Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou with a model of the Kestrel missile launcher. Photo: Handout
Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou with a model of the Kestrel missile launcher. Photo: Handout

Taiwan’s Military Police Command is discussing a plan to buy up to 445 locally produced portable anti-tank missile launchers. Sources say the lightweight, close-range systems could be useful in defending the island’s capital in street combat in the event of an invasion by the mainland’s People’s Liberation Army.

The Kestrel shoulder-launched missile system, developed by the island’s Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, will arm Taiwan’s 5,500-strong military police tasked with protecting VIPs including the president, the vice-president and the Speaker of the Legislative Yuan.

A model of the Kestrel missile launcher. Photo: Taipei Times

According to Taiwanese papers, the purchase program will span from 2019 to 2020 and the missile launchers would be dispatched to military police units garrisoned in and around Taipei, in particular those guarding the Boai Special District, home to the Presidential Palace and several ministries, and other government compounds.

The Kestrel missile launcher is a disposable, single-shot, shoulder-launched weapon system that fires either a high-explosive anti-tank warhead to engage vehicles with light to medium armor, or a high-explosive squash head at buildings or other structures. So far these missiles have only been trialed by the military’s Marine Corps.

The Kestrel missile is a localized variant of the Lockheed Martin-built FGM-172 short-range assault weapon system also known as the Predator SRAW.

The completed design was finally unveiled at the 2013 Taipei Aerospace and Defense Expo, and after two years of further refinement, the Kestrel finally became operational with the Marine Corps in 2015.

The purchase would enable military police to defend Taipei and VIPs better against decapitation strikes, such as airborne, airmobile or special operations assaults by the PLA, a defense official told the Taipei Times.

With the help of these versatile missile launchers, members of the elite military police could launch counterattacks in urban combat and even cover the evacuation of top officials and their motorcades.

Analysts say the Kestrel missiles could also be deployed atop armored vehicles or on high-rises to be operated by snipers, making them difficult to counter in an urban setting.

It was also revealed that to bolster Taipei’s defenses further, the Defense Ministry has garrisoned an additional marine battalion at the Fuxinggang military base in the northwestern suburb of the capital city and formed a quick-response company under the command of the military police headquarters.