Taiwan: PAVE-ing The Way

Taiwan’s Raytheon AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS low-frequency air surveillance radar has been formally declared as operational, according to local press reports in late-January.

The radar is based at Loshan Mountain in Hsinchu Country, northern Taiwan. It has been the subject of long-running controversy on the island. For example, in November last year, the country’s Ministry of National Defence ruled out sharing information from the radar with the United States. The United States Air Force (USAF) operates five PAVE PAWS radars positioned at various locations around the continental United States to provide air surveillance for the detection of ballistic missile launches.

Taiwan purchased the AN/FPS-115 from the United States via a USAF purchase in February 2004, following a Notification to Congress for the sale of two PAVE PAWS radars for €1.4 billion ($1.8 billion). However only a single radar was subsequently purchased from Raytheon via the USAF in June 2005 at a cost of €583 million ($752 million). Following its installation at Loshan Mountain, testing of the radar commenced in November 2011.

The Taiwanese Government had planned to pursue the purchase of the second radar originally included in the Notification to Congress, although this was reported as abandoned in September 2012. That said, some open source reports have stated that the decision to abandon the purchase of this second system was actually made back in 2007.

The AN/FPS-115 radar has been the target of domestic criticism in Taiwan regarding its cost. As reported in ChainHomeHigh in October 2012, the total value of the radar’s procurement, installation and preparation for service has been quoted as €930 million ($1.2 billion). A report by the news agency AgenceFrancePresse has stated that Raytheon required an additional €105 million ($136 million) to complete the radar’s installation at the Loshan Mountain site; and for maintenance, repair and overhaul of the radar during its service life. This has taken the total price of the radar to around €1 billion ($1.4 billion).

The radar operates in the 420-450 megahertz range, has a range of 4,827-kilometres (2,506-nautical miles) and is designed to provide ballistic missile detection. Its location enables it to provide surveillance of the entire Korean Peninsula, along with coverage of the South China Sea. In addition, its gaze is sufficient to provide surveillance across much of China’s territory.

Its acquisition was a direct reaction to the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1995-1996. During the Crisis, the People’s Republic of China performed a series of missile tests in the Taiwan Strait. The move was largely seen as an attempt by Beijing to warn Taiwan’s government of President Lee Teng-Hui from pursuing further independence for the Island which China regards as an integral part of its territory. The Crisis also saw China perform a series of missile tests prior to Taiwan’s 1996 Presidential Election.

Local press reports note that the AN/FPS-115 was activated in time for North Korea’s controversial space rocket launch on 12th December 2012. Pyongyang announced that the launch had been performed to place a satellite into orbit.

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