Taiwan plans to construct three Corvette-class warships by 2025 and speed up its schedule for the construction of another eight vessels, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA).
The report on Monday quoted Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa saying that Taiwan’s navy hopes to get 11 locally-built “stealth” Corvettes called Tuo Jiang, which will be built in two phases over the next few years.
This was deemed necessary because of the growing military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait, Yen said in a hearing in the Taiwan legislature.
The tender process for construction of the first three corvette-class warships would be completed by the end of this year and the other eight vessels would be built in the second stage to expand Taiwan’s navy with construction starting in 2018 or 2020, according to Vice Adm Lee Chung-hsiao, the Navy Chief of Staff.
Taiwan’s first Tuo Jiang warship was built in 2012 and commissioned in March 2015. The vessel is capable of carrying sixteen Hsiung Feng II and Hsiung Feng III anti-ship supersonic missiles.
Tension across the Taiwan Strait has escalated sharply since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election in January 2016 and Chinese military maneuvers around the island as well as Taiwan’s efforts to increase its defense readiness should be seen against the backdrop of political changes on the island, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.
China is also beefing up its navy. In April, President Xi Jinping reviewed the country’s largest-ever naval parade from onboard a destroyer in the waters off the coast of Hainan, a Chinese island province in the South China Sea. A vast armada of 48 ships, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, took part in what was seen as an unprecedented demonstration of China’s new naval prowess.
New Chinese carrier doing sea trials
The Chinese Navy has begun sea trials for the nation’s first locally-made aircraft carrier in waters of its northeast coast, while the Liaoning, a refurbished vessel originally from Ukraine, is believed to be cruising not far from Taiwan’s territorial waters.
Yen De-fa, Taiwan’s newly installed defense minister, has made it clear that bolstering the island’s naval capacity is one of his priorities.
The highly agile Corvettes feature a catamaran design and measuring some 60 meters in length and 14 meters in width. The Tuo Jiang corvettes weigh only 567 tons in full load but can travel at up to 40 knots (74 kmh) while carrying more than a dozen anti-ship missiles.
According to the island’s Defense Ministry, the new warships for convoy escort and defensive duty were designed to handle extended periods of time in rough seas around Taiwan in the event of a war. The ship is said capable of operating in waves from six to 9 meters high.
The new Corvettes will come in two types: the first three will have anti-aircraft configurations, with a lengthened hull to improve buoyancy and a 3D search radar and new anti-air missiles to strengthen air defense, while the other five will be anti-ship models. All are due to be completed by 2025.
The Taiwanese Navy also has four Kee Lung-class destroyers and six Chi Yang-class frigates, all bought from the US and in service. The Navy also maintains a fleet of 31 Kuang Hua VI-class “missile boats”, vessels formed to intercept and hinder any PLA advance, plus 10 amphibious ships.
Yen told the parliamentary committee that the national defense budget would surely increase more than 2% for fiscal 2019.