Taiwan Navy fires live torpedo during drill for first time in 13 years

A Chien Lung-class submarine. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) —A live torpedo was fired from a Taiwan Navy submarine off the southeast coast of the island during a military drill Wednesday, marking the first time in 13 years that such weapons were deployed as part of the country’s annual Han Kuang exercises.

The heavyweight Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedo, fired from a Chien Lung-lass diesel electric submarine, hit its target, upending the decommissioned Knox-class frigate, according to a military source.

The last time a Taiwan Navy submarine fired a live torpedo during the annual military exercises was in May 2007, according to the source.

Another source told CNA that the Navy rarely conducts live-fire torpedo drills because it only has about 60 of the heavyweight German-made SUT torpedoes, which it is seeking to replace with the more modern MK-48 Mod 6ATs from the United States.

Taiwan bought 46 MK-48 Mod 6ATs heavyweight torpedoes from the U.S. in 2017 and this year gained approval from the U.S. to acquire another 18.

The Taiwan Navy currently has four submarines in active service — two Dutch-built Chien Lung-class diesel electric submarines from the 1980s and two U.S. Guppy-class submarines built during World War II.

The Navy drill on Wednesday was part of the 36th edition of the annual Han Kuang live-fire exercises, which are being held July 13-17.

The major war games, involving all branches of the military and reserve forces, have been held every year since the early 1980s to test Taiwan’s combat readiness in the event of an attack by China.

A Tien Kung I anti-tactical ballistic missile is fired during Wednesday’s drill. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense

Also on Wednesday, the military held a joint live-fire exercise at Jiupeng military base in the southeastern county of Pingtung, during which all of its major missile systems were test fired.

The weapons fired from the coastal base included the indigenous Hsiung Feng II and III anti-ship missiles and Tien Kung I and III anti-tactical ballistic missiles, and the U.S.-made Harpoon missiles, Patriot PAC-2 missiles, and Standard Missile 1 (SM-1).

During the drill, all the missiles, except the SM-1s, hit their targets, according to the military.

Meanwhile, the Air Force scrambled its fighter jets late Tuesday to intercept a simulated attack by Chinese warplanes.

The F-16 jets took off simultaneously at 7:45 p.m. from air bases in the southwestern county of Chiayi and from Hualien County in the east to engage simulated enemy fighters, according to the military.

As part of the air raid drill, air defense units on the ground also deployed AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles and 35mm Anti-Aircraft twin guns across the country to counterattack the invading forces, the military said.

The air defense drill was staged against a backdrop of frequent incursions of Chinese military aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone over the past few months.

The live-fire drills will end Friday, and the second stage of the Han Kuang exercises, which comprises computerized war games, will be held Sept. 14-18.