Sunday, May 30, 2010

Korea, Thai Tensions Loom Over Shangri-La Dialogue

Defense News


Korea, Thai Tensions Loom Over Shangri-La Dialogue


TAIPEI - The 9th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit, to be held June 4-6 in Singapore, will take place against a backdrop of the recent Korean crisis and political turmoil in Thailand.

Called the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual event has become the leading security summit for Asia and the principal vehicle for informal defense diplomacy among regional states and key outside players on a variety of issues, including regional maritime security policy, counterterrorism cooperation, and coordinating disaster relief efforts.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Robert Willard will attend. It is Gates' fourth Shangri-La Dialogue.

The agenda this year, as in past years, is very broad, said Tim Huxley, executive director, IISS-Asia. A variety of discussions and presentations will include the issue of "regional distribution of power in long-term flux, challenges to the regional security architecture, military modernization and arms buildups, and the widening array of transnational threats requiring at least some degree of military response," he said.

Of special interest will be the plenary and special sessions on new dimensions of warfare, offensive capability proliferation, the future of national defense industries, and new dimensions of conflict: space- and cyberwarfare, Huxley said.

"All this will take place against the background of significant regional security developments, including the recent political disarray in Thailand and the conclusion of the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka, as well as the Korean naval incident," said Huxley, who wrote the seminal book on Singapore's armed forces, "Defending the Lion City."

Though the dialogue deals with a variety of security and defense issues, the Korean crisis is expected to dominate this year's event. Discussions between U.S. and South Korean leaders over the North Korean crisis are anticipated, said Adam Ward, IISS director of studies.

Ward notes that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak will give the keynote speech outlining Seoul's position and its plans for dealing with the new crisis. South Korea's minister of national defense, Kim Tae Young, will also attend.

A May 24 statement issued by the White House said Gates would consult with South Korean leaders at the event.

"Secretary Gates is in close contact with ROK Defense Minister Kim and will meet with him and other counterparts at the June 4-6 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore," the statement said.

Ward agreed, saying Lee and his senior officials will have the "chance to interact and consult privately with U.S. Defense Secretary Gates, as well as ministerial-level representatives from Japan, China and Russia - and the United Kingdom, which as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council is also taking a keen interest in developments on the peninsula. That underlines the importance of the dialogue as an institution."

Ward recently contributed a chapter on North Korea's strategic weapon programs in a book, "Reconstituting Korean Security."

Founded in 1958, London-based IISS is a limited company under U.K. law and a registered charity with offices in the United States and Singapore, with charitable status in each jurisdiction.

Some 28 government delegations composed of defense ministers, chiefs of defense staffs, permanent secretaries, military and intelligence chiefs, as well as distinguished delegates from the private sector, will attend, including officials from Brunei, China and Hong Kong, Germany, Japan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

These will include John Faulkner, minister for defense, Australia; Neang Phat, secretary of national defense, Cambodia; Adm. Edouard Guillaud, chief of defense, France; Adm. Nirmal Kumar Verma, chief of naval staff, India; Pradeep Kumar, defense secretary, India; Purnomo Yusgiantoro, minister of defense, Indonesia; Dato' Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, minister of defense, Malaysia; Gen. Tan Sri Dato' Sri Azizan Ariffin, chief of Defence Forces, Malaysia; Sergei Ivanov, deputy prime minister, Russia; Lee Kuan Yew, minister mentor, Singapore; Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister, Singapore; and Gamini Lakshman Peiris, minister of foreign affairs, Sri Lanka.

Defense News will be covering the three-day event.

Cows Expose Taiwan Intel Base 

Defense News


Cows Expose Taiwan Intel Base 


LINKOU, Taiwan — Wandering cows have inadvertently exposed Taiwan’s key imagery intelligence and signal intelligence (IMINT/ SIGINT) facility.

The disclosure came in a work order posted on a Web site controlled by the Ministry of National Defense (MND), which is having the fences strengthened after cattle were found roaming the facility, located in Linkou in the island’s northwest.

“The Defense Ministry’s Linyuan base covers a large area and has a long but insufficiently high perimeter fence. In several places, the fence has toppled over or is leaning, with cows breaching the perimeter on many occasions,” the order said.

The chance disclosure is the first official MND acknowledgement of the facility, which local sources describe as a combined version of the U.S. National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.

