TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan's Navy mistakenly fired a supersonic Hsiung Feng III (Brave Wind) anti-ship missile, with a live warhead, striking a Taiwanese fishing boat and killing the captain.
Three others were injured from the missile's collision, which was launched from a 500-ton Ching Chiang-class guided-missile patrol vessel during a missile exercise in Zuoying naval port in the southern city of Kaohsiung.
The PGG-610 Chin Jiang fired the missile by accident at 8:20 a.m. on July 1, after an enlistee on the vessel violated standard operating procedure and switched the simulation mode to combat mode, said a Ministry of National Defense (MND) source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"During the firing process he [the enlistee] gave it [the missile] a simulated target 40 nautical miles (74 kilometers) northwest of Zuoying and struck a fishing boat southeast of Penghu Island," the MND source said.
The missile never crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and did not threaten China.
Built during the 1990s, the Ching Chiang vessels have recently undergone upgrades of its anti-ship missile batteries from the HF-2 with a 165-kilometer range to the rocket/ramjet powered HF-3 with a 300-kilometer range. The HF-3 was dubbed the "aircraft carrier killer" as a warning to China over its development of aircraft carriers.
The MND source said he was surprised by the success of the missile: "It was very efficient. The fishing boat was made of carbon fiber with a low cross section and yet the missile did its job."
A journalist looks at a map showing the misfired missile route during a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, on July 1.
Photo Credit: Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images
Taiwan's indigenous missile program is under the military-run National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCIST). NCIST produces a wide variety of missiles and radar systems, including the Tien Kung (Sky Bow) air defense missile, Tien Chien (Sky Sword) air-to-air missiles and the new Hsiung Feng-2E land-attack cruise missile.
Though technical glitches have accompanied numerous missile tests in the past, in all categories, the HF-3 incident appears to be the first one caused by human error.