by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) May 8, 2011
Taiwan has deployed a new supersonic missile on its warships in the latest response to China's rapid naval expansion, a lawmaker said Sunday.
Military authorities are also mulling deploying the Hsiung Feng III -- the first locally developed supersonic anti-ship missile -- on mobile launchers, Lin Yu-fang, of the Kuomintang party, said in a statement quoting Vice Admiral Lee Hao.
"Several types of warships have been armed with Hsiung Feng IIIs (Brave Wind)," the statement said.
It was not clear how many missiles will be produced, but according to Lin, eight Perry-class frigates and seven patrol boats will be fitted with the weapon in the Tw$11.89 billion ($413 million) project.
Analysts say Hsiung Feng III, designed to cruise at a maximum speed of mach 2.0, or twice the speed of sound, with a range of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles), are difficult to defend against.
Taiwan's defence ministry has expressed alarm at China's naval buildup although experts say it may still take time for the People's Liberation Army to operate its first carrier group complete with fighter jets.
Tsai Teh-sheng, head of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, confirmed last month that the "Varyag," a half-completed Soviet era aircraft carrier Beijing obtained in 1998, is expected to make its maiden voyage before the end of the year.
Tsai said the warship will have "certain combat capability" and will serve as a base for China's home-grown fighter jets which are modelled on Russian-made Su-33s.
Taiwan plans to build a new 'stealth' warship armed with guided-missiles next year in response, military officers have said.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved significantly since the China-friendly politician Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president in 2008, vowing to adopt a non-confrontational policy towards the mainland.
But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting to be reunified by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since 1949 when a civil war ended.
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