Operated by the MND’s Office of Telecommunication Development, General Staff Headquarters, it serves as the primary IMINT/SIGINT center for collecting and processing intelligence about China’s military.

Two flags on the building indicate the facility is under the command of an Army two-star general directly under the authority of the MND. The Marine Corps’ 77th Regiment is responsible for base security.

Defense News visited the Linyuan base twice recently to confirm its location and configuration. The base consists of a processing center equipped with a large satellite dish for IMINT and twin circularly disposed antenna arrays (CDAA), or “elephant cages,” for SIGINT.

Kuo Nai-jih, author of the Chinese-language book, “The Invisible War Between the Taiwan Strait,” said the Linyuan processing center was built in 2000 and went into operation in 2003.

Until then, the MND processed satellite-collected intel at a center in Xindian. Taiwan has only one reconnaissance satellite, the ROCSAT-2, built by EADS Astrium and launched in 2004. There are unconfirmed reports Taiwan has been leasing French, Israeli and U.S. commercial satellites for imagery of China.

The move to Linyuan was meant to reduce redundancy in collecting and processing IMINT from numerous sources, including the MND, National Space Planning Office and the National Central University, a U.S. defense analyst said.

Linyuan’s two antenna arrays “serve as a giant vacuum cleaner that sweeps up Chinese radio signals,” the analyst said.

The “crop circle” configuration is clearly visible on Google Earth at 25 degrees 5 minutes 41.84 seconds north, 121 degrees 23 minutes 40.95 seconds east. The larger of the two is 1,160 feet wide; the smaller one to the northwest is 580 feet wide. 

With a range of around 5,000 kilometers, with a bearing accuracy of about 1 degree, the facility can cover the entire Chinese mainland, said Desmond Ball, a signal intelligence specialist and author of the book, “The Ties That Bind.”

However, Ball warns that the relative importance of HF SIGINT activities has declined as the Chinese military has increasingly moved to satellite communications and shielded cyber/net­worked systems. 

There is an identical twin array in southwest Taiwan at Bin Lang Lin (Betel Nut Forest) Village in Sigang Township, Tainan County. The facility is at 23 degrees 8 minutes 25.22 seconds north, 120 degrees 11 minutes 10.85 seconds east.

The array configuration resembles CDAAs used by the former U.S. Naval Security Group, which used two circular arrays, not the three used by U.S. Air Force CDAAs.

“The taller array [antenna poles] is for the lower frequency range within the HF [high-frequency] spectrum, and the shorter array is for the higher portion of the HF spectrum,” a former U.S. National Security Agency technician said.

The size of an antenna is generally related to a fraction or multiple of the wavelengths it is designed to receive. The higher the frequency of a signal, the shorter its wavelength.

“On the CDAA, incoming signals strike the pole(s) nearest the transmitter first,” the former technician said. “A rotating device called a goniometer senses the electric current induced by the received signal and determines the direction from which the signal is coming.”

Some have confused the Linkou CDAA with a previous antenna facility operated by the U.S. Air Force’s 6987th Security Group in the same area until 1977. The United States switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, ending official military relations with Taiwan. The original U.S. base has been demolished.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Taiwan Commissions First Stealth Patrol Boat

Defense News


Taiwan Commissions First Stealth Patrol Boat


ZUOYING NAVAL BASE, Taiwan - Taiwan's

Navy commissioned its first squadron of 10 stealthy 170-ton Kuang Hua-6 (KH-6) guided-missile patrol boats at Zuoying Naval Base, Kaohsiung, in the southern part of the island on May 18.

The Navy is creating three squadrons dubbed the Hai Chiao (Sea Sharks), consisting of 30 boats in all. The first squadron to be commissioned, the 5th, will be based in Zuoying, but naval officials would not comment on the planned locations of the other two squadrons.

Adm. Lin Chen-yi, chief of the general staff, and Cheng Wen-lon, chairman of China Shipbuilding Corp. (CSBC), which built the vessels, officiated at the launching ceremony.

The remaining 20 boats, scheduled for commissioning in 2012, are under construction by CSBC in Kaohsiung, a military spokesman said.

The original FABG-60 prototype, which is taller and wider than the boats commissioned, was on display for the ceremony.

