Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday reiterated the need for the nation to build up its self-sufficiency to minimize its dependence on foreign arms sales, saying the nation’s defense industry has fallen more than a decade behind the rest of the world in key technologies.
“We have fallen more than 10 years behind. Our achievements would have been greater had we done all we could to develop the defense industry when former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) told the nation to learn to support itself after its removal from the UN,” Feng said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the Science and Technology Exhibition Center of the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the military’s main research and development body.
Difficulties in acquiring foreign weapons systems highlight the need to achieve self-sufficiency in defense, as it took more than a decade for Taiwan to obtain F-16 jets from the US and it has yet to receive US assistance in developing submarines, he said.
“Do you know how difficult it will be for us to push ahead with the submarine building program?” Feng said. “Do you know how long we have been asking the US for help to build submarines? More than 15 years.”
When he served as military attache in Washington, the US government denied his request for Taiwan to purchase F-16s, telling him that it was “the 12th year in a row that Taiwan sought to buy the jets,” and that his request would be shelved, as past proposals had.
However, the US later approved the sale of 150 F-16s to Taiwan in 1992, while Feng was still attache.
The institute’s predecessor, the air force’s research center, developed the first prototype of the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching Kuo, or Indigenous Defense Fighter, a milestone for the nation’s defense industry, and the institute has since then been responsible for maintenance and upgrades of the aircraft’s combat systems, Feng said.
The exhibition center, which displays locally developed missile systems, radar systems, 5G communication technologies, aerospace technologies and combat simulation systems, is aimed at inspiring students to contribute to the nation’s defense industry, he said.
The exhibition center also features active electronically scanned array radar systems, models of the Hsiung Feng III supersonic anti-ship missile, a combat control system and a range of other military equipment.
“The institute designed all of the core technologies of the radar system, which was completely manufactured locally,” institute vice president Gao Chung-hsing (杲中興) said. “We no longer have to import radar components, as we have the ability to produce all of the advanced radar system’s parts, which is a great leap in electronics.”
The exhibition center also houses a control center that monitors the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics experiment module mounted on the International Space Station, as the institute is a supplier of electronics systems for the device.
Following the institute’s reorganization into an public entity, it has provided technological solutions to a number of industries, Gao said.