SUAO, TAIWAN – Taiwan’s Navy on Tuesday accepted a prototype of the island’s first self-developed stealth missile corvette, days after U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a bill authorizing the sale of four Perry-class guided missile frigates to Taiwan.
Described by Taiwanese media as a “carrier killer,” the 500-ton corvette Tuo Jiang is a twin-hull vessel constructed by Taiwanese shipbuilding company Lung Teh.
The high-speed corvette has a maximum speed of 44 knots (about 81 kph) and a range of 2,000 nautical miles (about 3,704 km). It will be equipped with such domestically produced anti-ship missiles as the Hsiung Feng II and Hsiung Feng III.
Apart from its high speed, another feature of the corvette is its stealth design. The uneven surface of the vessel is designed to deflect radar signals, making it difficult to be detected by the enemy.
Touting Tuo Jiang as “the fastest and most powerful corvette in Asia,” Minister of National Defense Yen Ming announced at the handover ceremony that the military might of Taiwan’s Navy “enters an important milestone.”
The vessel made its public debut in March and began testing in October. Military experts estimated that testing of the missile system would take at least eight months.
The navy hopes a fleet of the vessels could be deployed next year and plans to build 2,000-ton twin-hull frigates in the future if the Tuo Jiang fleet performs well after the handover, the Liberty Times reported.
The navy told Kyodo News that the vessel handed over Tuesday could be commissioned in March.
However, Tuo Jiang skipper Wang Te-jean told Kyodo News on board the corvette that mass production of the vessel will need time to assess and that there is no timetable set.
The Tuo Jiang is part a 25 billion New Taiwan dollar (about $791 million) budget approved by the legislature in 2011 to build eight to 12 Tuo Jiang corvettes as a defense measure against China’s aircraft carriers.
The handover from Lung Teh to the navy at Suao — a fishing port in the northeastern part of Taiwan — on Tuesday comes on the heels of Obama’s signing into law a bill authorizing the sale of four Perry-class frigates to the island despite opposition from China.
While the arms Washington sells to Taiwan are of a defensive character, the Tuo Jiang would give a big boost to the island’s military, which lacks offensive weapons.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, Washington has agreed to sell defensive weapons worth $18.3 billion, including F-16 A/B upgrades, 30 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.
Beijing has called for the arms sales to Taiwan to be scrapped, arguing that Washington would violate a provision in a communique stating that the United States agreed not to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949.
Beijing has since then endeavored to isolate Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province awaiting reunification.
Despite close and growing economic ties, they still view each other as political rivals.