For several years, the Taiwanese military has viewed the “Hsiung Feng-2E” cruise missile as a strategic asset for conducting counterattacks against mainland China. Details about the missile are strictly confidential. According to a report from Taiwan United Daily News (UDN), the Taiwanese military conducted a test launch of the “Hsiung Feng-2E” missile in the early hours of the 16th of the month. This marked the missile’s first public demonstration in nearly two decades of deployment. The HF-2E missile and the American BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile share many similarities.
UDN published photographs depicting the nighttime launch of a Hsiung Feng IIE (HF-2E) missile from the Jiupeng military base in Pingtung County, the island nation’s southernmost county. The “Hsiung Feng-2E” cruise missile took off from the base at approximately 4:00 a.m., with its rocket booster visibly plummeting to the ground. According to reports, the missile effectively ignited its turbofan engine for cruising, flew without incident for more than an hour, and met all test objectives.
This base is a well-known missile testing range. It is affiliated with the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), a leading research institution in Taiwan believed to be responsible for developing the HF-2E missile.
Citing an unidentified source within the defence ministry, another Taiwanese publication, namely the Central News Agency (CNA), confirmed the UDN report. According to this source, the Taiwanese military launched a classified missile on August 16 as part of a three-day live-fire exercise.
The Taiwanese military currently possesses the “Hsiung Feng-2E” cruise missile with a range of 600 kilometres and a range of more than 1,000 kilometres. They have the codenames “Hsiung Sheng” and “Hsiung Chien,” respectively. Due to security concerns, the Taiwanese military refers to both ‘Hsiung Sheng’ and ‘Hsiung Chien’ missiles as ‘Hsiung Sheng’ to the rest of the world. The report stated that the Taiwanese military did not disclose whether this test launch was for the extended-range version of the “Hsiung Feng-2E” cruise missile, but this is the first time in nearly 20 years that launch footage for the “Hsiung Feng-2E” cruise missile has been made public.
Previously, Taiwanese media reported that budgets were allocated to begin developing the “Hsiung Feng-2E” cruise missile as early as the 1990s under the administration of Lee Teng-hui. Due to testing failures caused by system integration issues, the missile did not enter mass production until 2008, following successful evaluations. The Taiwanese military once stated that the missile provided Taiwan the first time the capability to launch strategic strikes against targets deep within the mainland, including strategic targets along the Guangzhou-Shanghai line.
Media reports surfaced in February that Taiwan’s Sun Yat-sen Academy of Sciences launched a cruise missile test on February 7 from its base in Jiupeng, located at the southernmost point of Taiwan, with a range of 1,200 kilometres that could reach cities in eastern China.
South China Morning Post reported that the surface-to-surface missile is an extended-range version of the Xiongfeng IIE, capable of striking targets 1,200 kilometres (746 miles) away, far enough to reach significant Chinese cities such as Qingdao on the east coast and Wuhan in the centre of the country.
The report indicated that the missile was tested in the sky from Ludao to Landao and in the northeast of Yilan County, spanning 300 kilometres from north to south, 180 kilometres from east to west, and up to 30 kilometres in altitude. Four additional tests were expected to be administered during the month.
With the HF-2E’s increased range, the Taiwanese military could strike vital People’s Liberation Army (PLA) targets such as radar stations, missile complexes, airfields, and surveillance and reconnaissance assets.
Asia Times reported in March 2022 that NCSIST intended to construct an additional 34 facilities to increase the production capacity of four specific missile types: the Tien Kung anti-aircraft missile, the Tien Chien air-to-air missile, the air-launched cruise missile Wan Chien, and the anti-ship missile Hsiung Feng.
This initiative aims to increase Taiwan’s annual missile production from 207 units to 497 units by 2023, with production reaching its zenith. Since 2018, NCSIST has invested $249 million to modernise 80 missile production facilities. The remaining facilities are scheduled for completion by June 2022. However, there is no information regarding whether all the facilities were upgraded as planned.
Asia Times published a lengthy article in December 2022 regarding Taiwan’s efforts to develop long-range missiles, including the supersonic Yung Feng cruise missile, the HF-2E cruise missile, and the ballistic missile Ba Dan. The Yung Feng missile was developed after the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1996. Despite the absence of an official statement regarding its incorporation into service, it was acknowledged in 2014 as a potent strike weapon. In August 2019, the first 20 missiles and ten mobile launchers entered service.
The Yung Feng missile was designed for prospective attacks against targets in China’s north-central region. Discreet flight testing was conducted without external organisations’ involvement, frequently under the guise of other missile programmes. After five abortive flight tests, the programme was cancelled in 2004.
Taiwan’s defence department secretly developed and tested the Ba Dan ballistic missile; however, the United States interfered to prevent further development of this weapon.
According to American military experts, Taiwan may transition from a defensive “porcupine” strategy to an offensive “viper” strategy by developing similar projects to the HF-2E. If Beijing initiates a conflict, the “Viper” strategy entails precise missile assaults on Beijing and Shanghai.
However, it remains highly questionable whether subsonic missiles, which lack substantial stealth capabilities, can penetrate China’s multilayered air defence network, a system regarded as one of the most sophisticated and dense in the world. This refers to the Hsiung Feng IIE and Wan Chien air-launched cruise missiles carried by Taiwanese multirole fighters such as the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo. In addition, the Taiwanese military lacks crucial technologies such as strategic reconnaissance and mid-course guidance for long-range assaults, thereby reducing its actual threat.