Visitors chat next to a Taiwanese Tien Kung III missile Wednesday during the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition at the World Trade Center. (Sam Yeh / AFP)
TAIPEI — Visitors of the 12th Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE) last week fought heat, humidity and a crowd of more than 90,000 teenagers waiting to buy their favorite Japanese Manga comic books, toys and posters.
The biannual TADTE, held at the World Trade Center, was forced to share half the floor space with the 14th Comic Book Exhibition due to a lack of interest in Taiwan’s defense industry.
However, this year’s show saw an increase in exhibitors from 89 in 2011 to 103, but US and Taiwan exhibitors pushing their way through throngs of Manga fans griped that they were “in the wrong business.”
The exhibition has a mixed record of exhibitor participation over the years. The number of exhibitors for 2003, 2005 and 2007 averaged 65. Analysts blame political infighting between the Democratic Progressive Party, which won the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and the Chinese Nationalist Party, which controlled the legislature and blocked new arms deals with the US until it regained the presidential office in 2008.
The result has been a steady decline in interest by US companies. This year, Northrop Grumman and Boeing declined to exhibit. Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Raytheon had booths, but only Raytheon pushed a new product — an upgrade for Taiwan’s MIM-23 Hawk air defense missile system.
Despite the decline in US exhibitors, there were some surprises from the Taiwan companies.
Taiwan’s Navy unveiled a prototype of a road-mobile launcher carrier for the supersonic Hsiung Feng 3 (Brave Wind) anti-ship cruise missile. Officials of the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) said the launch canisters on the road-mobile launch vehicle were the same as those outfitted on its Cheng Kung-class (Perry) frigates.
The Navy also revealed that two vessel prototypes were under construction by the Lung-De Shipbuilding Corp. The first is a catamaran corvette for littoral warfare under the Hsun Hai (Swift Sea) program. The Navy describes it as a “high efficiency wave piercing catamaran.”
The model on display at the exhibition showed a vessel outfitted with 16 Hsiung Feng anti-ship missiles, most likely a mix of HF-2 and HF-3 missiles. The second vessel under construction is a fast combat support ship to replace aging replenishment ships.
The special forces participated in the show this year, including the Army’s 862 Airborne Brigade and the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Reconnaissance Patrol (ARP) unit. The ARP exhibited the DF602 Seabob Dive Jet 414 for underwater transport. The ARP procured four Seabob 414s in 2011 from Taipei-based Dafar International.
The ARP also exhibited its new AMPHORA rebreather for stealthy diving in shallow waters. Produced by US-based Aqualung, the AMPHORA is based on the combat designed Full Range Oxygen Gas System.
CSIST unveiled a new unmanned helicopter, the Magic-Eye mini-UAV system, for short-range combat reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition missions. The Magic-Eye has a stealthy configuration with an endurance of 30 to 60 minutes at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour.
Several smaller companies and universities exhibited a variety of UAVs. Taichung-based AVIX Technology showed off its new AXH multifunction unmanned helicopter equipped with a three-axis ring style stabilizer gimbal system. Fooyin University exhibited its Wing-in-Ground Craft prototype, which can operate as a high-speed watercraft or as an aircraft.
CSIST demonstrated two new short-range automated defense weapon systems: the single gun XTR-101 naval system and the dual gun XTR-102 fixed-position system, both armed with T-75 20mm guns. The XTR-101 is equipped with a 40x power zoom lens and the XTR-102 is equipped with an electro optical system.
CSIST also exhibited a new Kestrel man-portable rocket launcher capable of firing both anti-armor HESH and HEAT rockets. Taiwan’s Marine Corps has expressed an interest in the rocket system.
One of the more interesting programs on exhibit was the new HTTP-2B Hybrid Sounding Rocket, produced in cooperation with numerous universities with the support of the National Science Council of Taiwan. The HTTP-2B will be followed by the HTTP-3 in 2014 for a mission to launch three 10-kilogram nano-satellites to an altitude of 180 kilometers.
State-run Aerospace Industry Development Corp. (AIDC) briefed Defense News on the status of the midlife upgrade program for the Indigenous Defense Fighter aircraft (IDF). In 2010, AIDC began upgrades of 71 IDFs, which will be completed by the end of the year. AIDC expects to sign a new contract with the Air Force in 2014 to upgrade the remaining 56 IDFs.
An AIDC source said the program did not include conformal fuel tanks, which were originally outfitted on the prototype. However, it will have a new radar with electronic counter-countermeasures, avionics upgrade with a heads-up display, and a new digital flight computer.
“We have fixed the [diminishing manufacturing sources] problem,” the source said.
The IDF will be able to carry four Tien Chien II medium-range air-to-air missiles, rather than two, he said. Development continues on the Wan Chien cluster bomb for the IDF “although [cluster bombs] are controversial,” he said.