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Taiwan Is Building A Fleet Of Missile Corvettes

April 12, 2014

Taiwanese Tuo Jiang Littoral Corvette

The Republic of China (ROC) Navy is closing the firepower gap with its counterpart in the mainland. Last month, a new littoral warship, classified as a missile corvette, was unveiled to the Taiwanese press in Suao, a district of Yilan county outside Taipei.

Being the first in its class, only a handful of details were circulated about the aluminum hulled catamaran that enters service next year. According to Taiwanese media the 500-ton warship is called the Tuo River 618 and is due sea trials before its official commissioning.

Manufactured domestically by Lung Teh Shipbuilding Corporation, the Tuo River travels at a reported 38 knots with a 3,700 kilometer range. By the decade’s end, 12 of these missile corvettes will be operated by the ROC Navy, whose current modestly-sized fleet numbers 26 surface combatants, four aging submarines, and various amphibious transports.

Information about its stealth features, power plant, radar, and countermeasures are unavailable.

Given the Tuo River’s size and mission, it only requires a crew of 41. Armaments include a 76mm gun on its bow and twin batteries of anti-ship missiles located in the stern. Its long-range arsenal is presumed to be multiple Hsiung Feng III missiles.

Littoral warships are the latest trend to sweep naval shipbuilding. The cutting edge of littoral combat ship (LCS) technology is epitomized by the US Navy’s upcoming Zumwalt-class destroyers, with just three scheduled for completion due to budget constraints. Another fine example is the British navy’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

Littoral warships also appeal to countries who prioritize territorial defense. With the miniaturization of electronics, ordnance, and parts, various navies are finding it more convenient to use smaller and faster warships that carry the same punch as older “legacy” frigates and destroyers.

Taiwan’s current preference for missile corvettes is seen as a deterrent against China’s emerging carrier battle groups. With fewer weapons acquisitions from the US and a shrinking defense budget, the Hsun Hai program is a sensible investment.

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