Most of the KH-6's weapon systems are indigenously produced, including four Hsiung Feng-2 (Brave Wind) anti-ship missiles, a 20mm T75 anti-aircraft stern gun, a T74 7.62mm unfastened machine gun and four AV-2 decoy systems.

Taiwan turned to the international market for its navigation and other support systems, including Sweden-based Consilium, Canada-based Jastram Engineering, Japan-based Ibuki Kogyo and South Korea-based Chungsol Marine. In 2007, Taiwan placed a four-year, $149 million order for 90 16-cylinder Series 4000 diesel engines for the K-6 from MTU Asia, a subsidiary of German company Tognum.

The boats have a top speed of 30 knots and a range of 1,000 nautical miles.

The Hsiung Feng-2 anti-ship missile has a range of 150 kilometers at Mach 0.85. The Taiwan Strait is extremely narrow - 220 kilometers at its widest point and 130 kilometers at its narrowest. This limited the land-based variant of the Hsiung Feng-2, but the KH-6 will allow Taiwan to strike ships at ports along China's coast.

"In an ongoing effort to counter neighboring Chinese threats, Taiwan will continue to invest in its maritime defense capabilities," said Amy McDonald, a naval analyst with AMI International in Bremerton, Wash. "The KH-6 program represents one of the key ROCN [Republic of China, or Taiwan, Navy] programs meant to ensure stability throughout the Taiwan Strait."

The KH-6 will replace roughly 30 aging Israeli-designed 57-ton Hai Ou (Sea Gull)-class missile patrol boats armed with Hsiung Feng-1s. The Hsiung Feng missile family is designed and built by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan's leading military technology research and development facility.

The KH-6 is part of a new generation of patrol boats being fielding by navies. Worldwide, the forecast for the fast attack craft (FAC) market is for 130 new hulls, with a total market value of $6 billion to $7 billion, over the next 10 years, McDonald said.

"A closer look reveals that the Asia-Pacific region leads the world in FAC investments," accounting for more than half of the FAC market share by value through 2020, she said. "The KH-6 program accounts for about 20 percent of Asia-Pacific's FAC spending, compared to about 11 percent of FAC investments overall."

U.S. Congress Pushes F-16 Release For Taiwan

Defense News


U.S. Congress Pushes F-16 Release For Taiwan


TAIPEI - 136 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to President Obama on May 12 urging the release of new F-16s to Taiwan.

The signatories are "basically the Taiwan Caucus list on the House side," said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. This includes a significant block from the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committee, he said.

The letter "commends" the Administration's decision to release a $6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan in January 2010, which included Patriot PAC-3 missiles and Black Hawk utility helicopters, but the signatories of the letter are "disappointed the package did not include the 66 F-16 fighter aircraft that Taiwan has expressed strong interest in since 2006."

According to a paper released by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council on May 11, "The Balance of Air Power in the Taiwan Strait," the air force only has 387 aging fighters consisting of U.S., French and indigenous origins: 145 F-16A/Bs, 126 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF), 56 Mirage 2000-5s and 60 F-5E/Fs.

The Congressional letter reminded the Administration of the continuing threat by China of 1,300 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at the island. Describing Taiwan's security situation as "precarious," the letter addresses China's threats to invade or coerce the island using military force.

Quoting from the Taiwan Relations Act, the letter reminds the White House it is the policy of the U.S. to "consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means... a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States."

F-16 production schedules are also a pressing issue as the "production line of F-16s is scheduled to end in the next several months only makes the sale of these fighters all the more pressing for Taiwan."

According to the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council report, the last F-16s under contract are slated for delivery by the end of 2013. Along with a 36-month manufacturing lead-time, the push to release F-16s is growing momentum.

The question is whether the Obama administration will bend to pressure from China to prohibit the release. Demands from Beijing have increasingly become a factor in Washington as China's economic, diplomatic and military power has grown. A Taiwan air force official recently said the chances of getting F-16s were "zero" due largely to China's influence in Washington.

Some sources also point to improved relations between China and Taiwan over the past year as an indicator that additional arms from the U.S. are unnecessary. Progress in cross-Strait ties has accelerated the signing of a variety of new agreements, such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.

China Pushing Forward on UUVs

Defense News


China Pushing Forward on UUVs


TAIPEI — China’s Navy is working on unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to sweep mines, do oceanographic research, gather intelligence — and possibly lay or cut undersea communications cables.

