Features | Security | East Asia

Taiwan’s Military Flexes its Muscles

A story in photos: The recent Han Kuang series of exercises was a serious display of Taiwan’s military power.

J. Michael Cole
Taiwan’s Military Flexes its Muscles
Credit: J. Michael Cole

The Taiwanese military recently held the 29th edition of its Han Kuang series of exercises with a display of force unseen since President Ma Ying-jeou came into office in 2008. A total of 7,682 soldiers from the Air Force, Navy and Army took part in the counter-assault exercise on the outlying island of Penghu that simulated an amphibious attack by the People’s Liberation Army.

Although this was not, as initially reported, the first time that the drill involved live ammunition since 2008, the government actively sought to portray the exercise as something more muscular than in the past. Also contrary to early reports, this was not the first public unveiling of the Ray Ting-2000 multiple rocket launcher in action, but the thunderous barrage of 81 rockets fired by the nine vehicles was a sight to behold. More show than meaningful military exercise, perhaps, but the result did not disappoint the several dozens of reporters, local and foreign, who awoke at 4 AM to witness the event.

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A domestically built Ray Ting 2000 (“Thunderbolt 2000”) Multiple Rocket Launch System readies to fire during the Han Kuang 29 exercise on Penghu, Taiwan.

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Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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A domestically built Ray Ting 2000 (“Thunderbolt 2000”) Multiple Rocket Launch System readies to fire during the Han Kuang 29 exercise on Penghu, Taiwan.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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Two M60A3 Main Battle Tanks drive by a Ray Ting 2000 (“Thunderbolt 2000”) during the Han Kuang 29 exercise on Penghu, Taiwan.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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M60A3 and M42 tanks prepare to fire during the Han Kuang 29 exercise on Penghu, Taiwan.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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M60A3 Main Battle Tanks fire their canons during the Han Kuang 29 exercise on Penghu, Taiwan.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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An AH-1W “Cobra” attack helicopter fires missiles during the Han Kuang 29 exercise. Later this year the Taiwanese Army will start receiving delivery of 30 AH-64E Apache helicopters from the U.S.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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An AH-1W “Cobra” attack helicopter takes part in the Han Kuang 29 exercise. Later this year the Taiwanese Army will start receiving delivery of 30 AH-64E Apache helicopters from the U.S.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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A Chenkung-class frigate, armed with Hsiung Feng II and Hsiung III anti-ship missiles, participates in the Han Kuang 29 exercise.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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A pair of Kuang Hua VI fast-attack missile corvettes participates in the Han Kuang 29 exercise.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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An OH-58D “Kiowa” reconnaissance/surveillance helicopter participates in the Han Kuang 29 exercise.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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Soldiers prepare to fire FGM-148 “Javelin” anti-tank missiles during the Han Kuang 29 exercise.

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Photo By: J. Michael Cole

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Photojournalists look on as Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou delivers a speech following the Han Kuang 29 exercise on Penghu, Taiwan.

Photo By: J. Michael Cole