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Why Taiwan is not trying to shoot down China's missiles

China's Dongfeng missiles fly over Taiwan during mid-course phase in space, not in nation's airspace

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(Facebook, eoiss image)

(Facebook, eoiss image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese social media post on Friday (Aug. 5) explains the reasons why Taiwan is not attempting to shoot down the ballistic missiles being fired over Taiwan.

From 1:56 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday (Aug. 4), the People's Liberation Army (PLA) launched 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles into the waters surrounding northern, southern, and eastern Taiwan in waves, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND). Japan's Defense Ministry also announced that five ballistic missiles launched by China landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and four had flown over Taipei.

Many members of the public have questioned why Taiwan's military has not used its air defense systems, such as Patriot missiles, to intercept the missiles. On Friday morning (Aug. 5), the Facebook community page for the "Wang Li Second World War Research Institute" (王立第二戰研所) uploaded a post that included illustrations explaining why Taiwan's military has not attempted to shoot down these missiles.

It pointed out that ballistic missiles usually fly into space before coming back down to hit their target, with the Karman line, 100 kilometers above the Earth, considered the boundary of space. The MND on Thursday evening said the main flight path of the Dongfeng ballistic missiles was outside the atmosphere.

The author of the post pointed out that although these missiles flew over Taiwan, because they were in space they were not considered to be in the country's airspace. The tacit understanding internationally is that airspace does not extend into space. Otherwise, with Chinese satellites flying over Taiwan every day, "doesn't that mean that Taiwan's sovereignty is violated every day?" joked the writer.

As to whether Taiwan should use the Patriot III anti-ballistic missile defense system to intercept the Dongfeng missiles, the author pointed out the Patriot is not used to intercept missiles in space, but rather enemy missiles entering Taiwan's airspace.

The article added that one Patriot missile costs NT$50 million, while a Dongfeng missile costs less than half of that at NT$20 million. In addition, every time a missile is launched, it provides data to military observers "so there is a free opportunity to collect data on an enemy country, and you must say thank you in your heart."

Why Taiwan is not trying to shoot down China's missiles
Trajectory of Dongfeng missile tests. (Facebook, Eoiss image)

As can be seen in the diagram, during the tests of these Dongfeng missiles, the boost phase takes place on Chinese territory, away from Taiwan's defenses. The mid-course phase is over Taiwan, but in space, and out of the range of the Patriot batteries.

Lastly, the terminal phase occurs in waters off the coast of Taiwan, well out of the range of Taiwan's missile defense systems as it impacts the ocean. However, if a ballistic missile was aimed at Taiwan's territory, the target acquisition system of the Patriot missile batteries would lock on to the missile as it entered the terminal phase of its flight and launch a missile that would hit the enemy weapon directly.

Why Taiwan is not trying to shoot down China's missiles
Trajectory of a missile aimed at Taiwan and point of interception. (Facebook, Eoiss image)