“In addition to potentially cutting or even tapping communications cables, however, I think another major issue is how Chinese UUVs might be used to either disrupt another nation’s undersea infrastructure [sensors] or also put in place China’s own similar infrastructure,” said Lyle Goldstein, director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College.

Western observers aren’t entirely sure how advanced the Chinese Navy’s work is, Goldstein said.

China’s military could be learning from development of a variety of sophisticated mines and torpedoes by the China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC). In particular, CSTC produces the EM-56 self-propelled mine, EM-22 multipurpose ground mine and the EM-57 remote-controlled mine with a 300-kilogram warhead deployed by submarines.

They might also be learning from remotely controlled operated vehicles (ROV) and other commercial vehicles.

“Finding information on Chinese developments is difficult,” said Andrew Henderson, general manager, AMI Unmanned Systems. “However, from what we’ve tracked, UUV technology sold to China has been on the commercial end of the UUV business, with sales of ROVs to China intended mainly for offshore oil and natural gas exploration.”

Examples of European companies selling ROV technology to China for commercial use include U.K.-based Soil Machine Dynamics, which in May 2008 won a contract from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International for a 100HP Quasar work class ROV, and in September 2008 the company was awarded a contract to supply two 1,000-meter-rated Quantum ROVs to Offshore Oil Engineering of China.

Others companies selling ROVs to China for commercial use include Perry Slingsby and Atlas Elektronik.

“The contracts have averaged around one to two systems each, so the numbers are not large, but business is being done,” Henderson said.

Goldstein said sales of European UUV technology to China are “just scratching the surface.”

China has also been developing autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), but “an extensive open source scrub of Chinese UUVs” indicates that “China has made less progress with AUVs than ROVs,” said Bob Nugent, vice president of advisory services at AMI International, a naval analyses firm based in Washington state.

Goldstein said earlier that Chinese UUVs include the Hairen 1 remote-controlled undersea robot prototype built in the mid-1980s by the Shenyang Institute of Automation Robotics Laboratory; the Tansuozhe UUV in 1993; and with Russian researchers, the CR-01 UUV based on the Russian MT-88.

More recently, China has developed the Zhishui 3 UUV prototype with dual tail propellers and two cross-tunnel thrusters. Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics has developed the SPC-3 robofish UUV prototype. Other projects include glider-type UUVs designed by Tianjin University.

The Chinese Navy is also conducting UUV swarming research using acoustic communications methods and developing UUVs as nodes for larger information networks.

“On the swarm concept, I would reiterate that this idea seems quite important in the Chinese literature that we reviewed,” Goldstein said. “As one of the benefits of employing unmanned systems is the significantly lower cost, this may be an obvious reason why employing them in groups becomes feasible.”

As for communications, “it is not too difficult to imagine UUVs operating as part of a undersea network, where some are optimized for sensing, perhaps others for shooting, and still others are primarily serving as communications relay stations,” he said. These would act like communication buoys that might surface occasionally to send a signal to a satellite.

However, battery power remains a major constraint and could force Chinese designers to avoid overloading a single system with too many functions, Goldstein said.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Taiwan Sends Mixed Message on Fighters

Defense News


Taiwan Sends Mixed Message on Fighters


TAIPEI - Comments made by Taiwan's Air Force chief of staff have confused the issue over whether Taiwan actually wants F-16s.

On May 13, Air Chief Ger Hsi-hsiung told members of the legislature that F-16s would meet Taiwan's immediate requirements, but the F-16 lacks the stealth and short-takeoff and vertical-landing (STOVL) capabilities that will be needed in the future.

When asked by the legislature to identify the fighter better suited to meet Taiwan's long-term needs, Ger identified the F-35B Lightening II.

Taiwan first requested 66 new F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters from the United States in 2006, but Washington has been hesitant to release the aircraft due to pressure from China.

Ger's response sends the wrong signal to Washington at a time when the government is pushing hard for the release of F-16s, said a Taiwan defense official.

"He is downplaying the utility of the F-16 and that the F-16 is not appropriate for our future needs." The result is "confusion at a time when there should be one voice on the F-16 procurement," he said.

