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Poor discipline blamed for Navy's July missile accident

2016/08/29 21:03:01

Taipei, Aug. 29 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense cited problems with discipline, such as the failure to follow protocol and poor supervision, as causes of the Navy's accidental missile launch on July 1, in a report on the incident released Monday.

The incident occurred when a Hsiung Feng III missile was mistakenly launched from a Jin Jiang-class corvette docked at a naval base in Kaohsiung just hours before a planned military exercise.

The missile headed toward the Taiwan Strait and pierced a Taiwanese fishing boat near the Penghu Islands that resulted in the death of a fisherman on board.

According to the report, the internal investigation carried out by the ministry found that Petty Officer Chen Ming-hsiu (陳銘修), who was in charge of controlling the firing of missiles, instructed subordinates to connect the four Hsiung Feng III missiles to the vessel's firing system ahead of the planned exercise.

Chen set the missile system to combat mode for two of the missiles and left one of the subordinates, Petty Officer Second Class Kao Chia-chun (高嘉駿), alone in the operations room to set the coordinates for the two missiles' targets.

Kao, however, proceeded with launch procedures after he set the target coordinates and sent an order to fire the two missiles, according to the report.

One of the missiles was stopped by a simulation device used for the exercise that prevents missiles from actually being launched, but the other was sent flying and hit the fishing boat 40 nautical miles away, killing the captain and injuring the other three crewmen.

Chen was found to have violated protocol by allowing his subordinates to connect the missiles to the system -- in effect arming them -- without supervision, failing to check the mode the missile was in and leaving Kao alone in the operations room, the report said.

Lieutenant Hsu Po-wei (許博為), who was in charge of supervising weapons on the naval vessel, also failed in his supervisory role because four missiles were connected to the firing system even though only two simulation devices were available.

The ministry's report also slammed the Navy for breaking the rules and accepting an application from the Jin Jiang's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Lin Po-tse (林伯澤), to hold the exercise for the vessel's annual evaluation less than three months after he assumed the post.

In addition, the report pointed to evidence of poor management in the Navy, citing the vessel's participation in a rehearsal for another mission the day before its July 1 exercise, and Lin's scheduled appearance at a meeting for that other mission on July 1.

The ministry also found that officers serving on the vessel were not familiar with the duties and procedures of weapons operations, despite the training they had received and their experience on the same type of vessel, the report said.

Chen's failure to follow and implement protocols, even though he had obtained certification to manage fire control systems, resulted in the poor supervision, the report added.

Seven Navy personnel, including Chen, Kao, Hsu, Lin, the commanding officers of the Navy's 131st Fleet and Navy Command Headquarters, and Navy Commander Huang Shu-kuang (黃曙光), were disciplined by the military on the day of the accident.

Wu Pao-kun (吳寶琨), acting inspector-general at the ministry, said the Navy will be asked to review its operations based on the newly released report and on the findings of the investigation of the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office published earlier in the day.

Prosecutors in Kaohsiung handed down indictments against Kao, Chen and Hsu for alleged negligence in the fatal accident.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Kay Liu)
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