Taiwan’s defence ministry on Tuesday confirmed reports that a new supersonic anti-ship missile had missed its target during a routine naval drill, in the latest in a series of setbacks.
Analysts say the Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) III missile, designed to cruise at a maximum speed of Mach 2.0, or twice the speed of sound, and with a range of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles), is difficult to defend against.
But the defence ministry said the weapon, the island’s first locally developed supersonic anti-ship missile, had failed to hit its objective during the drill due to a computer glitch.
“The ministry will improve on the screening of hardcore facilities… to ensure the quality of the missiles,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan started to deploy the Hsiung Feng III on its warships last year in response to China’s rapid naval expansion.
But the island’s military leaders were left red-faced after two failed missile tests earlier this year that earned rare criticism from President Ma Ying-jeou, who urged the armed forces to practice more.
The Taipei-based China Times said the latest failure was particularly embarrassing for Taiwan’s navy, since it “coincided” with Beijing’s much-publicised military drills in South China Sea in mid-June.
The missiles are estimated to cost Taiwanese taxpayers at least Tw$100 million ($3.45 million) each, the report said.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved since Ma became the island’s president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform.
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.