KEY POINTS

  • The Thunderbolt-2000 system was created by Taiwan's top weapon maker
  • No officers and soldiers involved in the drill were injured in the incident
  • Residents said the explosion happened around the same time as the quake

A military drill being held in Taiwan was disrupted Monday after the truck-mounted "Thunderbolt-2000" rocket system exploded amid the exercises. The homegrown rocket system was designed to counter amphibious and sea attacks from mainland China.

The explosion happened while a rocket was being fired, during the drill held in Jiupeng near Manzhou township. According to Taiwan's Defense Ministry, the Thunderbolt-2000 was manufactured by the island’s top weapon maker Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, reported South China Morning Post.

"The rocket was jammed for an unknown reason when it was launched," said a spokesman for the Fourth Military Operation Zone based in southern Taiwan.

According to the spokesman, the propellent – a chemical mixture burned to produce thrust in the rocket – was set off instantly, causing an explosion that damaged the system’s launcher truck.

Though the truck on which the missile was mounted was destroyed, no one was hurt. "No officers and soldiers involved in the drill were injured,” the spokesman said. He, however, added that the Chung-Shan Institute and the army have set up an investigation task force to determine the cause of the incident to aid future firing drills and training missions.

However, the report added that the explosion happened around the same time an earthquake rocked Eastern Taiwan. Though it isn't immediately clear if the explosion was connected to the magnitude-6 earthquake, residents in Manzhou were quoted saying both the incidents happened simultaneously. According to the residents, they first heard a loud blast accompanied by a mass of smoke from the drill site.

Meanwhile, the local leadership has sought an explanation from the military with regard to potential danger from such drills.

"Local residents in nearby townships are fearful of the potential danger and have demanded assurances that there will be no recurrence of the incident," Manjhou Township deputy representative Ku Tsung-hsun told Taipei Times.

Hours before the drill, the township residents had staged a protest against the military for failing to notify them in advance about the exercise.

Thunderbolt -2000 comes along with a self-reload crane and can be mounted to the rear of high mobility 8×8 cargo truck. The launcher is equipped with pods of unguided surface-to-surface rockets, and the system is designed in such a way that a sealed rocket pod ensures rapid reloading.

In another mishap for the island's armed forces, a Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet was recently forced to make a hard landing at an airport in Hawaii after its landing gear failed to deploy.

Moveable howitzers such as the M109A6, seen here during a 2012 US Army drill in South Korea, would be key to halting an invasion of Taiwan
Moveable howitzers such as the M109A6, seen here during a 2012 US Army drill in South Korea, would be key to halting an invasion of Taiwan POOL / Kim Hong-Ji
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