Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Black Dragon artillery of Taiwan

Why has Taiwan still got 72 year old 240mm howitzers aimed at China? Taiwan and China have backed away from the scary war propaganda over the last few years but both countries still fill some TV time with stories about what weapons would be used if there were a Chinese attempt to take Taiwan by force. 

One of the more interesting Taiwanese videos shows the four American made 240mm howitzers stationed on the Kinmen islands off the China coast. These four heavy guns are based in bunkers built into mountains and are rolled out to fire.

 The U.S. built 315 of these 29 ton towed guns (as the 240mm M1) between 1944 and 1945. These weapons were towed by tractors and used to destroy enemy fortifications. Put into reserve after World War II ended in 1945 some were brought back for the Korean War (1950-53) and some were given to Taiwan for use against Chinese artillery that fired on Taiwanese controlled islands regularly until 1958. 

By then the U.S. had stopped using its M1s and retired them for good because there was no more ammo and the U.S. could not justify the expense of rebuilding the facilities needed to manufactue more. But Taiwan could, and did, and has kept four M1s (which it calls “Black Dragon”) operational ever since.

 The M1 requires a crew of 14, has a maximum range of 23 kilometers and fires up to thirty 163 kg (360 pound) high-explosive shells an hour. The Black Dragons have always been stationed on the Kinmens, a chain of small islands (some only two kilometers from the coast). These islands were last heavily fought over (with artillery) in 1958. Since then there has been growing interest in demilitarizing the islands.

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