Hsiung Feng III

The Hsiung Feng III is a supersonic antiship cruise missile. It is Taiwan’s first supersonic missile, and has an operational range between 120-150 km. It is the third and latest variant developed within Taiwan’s Hsiung Feng cruise missile family, following the Hsiung Feng II.

Hsiung Feng III at a Glance

Originated from: Taiwan
Possessed by: Taiwan
Alternate name(s): HF-3, Brave Wind III
Class: Supersonic antiship cruise missile
Basing: Ship-, ground-launched
Length: 6.1 m
Diameter: 0.46 m
Launch weight: 120 kg, High Explosive, semi-armor piercing
Payload: 225 kg, Semi-armor piercing High Explosive, Fragmentation
Propulsion: Solid-propellant booster, liquid-fueled ramjet engine
Range: 120-150 km
Speed: 680-780 m/s
Status: Operational
In service: 2011-present

Hsiung Feng III Development

Hsiung Feng III Taiwan began the Hsiung Feng III program in 1994 to counter the growing number of China’s surface vessels and its advancing fleet defense systems. It was developed by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST).1

The NCSIST first test fired the Hsiung Feng III in 1997. Further tests were reported in November 2004.2 Taiwan’s navy reportedly finished the initial operational test and evaluation in 2005.3 The Hsiung Feng III was first unveiled in Taipei during the 2007 Independence Day military parade.4 Although Taiwan initially developed Hsiung Feng III as an antiship cruise missile, the missile may also have land attack capabilities.5

Hsiung Feng IIIER

Several reports in 2017 have signaled the development of an extended-ranged Hsiung Feng III, titled the “HF-3ER project,” with testing slated for completion by the middle of 2017, and the missiles entering full production in 2018. These reports claim that Taiwan plans to produce ten to sixty Hsiung Feng IIIER missiles under projects codenamed “God’s Spear” and “Coiled Dragon.”6 It is believed that these upgrades increased the missile’s range from 120-150 km to 300-400 km.7

Specifications

The Hsiung Feng III is 6.1 meters in length, with a body diameter of 0.46 m, and a launch weight of approximately 1500 kg. The missile carries a single 120 kg high explosive, semi-armor piercing warhead. The Hsiung Feng III is believed to have a range of between 120-150 km.8 The missile is propelled by a solid-fueled booster and liquid-fueled ramjet engine.

The missile is guided by INS with terminal active radar homing. It is reportedly equipped with a smart fuse designed to direct most of the explosive energy downward once it has detected that the missile is inside the target ship’s hull, maximizing damage.9

Service History

Hsiung Feng IIIThe Hsiung Feng III missile system has been deployed to the Cheng Kung-class frigate and Jin Chiang-class patrol gunboat.10 The missile has also been deployed on Taiwan’s latest military assets, such as the Tuo Chiang-class guided missile corvette.11

On 1 July 2016, a Taiwanese navy vessel accidentally fired an Hsiung Feng III missile during a training exercise, killing the captain of a fishing boat and injuring three crew members. According to Vice Adm. Mei Cia-shu of the Taiwanese navy, the missile’s targeting system tracked the fishing boat and made a direct hit. However, because of the missile’s smart fuse, it tore through the hull of the small boat without exploding. 12

    1. “HF III Supersonic Anti-Ship Missile,” NCSIST, June 19, 2017, http://www.ncsist.org.tw/eng/csistdup/products/product.aspx?product_Id=10&catalog=30.
    2. “Hsiung Feng I/II/IIE/III,” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Naval 2016-2017, ed. David Ewing & Malcolm Fuller (United Kingdom: IHS, 2016), 118-122.
    3. NCSIST.
    4. IHS Jane’s Weapons: Naval, 118-122.
    5. “From Subsonic to Hypersonic Cruise Missiles: Revolution or Evolution in Land Attack Capabilities?” in Emerging Critical Technologies and Security in the Asia-Pacific, ed. Richard A. Bitzinger (United Kingdom: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), .
    6. Russell Hsiao, “Taiwan Reportedly Plans to Upgrade Supersonic Hsiung Feng III Missiles,” The National Interest, October 20, 2016, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/taiwan-reportedly-plans-upgrade-supersonic-hsiung-feng-iii-18120.
    7. Mike Yeo, “Taiwan to upgrade indigenous missile capabilities,” Defense News, February 6, 2017, http://www.defensenews.com/articles/taiwan-to-upgrade-indigenous-missile-capabilities.
    8. IHS Jane’s Weapons: Naval, 118-122; Yeo.
    9. Ibid.
    10. NCSIST.
    11. Franz-Stefan Gady, “Taiwan’s Newest Weapon Against China,” The Diplomat, April 3, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/04/taiwans-newest-weapon-against-china/.
    12. Austin Ramzy, “Taiwan Navy Accidentally Fires Antiship Missile, Killing Fisherman,” The New York Times, July 1, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/02/world/asia/taiwan-china-missile.html.