Two of 26 missiles missed their targets when Taiwan’s military carried out a live-fire exercise Monday, but officers in charge said they were happy with the result.
More than 2,300 soldiers were mobilised in the drill held in Chiupeng, a tightly-guarded missile base facing the Pacific Ocean in Pingtung county in the island’s south.
The two missiles that missed their targets were a Hsiungfeng II (Brave Wind II) – an improved version of the Hsiungfeng ship-to-ship missile – and a Tien Chien I (Sky Sword I) surface-to-air missile, both of which were locally developed and manufactured.
A drone, supposed to serve as a missile target during the exercise, went out of control minutes after it was launched and fell to earth near to a house. No one was wounded in the incident, the military said.
Twenty-four other missiles, launched from aircraft, vessels and ground batteries, destroyed their targets in the drill, which was presided over by general Lin Chen-yi, chief of staff of the island’s armed forces.
“General Lin is satisfied with the outcome of the manoeuvre,” a military officer told reporters.
Previous drills have been less successful. In an embarrassing flop in 2011 six out of 19 missiles missed their targets or failed to explode during a live-fire missile test attended by the press.
Monday’s manoeuvre is likely to have been watched carefully by China’s People’s Liberation Army, which currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island, according to estimates by Taiwanese experts.
Tensions between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland have eased markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party was elected the island’s president in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links.
Nevertheless, China still refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan should it declare formal independence, even though the island has governed itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.
The lingering threats have prompted Taiwanese authorities to stockpile thousands of missiles, which it has either purchased from the United States or manufactured itself.