By Joseph Yeh, The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s Navy yesterday fired a U.S.-made surface-to-air Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) in waters off the island’s East Coast as part of a live-fire exercise to showcase the armed forces’ defense capability. This was the first time in six years that Taiwan’s military conducted a public missile system test. The last time the weapon was used was during the 2007 Han Kuang drill (漢光演習), which is the nation’s largest annual drill involving all military branches, according to the Navy. The missile was fired from the “Ma Kong” (馬公), a Kidd-class destroyer. The SM-2 missile was fired at a location 60 nautical miles off Hualien harbor in eastern Taiwan. The missile successfully hit a target drone located 35 nautical north of the Ma Kong 80 seconds after it was fired, the Navy said. The Navy said its Kidd-class destroyers acquired from the U.S. has previously test-fired SM-2 missiles on five different occasions in waters off the U.S.’s East and West Coasts, as well as eastern Taiwan between 2005 to 2007.
Aside from the firing on SM-2, the Navy also held other live-fire drills.
The exercise was open to the media, which was aboard an accompanying Kidd-class destroyer, the Suao (蘇澳), according to Central News Agency report. The Navy was originally slated to hold other exercises, including the deployment of Air Force F-16 jet fighters and Navy fast-attack missile boats, but poor weather forced the military to cancel some parts of the drill, CNA said. Poor weather also delayed the launch of the SM-2 missile for about one and a half hours to 11:30 a.m. as the target drone initially could not be launched because of poor weather condition. Taiwan bought a batch of SM-2 missiles together with four Kidd-class destroyers from the U.S. in 2005. The SM-2 missile has a maximum operational range to 167 km and a speed of Mach 2. Military experts said the SM-2 is the most advanced missile deployed by Taiwan’s Navy. It is also one of the most expensive missiles Taiwan has now, with each priced at NT$50 million. Due to the sensitivity of a live-fire exercise, unidentified military sources told local media yesterday that the military had informed both the United States and Japan before yesterday’s missile test.