Taiwan's Air Force faces 1,300 short-range ballistic missiles and a Chinese land-based air defense network that can target aircraft over the northwestern portion of the island. Runways are expected to be destroyed within the first salvo of ballistic missiles. Therefore, the Air Force has a requirement for a stealthy fighter with STOVL capabilities that can operate from damaged runways and avoid Chinese radar.

Taiwan had looked at procuring used Boeing AV-8B Harriers to fill the STOVL requirement, but the matter was dropped when the F-35s became an option.

A Taiwan defense analyst said the F-35 would give Taiwan control of the air at a tactical and even at a strategic level that it has not had since the 1980s. The F-35 would also enhance survivability against ballistic missile attack and radar targeting by China.

Though Ger acknowledged it was government policy to pursue procurement of new F-16s, the fighters do not "satisfy" the Air Force requirements. He said Chinese fighters can cross the Taiwan Strait in five-to-seven minutes, leaving little time to react.

Ger's comments are not new. Taiwan submitted a letter of intent (LoI) to the U.S. Department of Defense in 2002 requesting a briefing on the F-35, which was subsequently granted.

"Strikes on Taiwan airbases would neutralize existing aircraft due to their inability to perform short take-offs and landings," the LoI said. "Requirement: capability to engage enemy forces from air, after initial strikes against conventional ROCAF [Republic of China Air Force] airbases render the bases temporarily inoperative. Our forces are designed to absorb an initial strike and provide a full defense from ongoing air attacks from the PRC [People's Republic of China]."

A Taiwan government adviser said the military will be "lucky to afford" new F-16s, let alone more expensive F-35s. He said the military budget was shrinking at the same time it was taking delivery of $13 billion worth of new arms and equipment from the United States.

He doubts the military can afford the new arms and a costly streamlining and reorganization program now underway. The military is moving from conscription to a volunteer military within the next five years. It is also decreasing the number of personnel and consolidating commands.

Arms in the pipeline include 60 UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, 30 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, two Osprey minesweepers and more than 300 Patriot PAC-3 missile systems.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

DTA 2010 Set To Open In Singapore

Defense News


DTA 2010 Set To Open In Singapore


TAIPEI - The 2010 Defence Technology Asia (DTA) International Conference and Exhibition will run from May 19-20 in Singapore. DTA is organized by Singapore-based Defence Technology Conferences, which arranges conferences and exhibitions in Southeast Asia.

This year, over 300 members of defense organizations from Singapore and around the world are confirmed to attend. There are more than 40 speakers from the France, India, Italy, Sweden and the U.S.

The theme this year is "Technology - The Force Differentiator." The chief of the Singapore Navy, Rear Adm. Chew Men Leong, will address the event as keynote speaker.

"We have confirmed high-ranking delegations coming from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia," said Mathew Abraham, DTA representative. "I am having high level naval technologists coming from Italy, France, Sweden and high level participation from Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and Singapore Navy."

Other speakers include François-Régis Martin-Lauzer, director of the NATO Underwater Research Center; Jacques Cousquer, technical director of the Délégation Générale Pour l'Armement in France; and Jonas Haggren, commanding officer of the 1st Submarine Flotilla, FMV, Swedish Armed Forces.

Abraham said DTA 2010 is considered the premier naval technology event in the region. DTA 2010 is designed to be the world-class forum in Singapore with focus on submarine and anti-submarine warfare, and naval surface ship technologies and warfare strategies, he said.

DTA sponsors include Eurotorp, Thales, Finmeccanica, ELT Electtronica, ThyssenKrupp, SAAB, Selex, Curtis Wright, Kockums and MBDA.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taiwan: Report Highlights Fighter Gap with China

Defense News


Taiwan: Report Highlights Fighter Gap with China

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI - A report issued May 11 by the Washington-based US-Taiwan Business Council highlights the need to improve Taiwan's air defense capabilities in response to a growing threat by China.

"The Balance of Air Power in the Taiwan Strait" is clearly a plea for the release of 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters, now on hold by the U.S. government since Taiwan's initial request in 2006.

It should be noted, the council represents the business interests of U.S. defense companies and not U.S. foreign policy.

The report is pushing the release against what it sees as an ever-closing window of availability. With the last F-16s under contract slated for delivery by the end of 2013, along with the 36-month manufacturing lead-time, the U.S. government must make a decision soon on a release, the report said.

