-ship missiles since the 1990s on fighter aircraft and surface ships, not submarines, and recent sales demonstrate a continued reliance on the U.S. system. On July 7, the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales Program awarded Boeing a $27 million contract for the procurement of two Lot 86 Harpoon missile bodies, two exercise Grade B canister All Up Round (AUR) and eight anti-submarine rocket AURs for Taiwan.
Taiwan's military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) does have an indigenous anti-ship missile program. The Hsiung Feng family includes three variants and CSIST is now working on a land-attack cruise missile, the HF-2E, capable of hitting targets in China.