The Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is buying 10,962 Kestrel anti-armor guided weapons to prepare for the extension of conscription to 12 months next year. The guided missiles are manufactured in Taiwan by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST). Taiwan News reported that the government announced last year it was extending compulsory military service from four months to one year beginning Jan. 1, 2024. In order to improve the training of the conscripts with actual weapons, the Republic of China (Taiwanese) Army ordered 5,000 Kestrel sets in September last year. Last August, it added 5,962 missile sets to be delivered by the end of November 2025.
The Kestrel is an individual shoulder-launched weapon system developed by Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology and currently in service with the Republic of China Armed Forces and Coast Guard Administration. The launcher is made from fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) and features an optical sight as well as a mount for a night vision scope. Development of the Kestrel began in 2008 following a request from the Republic of China Marine Corps. Eleven tests were carried out between 2009 and 2012 and the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation occurred in 2013. The Kestrel was first exhibited at the Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition in 2013.
The standard rocket features a high explosive anti-tank warhead. The HEAT rocket has a 400m range and can penetrate 35 centimeters of armor. The development of a High Explosive Squash Head warhead began in 2012. It has been tested against brick walls and reinforced concrete. This warhead is particularly effective for making mouseholes (improvised doorways) in concrete walls during urban combat. The HESH rocket has a range of 150 meters and can penetrate 20-60 centimeters of reinforced concrete. Long range is a new long range rocket that can reach out to 1,200m is in development. A guided missile based on existing Kestrel rockets is under development by NCSIST with an eye to providing a domestic equivalent to the FGM-148 Javelin.
Any soldier or conscript serving in anti-tank units should gain practical experience with the firing of missiles like the Kestrel, defense officials said. The single-shot, shoulder-launched weapon is easy to carry and its price has been reduced to NT$100,000 (US$3,100) a missile. The sets are equipped with night vision, with the missile hitting a target efficiently at a distance of 400 meters. The projectile can pierce through a 30-centimeter-thick brick wall. Units already equipped with the Kestrel are the Coast Guard Administration, Marine Corps, military police, and the Army. Military police have reportedly already practiced using the Kestrel while riding motorbikes near the Presidential Office Building, simulating the defense of the president against a Chinese attack