Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, April 08, 2002

Taiwan Intends to Buy US Mine Sweeper for Fear of Mine Blockading Ports

It is reported that at the "US-Taiwan defense summit" held in mid-March, Taiwan "defense minister" Tang Yiau-min and other military leaders had consultation with the US side on defense cooperation and other topics. During the meeting, the Taiwan military side "euphemistically" raised the demand to the US side for large-scale purchase of arms, one of which concerning their intention to purchase MH-53E Sea Dragon mine-sweeping helicopter attracted people's attention.


Largest Helicopter of the West
Currently, Taiwan's annual foreign ocean shipping volume approaches 200 million tons, the majority of which are undertaken by several important ports in Kaohsiung, Keelung, Hualien and Su'ao, so whether sea-routes are smooth or not is vitally important to Taiwan. The depth of water in Taiwan's surrounding sea areas ranges mostly between 50-60 meters, this makes it easy for the large-scale deployment of mines. Hualien and Su'ao ports in the eastern part of Taiwan, in particular, because they face the vast Pacific Ocean, it is fairly hard to impose blockade by forces, it is more possible for blockade by dense mine formation. Taiwan's military has a clear understanding of this, this being the case, strengthening Taiwan's off-sea mine-clearing capability to break marine blockade has become a key point for Taiwan's navy to vigorously develop in recent years. The "Sea Dragon" helicopter is the main mine-sweeping equipment of the US navy's active service, which is used mainly for the task of mine-sweeping on the sea, it can take off from aircraft carrier, war vessel, land and a variety of platforms, furthermore, because of its strong power and large loading capacity, it can also be used for sea transportation. In addition, "Sea Dragon" can also be used to carry out various tasks such as searching and rescuing, and withdrawal and transport from the battlefield. This US-made helicopter is currently the largest helicopter of military equipment in Western countries. It is developed from the CH-53 "Sea Stud" transport helicopter, but its air range and capacity have somewhat increased. "Sea Dragon" can carry 55 soldiers or 16 tons of goods for flying 50 nautical miles, its air range can reach 500 nautical miles. The "Sea Dragon" is equipped with a variety of mine detecting and clearing equipment, such as MK-105 mine detector, ASQ-14 side scan radar, MK-103mechanical mine-sweeping device.

Vainly Attempting to Set Up Sea-Air Mine-Sweeping System
As a matter of fact, before Taiwan authorities raised the demand for introducing the "Sea Dragon" helicopter from the US side, Taiwan's navy had set about the job of trying every means to enhance its anti-mine combat capability. As early as the early 90s, Taiwan authorities had purchased four modernized mine hunters from Germany. On July 12, 1991, four "MWW50" mine hunters were formally put into service in Taiwan navy's Zuoying base, becoming a modern mine-sweeping force of Taiwan's navy. These four mine hunters and another four US-made MSO ocean mine-sweepers together formed into the 236 combat force, placed under the jurisdiction of 192 sea fleet (mine fleet), which mainly undertake the task of clearing mines in the periphery of several key ports and sea traffic lines. These four mine hunters, designed and made by a German company, and sold at a cost of nearly 100 marks each, are the most advanced mine hunters of Taiwan's navy. The mine hunter is equipped with high-tech searching radar and active underwater sonar, what is most special of it is that it is equipped with a commonly called PB3 underwater processor, underwater surveillance and mine-sweeping action can be carried out by the remote-control method, thus dramatically raising mine-sweeping safety.

On February 5 this year, in order to examine Taiwan navy's anti-blockade combat capacity, Taiwan authorities organized for the first time a special mine-sweeping operation maneuver in the Zuoying Military Harbor. Viewed from Taiwan military anti-blockade combat maneuver, it can be seen that Taiwan navy's mine-sweeping methods usually are divided into two kinds-single ship mine sweeping and multi-ship mine sweeping, single ship mine sweeping is adopted in ordinary regions, while multi-ship mine-sweeping is used in key channels, these mine-sweeping activities are carried out in close coordination with the mine-sweeping helicopters.

The reason why the Taiwan military is interested in the "Sea Dragon" helicopter lies in the fact that the US-made mine-sweeping helicopter can easily form a joint mine-sweeping system together with German mine hunters earlier purchased by Taiwan's navy, thereby enhancing Taiwan navy's anti-mine and anti-blockade capabilities.

Mine Becomes a "Killer" to Taiwan's Navy
Why is it that mine can effectively impose a blockade and thus become a "means conquering" Taiwan navy? This is closely associated with the characteristics of mine itself.

Firstly, the weapon of mine can easily be deployed but hard to remove. Mine raises no special demand on the setting up of platform, surface warship, submarine, airplane, merchant ship and even sampan can all be used to deploy mines, once mine is deployed in the water, it will become the "dragon in water". Being deep in the water, it can conceal itself by the curtain provided by the marine environment and can hardly be swept away. US navy maintains: "Existing high-tech weapon is still not sure of coping with such simple weapon as the mine, it causes people a headache to discover and remove mines". In the well-known "Red Sea Mine incident" in the 80s of the 20th century, within several short months, over 100 float mines exploded and wounded 19 merchant ships from 14 countries in the Suez Canal to the Bab el Mandeb sea area. . To maintain smooth traffic in the Canal, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and the Soviet Union at that time moved out over 40 mine-sweepers and seven mine-sweeping helicopters working there for over 60 days, but the result proved ineffective.

Secondly, mine has a strong psychological deterrent role. In 1987 Iran covertly laid only over 100 old-type mooring mines in the Gulf, which caused 240,000 sq-km sea area to become the "most dangerous ocean" for a while, the soldiers turn pale at the mention of mines, and the Strait of Hormuz" was called "the corridor of death".

Thirdly and finally, mine makes it possible to effectively gain mastery of the sea. During the Korean War, the Korean People's Army laid only 3,000 mines in the vicinity of Wonsan Harbor, which kept the US navy's powerful fleet composed of 250 warships outside Wonsan, so that they dared not go beyond the utmost limit.

Along with the development of technology, currently the weapon of mines has entered the stage of serialization and modernization, has been or being integrated with micro-electronic technology, torpedo, rocket, missile and other technology, giving rise to mines with the capacity of flexibly and automatically pursuing the target. Mine is gradually becoming the conqueror as high-tech weapon on the sea. Given the above situation. Whether the modernized mine hunters purchased from Germany, or the MH-53E "Sea Dragon" mine-sweeping helicopter prepared to be imported from the United States, their capacity in handling mines will be limited.

By People's Daily Online

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