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Taiwan’s navy has commissioned its first stealth missile corvette to boost its deterrence capability and defend the island amid growing military threats from Beijing.
The multi-mission corvette Ta Jiang (PGG-619), dubbed as a “carrier killer”, was commissioned on Thursday at the same time the island’s navy took delivery of a high-speed minelayer under the supervision of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at a shipyard in Suao in northeast Taiwan.
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Both vessels were produced by the Lung Teh Shipbuilding Company as part of the government plan to boost the island’s capability to buildi and develop its own weapons.
Speaking at a ceremony in Suao, Tsai said the commissioning of the Ta Jiang and delivery of the Min Jiang-class high-speed minelayer were solid proof of this.
“In less than a year, the navy has not only taken delivery of the Ta Jiang, but has also completed various tests of the ship’s combat readiness,” Tsai said, adding that this ended all doubts about its ability to build advanced warships.
With improved stealth ability, better stability and more advanced air attack power, the commissioning of the corvette would help bolster the navy’s deterrence capability, she noted.
First launched in December last year, the corvette has a maximum speed of 45 knots (83km/h), displacement of 700 tonnes and an operational range of 1,800 nautical miles.
It is an upgraded version of its prototype, the Tuo Chiang, and is designed to play a key role in the island’s asymmetric warfare strategy to counter the much larger force the People’s Liberation Army can muster.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and has not renounced the use of force to return it to its control. It has ramped up the pressure against the island since Tsai was elected in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.
Equipped with Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) 2 and 3 anti-ship missiles as well as Hai Chien (Sea Sword) 2 anti-aircraft missiles developed by the government-funded Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, the corvette is able to destroy targets on land or sea, including aircraft carriers. It is equipped with 76mm cannons, Phalanx close-in weapons systems and T-74 machine guns.
With the use of stealth technology, the corvette is able to avoid detection. It can also operate in shallow or coastal waters where larger vessels, such as destroyers and frigates, find it hard to operate, according to the navy.
The shipbuilding company has been contracted to build five more corvettes for the navy by 2023.
On Thursday, the navy also took delivery of the first of the four high-speed minelayers it ordered from the company.
According to Huang Shou-chen, chairman of the Lung Teh Shipbuilding Company, the minelayers fit well with Taiwan’s asymmetric defence strategy, being designed to automatically plant mines at high speeds and to face down an attack by amphibious vehicles trying to land in Taiwan.
With a maximum speed of 14 knots, the vessel is 41 metres long, 8.8 metres wide and has a draft of 1.7 metres with a full load displacement of 347 tons. In addition to the sea mines, it is also equipped with a 20mm T75 gun and two T74 machine guns, naval officials said.
To reinforce its defensive capabilities, the navy has proposed a budget of NT$43.15 billion (US$1.5 billion) for the next financial year with part of the funds used to arm its six Kang Ding-class frigates with the Hai Chien-2 ship-launched missiles.
Other defence hardware listed in the budget includes the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and M109A6 “Paladin” self-propelled howitzers, according to defence ministry proposals sent to the legislature for review.
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