A Chinese civilian aircraft recently approached a Taiwan-occupied island near the coast of mainland China called Dongyin. The Global Times, a Chinese state-backed newspaper, suggested that the flight demonstrated the island’s weak air defense capability.
The Global Times reported that a Y-12 light twin-engine aircraft flew near the island on Feb. 5. The development raises questions about how vulnerable Taiwan might be to a Chinese air attack.
Could Taiwan engage Chinese fighter jets with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)?
Perhaps, but there are still questions about how many missiles Taiwan fields and how much territory they can defend. Taiwan operates domestically-engineered Sky Bow III Tien Kung surface-to-air missile systems built by the Taiwan-based National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology. The weapons have an ability to track and intercept ballistic missiles, fighter jets and other airborne threats out to ranges of approximately 200 km, according to Army-Technology.com.
“TK III land-based air defence weapon system is composed of surface-to-air missile, canister, and mobile fire control units, including phased array radar, communication relay, engagement control station, launcher, and power plant equipment,” the website says.
The Sky Bow is engineered with an active radar guidance system, internal midcourse guidance, and a microwave seeker in the nose of the missile for accuracy.
The Skybow has “four tail fins and is vertically launched. A directional warhead with high-energy fragments enables the missile to destroy targets with high single-shot probability of kill. The missile launcher has four containers, which support both TK III and TK II missiles,” Army-Technology.com says.
The weapons are in the process of being integrated into fixed locations around Taiwan.
Radio Taiwan International reported in August 2021 that Taiwan is building and renovating twelve missile bases in western Taiwan to house Skybow III.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.