In part, the report is an attempt to supplement a recent unclassified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on Taiwan air power issued in January to the U.S. Congress, said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president, US-Taiwan Business Council.

The DIA report, mandated by U.S. law, will be issued in classified form later this year.

"Because the bulk of the DoD analysis on this matter is classified, the US-Taiwan Business Council felt it important that the community have a more substantial analysis to consider, leading to the production of this report," he said.

The Obama administration must weigh the implications of Taiwan's inability to protect its own airspace and the potential cost of a U.S. "requirement to fill that void in a possible conflict," he said, noting the increased burden on U.S. forces in Alaska, Okinawa and Guam to meet other threats to peace and stability in the region.

Taiwan's current inventory comprises 18 fighter squadrons with a nominal strength of 387 fighters of U.S., French and indigenous origins: 145 F-16A/Bs, 126 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF), 56 Mirage 2000-5s and 60 F-5E/Fs.

The report notes the F-5s are scheduled for retirement in 2014 and the Mirage fleet suffers from high maintenance costs and chronically low availability rates.

The report indicates the per-flight-hour cost of the Mirage fighter is "more than triple" that of the IDF and "five times" that of the F-16A/B. Though the Mirages comprise only 17 percent of the fighter fleet, their operational costs "consume nearly 59%" of the total operations and maintenance budget. Availability has been as low as 58 percent and pilots now only fly eight-15 hours per month.

The report indicates that within the next five-10 years, Taiwan's fighter strength will drop from 387 to 327 to 271, respectively, as the F-5 and Mirage fighters are phased out.

At the same time, China's fighter fleet will continue to modernize and expand beyond its current fleet of more than 700 combat aircraft within operational range of Taiwan, "with hundreds more in ready reserve."

"Given the size of the Chinese combat aircraft fleet deployed opposite Taiwan, the minimum number of operational fighter aircraft Taiwan must field at the start of hostilities should be no less than 360-400 aircraft, or roughly the present nominal force size," the report said.

The report warns that by no later than 2014, Taiwan will no longer have the fighter aircraft needed to meet "the operational requirements of defending its air space from the Chinese military threat."

Taiwan defense officials and defense industry sources indicated continued denials of new fighters could force Taiwan to develop a pre-emptive strike posture.

The report does acknowledge Taiwan's development of a "deep-strike capability" that is driven by a "need to neutralize high-value military targets." These include roughly 1,300 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, as well as C2 facilities, air bases, radar stations and surface-to-air missile units capable of hitting aircraft over Taiwan.

This includes a major research-and-development program for two land-attack missiles: a land-attack cruise missile and a tactical ballistic missile.

However, Taiwan defense sources previously have indicated these programs serve both as a ploy to force Washington to release arms to Taiwan and as a backup in case arms are not approved.

One example is continued resistance by the United States to release the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile. In response, Taiwan developed its own anti-radiation variant, the TC-2A.

Though China and Taiwan are improving relations and are expected to sign the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement soon, the report cautions that the political situation is still fluid and the future uncertain.

This "significant quantitative decline" represents a "fighter gap" between China and Taiwan that exposes the island to "Chinese political extortion as the two sides move towards political dialogue."

China continues to use a "carrot-and-stick" approach to negotiations and has made no effort to reduce the military threat to Taiwan.

Sources in Taipei caution that the upcoming presidential election in 2012 could see the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party return to power, resulting in a violent reaction by China.

Monday, May 10, 2010

N. Korea’s Recon Brigade Suspected in Attack on Ship

Defense News


N. Korea’s Recon Brigade Suspected in Attack on Ship


TAIPEI — Growing evidence points to the likely involvement of North Korea’s elite special operations Reconnaissance General Bureau in the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan on March 26.

The Pohang-class corvette was destroyed in the western waters off the disputed sea border with North Korea by the force of an explosion that apparently came from below the boat, sometimes referred to as bubble-jet effect or a non­contact explosion, Seoul officials have said. The focus of the investigation now appears to be narrowing to either a “human torpedo” or a torpedo launched from a midget submarine or semi-submersible under the command of the bureau.

The Reconnaissance General Bureau is North Korea’s lead intelligence collection and covert action arm. Not only does it include infiltration operations into the south, but it conducts covert operations such as assassination, kidnapping and sabotage.

