Taiwan’s secret service and lawmakers have reached a consensus on how to plug a grave national-security loophole: President Tsai Ing-wen’s limousine.
Tsai’s motorcade was stopped by a bunch of petitioners once this year as the president was en route to the island’s military command, after the police failed to round up the protesters.
What the petitioners didn’t know was that if they had actually hit the windows of Tsai’s limo, they could easily have broken them.
It has been revealed that Tsai mainly uses an Audi A8 L, good enough for her to travel in comfort but not secure enough for someone of her status.
Thus even though an enormous security detail has been assigned to guard the president, riding around in a civilian version of the Audi A8 L could put Taiwan’s national security in peril now that Tsai faces greater threats than her predecessors due to her policy stance and Beijing’s animosity.
Taiwan’s National Security Bureau applied to the Legislative Yuan last year for some NT$25 million (US$828,000) to procure from the German carmaker a top-of-the-line model of the luxury series, known as the A8 L Security, which debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show as arguably the toughest of all cars, and a car that is armored without looking like it is.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also uses an A8 L Security.
Tsai can expect to begin riding in her brand-new “fortress on wheels” next month after concluding her visit to Central America, Taiwanese newspapers reported on Monday.
Of Tsai’s predecessors, Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo reportedly used two Buick limousines, gifts from Washington, and Lee Teng-hui, the island’s first democratically elected leader, continued to patronize US brands, a Buick and a Cadillac, all with basic security enhancements.
The Chen Shui-bian administration bought a BMW 740i with bulletproof doors and windows, which also served Chen’s successor Ma Ying-jeou during the latter’s eight-year presidency.
Taiwan used to retrofit state cars itself, such as installing additional steel shields and double glazing, but persistent issues like excessive weight and blown tires forced it to buy top-quality cars from trusted suppliers.
Tsai’s new A8 L S will look exactly like the civilian version so as to confuse attackers, as there are typically eight to 10 such A8s in her motorcade.
The Audi A8 L S typically weighs 3.5 tons, as the body-frame is made of high-integrity bulletproof and shrapnel-proof steel. Aramid fabrics and special aluminum alloys are also attached to the steel sheets for added security.
The car’s windows are 10 centimeters thick and bullet-resistant. A hydraulic power-lift system is installed as each glass panel weighs 100 kilograms, according to the specifications of the A8 L S, which comes with the territory of a limo that meets Class VR 9 ballistic protection standards, the highest security requirement for civilian high-security cars.
The sedan can withstand an impact equivalent to the detonation of 15kg of TNT as well as two grenades. Its four tires, even when flat, can still reach a cruising speed of 80km/h and function for no less than 100 kilometers.
Its built-in life-support system, including an oxygen generator and fire extinguisher, can ensure the safety of VIPs inside the car in any bio-attack.
In-car communication systems also enable a leader to stay updated and run the nation while on the go. There is also an intercom for communicating with people outside.
Analysts say that with all the military-grade refinements that the A8 L S has, it’s hard to argue against Audi’s claim that it’s the most secure model it has ever built.
Taiwan Apple Daily said Audi had offered price discounts and free training courses for VIP orders.