Taiwan’s creative industries
Taiwan is investing in its creative industries – at least it is in terms of its defence industry.
This was ably demonstrated at the biennial Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) held from 13-16 August in Taiwan’s capital. TADTE is an opportunity for the MND to showcase its latest weaponry, and a number of bright ideas were on show.
One was a MALE UAV that looked remarkably like a General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. Developed by the state-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), a flying prototype was on display at TADTE.
While no munitions were fitted to the MALE UAV, one official hinted that further payloads, such as weapons, will be the next step. Significantly, this craft utilises more than 90% Taiwanese content.
Another innovative weapon was the Coastal Defence Rocket System, a rocket launcher that can blitz enemy (i.e. Chinese) troops arriving at a Taiwan coastline. The short-range rocket system is designed to target amphibious troops and vessels out to a range of 1.2km, although a greater range is envisioned in future versions.
The launcher consists of 84 rockets, and three firing tests have been conducted to date, the most recent being earlier this year, using fixed mounts. In the future, as development progresses, the Coastal Defence Rocket System will be mounted on a truck to give a high degree of mobility.
The Ministry of National Defence (MND) also exhibited various home-made weapons such as its Hsiung Feng II and III anti-ship missiles. Four years ago the MND courted controversy by displaying a Hsiung Feng III missile against a backdrop showing the ‘carrier-killer’ weapon striking a Soviet-style aircraft carrier (such as the PLA Navy now operates).
Other indigenous weaponry at this year’s TADTE show was the RT2000 multiple-rocket launcher, Antelope Tien Chen I surface-to-air missile (SAM) and CM32 8×8 armoured vehicle.
It might be reasonably argued that Taiwan has to be creative and invest heavily in its indigenous defence sector. No country other than the US is willing to take the political risk and run the gamut of Chinese criticism by selling arms to Taiwan. For this reason there was no significant foreign defence contractor exhibiting at TADTE.
Even then, this year the only big-name defence companies from the US to show up were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Rockwell Collins. It might be argued that there is little commercial reason for American contractors to appear, since all big foreign deals are done behind closed doors at the political level anyway.
However, Taiwan must develop its own military industrial capabilities, for President Barack Obama’s administration has proven unwilling to ink any significant new arms package to Taiwan during his term in office.
Taiwan remains clearly under the threat of violence from China. Beijing’s leaders maintain an estimated 1,200 ballistic missiles permanently aimed across the Taiwan Strait. Furthermore, in Article 8 of the 2005 Anti-Secession Law, China promises to ‘employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’.
It certainly considers Taiwan as integral to its territory.