Joseph Bermudez, who wrote “North Korean Special Forces,” the definitive book on the subject, said the bureau has a long history of doing Pyongyang’s dirty work and has recently been growing in influence and power.

“Up until recently, the North Korean agencies involved in intelligence and special operations were divided between the Army and the party,” Bermudez said. However, with the rise of the military within North Korea, the bureau has been “assuming greater and greater power.” 

Expanding Power 

Intelligence agencies and assets have recently undergone a reorganization in North Korea, Bermudez said. “The Reconnaissance Bureau became the Reconnaissance General Bureau and has assumed the responsibilities of many of the intelligence operations that were formerly under the control of the party.”

The bureau has naval, ground and air elements. It was responsible for the grounding of a Sango-class midget submarine off the east coast of South Korea in 1996. The occupants committed suicide.

If the recent attack on the Cheonan was most likely the handiwork of the bureau, then the lead actors behind the attack were most likely O Kuk-ryol, vice director of the National Defense Commission, which oversees the bureau, and Kim Kyok-sik, the Fourth Corps commander. O is a confidant of North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-il.

“He is very aggressive, very dedicated, very firm supporter of Kim Jong-il. He knows his job and knows how to cause pain and suffering,” Bermudez said.

If it was a bureau-initiated attack, it means the attackers probably operated out of ports in the Fourth Corps area of operation, said Bruce Bechtol, author of the book “Red Rogue.”

“If the attack was conducted by the Recon Bureau, it could have been a San­go or Yugo [midget submarine],” Bechtol said. “It also could have been a semi-submersible or a human-driven torpedo,” he said.

Bermudez agrees that given the shallow depth of the water in the area, a torpedo attack might have come from a semi-submersible vessel rather than a submarine. 

“I would certainly rule out a Romeo submarine; however, a Sango or Yugo are within the realm of possibility. The vast majority of the Navy’s and intelligence agencies’ submarines are capable of carrying torpedoes and sea mines as are some of the intelligence agencies’ semi-submersible infiltration landing craft,” he said. “Torpedoes carried by these smaller craft would necessarily be smaller in size.” 

North Korea’s Midget Subs 

North Korea has an unknown number of operational 260-ton Sango-class midget submarines and 90-ton Yugo-class midget coastal submarines used for infiltration, anti-surface warfare and mine laying. Both can carry torpedoes. A Sango was captured in 1996 off the east coast of South Korea, and several Yugos have been lost in operations against the South, the most recent in 1998.

There are about 100 high-speed semi-submersible infiltration crafts of different sizes and shapes at North Korea’s disposal. They have a low radar cross section and squat in the water at high speeds.

Some of the most famous are locally built Cluster Osprey-class semi-submersible saboteur infiltration launches. In service since 1985, the vessels are used for sabotage and infiltration teams.

North Korea also has seven U.S.­built high-speed racing boats procured from U.S. shipbuilder Fountain Powerboat Industries in 1993. The agent handling the sale was subsequently indicted in 1998 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The boats have a maximum speed of 100 knots with 2,000 break horsepower engines and are used for infiltration missions.

Earlier this year, South Korea’s military intelligence warned of the threat of human-torpedo attacks from North Korea, Bechtol said, “which was pledging revenge for its defeat in a sea skirmish in November last year.”

“Human torpedoes are underwater suicide squads who operate torpedoes equipped with a mini motor or engine to sneak up to a target and blow it up,” he said. 

Assassination Attempt 

Although the bureau’s involvement in the Cheonan attack is still in question, there is no question the bureau sent two men to Seoul to assassinate a North Korean defector this month.

South Korea announced April 19 that it had arrested two North Korean agents working for the Reconnaissance General Bureau who had been sent to Seoul to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party who defected to the South in 1997. He is the most senior North Korean official ever to defect.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service identified the men as Kim Myong-ho and Dong Myong-gwan, both majors in the bureau. Both were under orders from Kim Yong-chol, a high-level bureau official, to assassinate Hwang. They entered South Korea from Thailand earlier this year posing as defectors.

“Killing Hwang has been a long­time goal on North Korea’s part. They will continue trying to get him. That won’t change,” Bermudez said.

The assassination attempt and the Cheonan incident point to the possibility North Korea will conduct additional covert operations against South Korea in the coming months, Bermudez said.

