Taiwan show of strength backfires as one in four test missiles miss their targets to leave president embarrassed

  • Military told to up its game after public display flops dramatically
Weeks after its neighbour China confirmed its growing military power with a test of its new stealth fighter jet, Taiwan has attempted to show its own hand with a public missile display.
Yet the test firing of 19 surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles left the Taiwanese government with red faces today after a quarter of the ballistics missed their targets.
President Ma Ying-jeou admitted his exasperation after the tests, which were the first to be held in full view of the media for almost a decade.
Mixed results: A US-made RIM-7 Sparrow missile is launched during a live fire test at Jeoupeng military base at Pingtung County, southern Taiwan
Mixed results: A US-made RIM-7 Sparrow missile is launched during a live fire test at Jeoupeng military base at Pingtung County, southern Taiwan

Firepower: Taiwan showed its force during a live-fire missile exercise today
Firepower: Taiwan showed its force during a live-fire missile exercise today
Bullseye: A surface-to-air missile hits its target, but a quarter missed the mark
Bullseye: A surface-to-air missile hits its target, but a quarter missed the mark
'I'm not satisfied with the results,' he told reporters when the test was concluded.
'I hope the military will find out the reasons and improve its training.'

 
The test, Mr Ma said, had been intended 'to bring more transparency into military affairs and allow the public to view the military's readiness'.
But under a cloudy sky, five of the missiles failed to hit their targets, including one RIM-7M Sparrow, which cascaded harmlessly into the South China Sea less than 30 seconds after launch.
Other missiles tested included Sky Bow IIs - which have a range of 125 miles - MIM-23 Hawks and FIM-92 Stingers.
Disappointed: President Ma Ying-jeou demanded improvements after a quarter of missiles tested today missed their targets
Disappointed: President Ma Ying-jeou demanded improvements after a quarter of missiles tested today missed their targets

Surface-to-air success
Surface-to-air success
Surface-to-air success: A TK2 (left) and a U.S.-made Hawk missile is launched during one of the most public displays of Taiwan's military power in the last ten years

Local tensions: Taiwanese soldiers check US-made Hawk missiles at the Chiupeng missile base in southern Pingtung county
Local tensions: Taiwanese soldiers check US-made Hawk missiles at the Chiupeng missile base in southern Pingtung county
Mr Ma had recently faced criticism that his reconciliation policy with China has undermined the Taiwan's deterrence against Beijing's rising military strength.

And the public failure of today's missile tests is likely to increase opposition to Mr Ma's strategy of lowering tensions with its neighbour across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait.

Since their split after civil war in 1949, Taiwan has been threatened with invasion by China should it attempt to make its de facto independence permanent.

Taiwan's ability to defend itself from potential Chinese incursion came under question earlier this month after pictures of China's J-20 stealth jet emerged.
Airborne attack: An air-to-air missile is fired from a Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 jet during today's drill
Airborne attack: An air-to-air missile is fired from a Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 jet during today's drill

Lift-off: China's J-20 stealth plane made a successful test flight this month, coinciding with U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates' visit to Beijing
Lift-off: China's J-20 stealth plane made a successful test flight this month, coinciding with U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates' visit to Beijing
The J-20, which looks larger than the active American F-22 or the Sukhoi T-50 being tested by Russia, will be of concern to the Taiwanese government, whose antiquated aircraft and radar systems would provide little resistance to radar-evading Chinese jets.

The U.S. has claimed China would not be capable of developing a stealth jet for years and production of the F-22 was recently capped.

But the J-20's successful test, coupled with reports of the development of an aircraft carrier and missile system, confirms China's growing military might.
 
 
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