And despite the increase in violence, there are few who believe Seoul will launch a punitive strike against Pyongyang, fearing an escalation in violence.

“One plausible scenario is that they do nothing since neither the U.S. nor South Korea has ever taken military action in response to previous armed NK attacks due to the fear of the situation escalating to a war,” said Bruce Klingner, a Korean military specialist at the Heritage Foundation.

“An alternative to not doing a military response but doing ‘something’ is to take it to the United Nations to demand actions” against North Korea in the form of more sanctions, he said.


1968: A platoon of North Korean soldiers is stopped short of reaching the Blue House, the South Korean presidential residence, and after an intense fire fight only one North Korean soldier survives.

1968: North Korea captures the Pueblo, a U.S. Navy reconnaissance ship.

1972: A North Korean bomb detonates prematurely at South Korea’s National Cemetery before the scheduled arrival of the South Korean president.

1976: A U.S. soldier is killed in Panmunjom by North Koreans wielding ax handles.

1983: A North Korean bomb kills several members of the South Korean presidential Cabinet in Rangoon.

1987: A North Korean bomb detonates on KAL flight 858 killing 115 people.

1996: A North Korean mini­submarine is captured along the east coast of South Korea.

Court: Thales Owes Taiwan $800M

Defense News


Court: Thales Owes Taiwan $800M


TAIPEI — In the latest twist in a two­decade saga, a Paris court has ruled that Thales owes Taiwan more than $800 million for violating agreements related to the sale of six Lafayette-class frigates.

The international court of arbitration found May 3 that the French defense contractor had violated an agreement not to pay commissions to intermediaries for the frigates. Taiwan sued Thales to recover the commissions allegedly paid to French and Taiwan government officials. The company plans to challenge the decision.

“Even the verdict seems to clear the long-smeared image of MND [the Ministry of National Defense] to a significant extent. It has already been an established tradition for the Taiwan generals and admirals to avoid any risk in acquisition that may one day boomerang to haunt them,” said Lin Chong-Pin, a former Taiwan vice minister of defense. “Many, not all, have become more mindful of a comfortable retired life than making breakthroughs for the nation’s arms purchases.”

In 1991, Taiwan ordered the frigates in a $2.8 billion deal from Thomson-CSF, now Thales. Two years later, two Taiwanese naval officers were accused of accepting bribes in connection to the deal. One of them, Capt. Yin Ching-feng, was found dead in the ocean the day after a December 1993 meeting with unknown local agents working for European defense companies.

The subsequent investigations revealed that government officials in France and Taiwan had received more than $400 million in bribes in connection with the deal, while unknown Chinese officials received $100 million to prevent Beijing from pushing to kill the deal.

The scandal took on the feel of an international spy thriller with eight mysterious deaths, including two French citizens who jumped from — or were pushed off — high-rise buildings.

The scandal shook Taiwan’s arms procurement system. Thirteen local government officials and defense contract agents were convicted in connection with the case.

The fallout reduced MND officials’ aggressiveness in acquiring critical arms and equipment, which has made Taiwan dependent on the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, a former U.S. defense official said.

“They believe the FMS program allows for some protection against allegations of corruption since it is run by the U.S. government,” he said.

Yet a loophole in the FMS program allows “contingency fees” to be paid to local sales agents working for U.S. defense companies without requiring disclosure about who receives how much, a former Taiwan defense official said.

The former official notes that FMS regulation 225.73, “Acquisitions for Foreign Military Sales,” says “fees are paid to a bona fide employee or a bona fide established commercial or selling agency maintained by the prospective contractor for the purpose of securing business and the contracting officer determines that the fees are fair and reasonable.”

The former U.S. government official said such commissions are paid to unidentified individuals with close ties to members of the government and military. Some of the local Taiwanese sales agents have ties to organized-crime syndicates and have traveled to China on questionable business trips.

Two local agents working for U.S. companies have been jailed for espionage. In 2006, Ko-suen “Bill” Moo was found guilty in U.S. federal court of attempting to acquire a U.S. cruise missile, jet engine, and other military equipment for China. Two years later, Tai Shen Kuo, a Taiwan­born naturalized U.S. citizen was arrested for spying for China, and was imprisoned along with two U.S. government officials he recruited.