Kan Ping No. 2 NEWCON Mine Countermeasures Vessels
On 28 October 2014 it was announced that a consortium of Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co Ltd [Taiwan's largest private shipbuilder], US defense firm Lockheed Martin Corp and Italian firm Intermarine SpA won a contract to supply six mine countermeasure vessels for Taiwan's navy for an undisclosed amount. Local media reported that the defense ministry's total procurement budget for mine countermeasure vessels is T$35.2 billion Taiwan dollars (US$1.2 billion).
All six ships are to be delivered by 2024. The contract is part of a procurement process by the Ministry of National Defense. Lockheed Martin said the first of the ships will be built in Italy, with the other five built in Taiwan. The US defense firm said it will install and test the combat management system for the ships.
Mine countermeasure vessels, including mine hunters and mine sweepers, are naval vessels used to clear mines at sea. In modern naval warfare, the loss of warships and other shipping to the enemy by marine mines is an ever present threat. A particularly effective type of marine mine is actuated magnetically by the passage of naval or other vessels.
The design and construction of sophisticated Mine Countermeasure Vessels (MCMV) has been the Intermarine core business for many years. MCMVs are unique ships, specially equipped for safely hunting and sweeping naval mines: as they operate in close proximity of the minefield, their features must guarantee the achievement of very low acoustic and magnetic signatures (to avoid the activation of the mines’ sensors) and of very high shock resistance (to withstand the underwater shock wave).
The validity of the technical solutions adopted by Intermarine is evidenced by facts: as of 2014, 7 Navies had in service MCMVs designed and built by Intermarine, among them some of the most prestigious in the world (Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria, Thailand, USA and Finland).
The main reason for this success has been the implementation of an innovative and unique construction technique that has been demonstrated to be ideal for the construction of the hulls of those special vessels used for Mine Warfare.
Not less important, although all the Intermarine MCMVs have in common the same concept of hull construction, their configurations (in terms of Mission and Propulsion Systems) are completely different: the number of variants implemented for so many different Navies, also is a proof of the capability of the Company of tailoring its basic design on the specific operational, logistic and technical requirements of each and every customer.
A typical means of countering this type of marine mine is to tow a device producing a large magnetic disturbance aft of a small minesweeping craft. The minesweeper passes over the mine undetected and unharmed because of its low magnetic field, and the magnetic device detonates the mines lying within a predetermined effective area safely astern the minesweeper.
If a sweep over a large area is desired, additional minesweepers towing similar magnetic sweep devices follow the first minesweeper at a safe distance. Each of said additional following minesweepers follow at the outer edge of the area swept by the preceding minesweeper, making a V-formation, and only the first minesweeper navigates an unswept course.
Although present state-of-the-art design minesweepers have a very low magnetic signature, magnetic detection methods as used in mine technology have advanced to the point where even a minesweeper may be detected. These advances in mine construction have made the use of the aforementioned sweep techniques hazardous, as well as expensive to utilize.
If the first minesweeper falls victim to a magnetically detonated mine, one of the following minesweepers moves into the lead position. This alteration of the minesweeping flotilla causes an unfavorable modification of the swept area, not to mention considerable distress occasioned by the loss or injury of personnel on the stricken vessel.
In mid-1970s Intermarine, in the wake of its research aimed to developing methods for building large GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) vessels, started developing a new concept of hull construction, which soon appeared to be sound for building those special vessels devoted to Mine Countermeasures operations. This concept allowed to exploit at utmost the intrinsic elasticity and flexibility of GRP, and therefore to build vessels capable to withstand the shock caused by underwater explosions of mines by “absorbing” elastically the enormous energy released by the explosion.
This led to a peculiar and unique construction technique, known as “Monocoque Single-skin without reinforcements”, consisting in building the hull structure without any longitudinal nor transverse reinforcement, but with increased shell thickness for providing the necessary structural strength of the hull girder. Such a technique also entailed the need to implement special outfitting techniques, such as installation of main engines and machinery on cradles suspended between watertight bulkheads, which provided additional benefits in terms of silent navigation and therefore higher safety for the vessel and the crew when navigating in the proximity of a minefield.
Allegations of fraud and illegal transfers of funds were raised when investigators found that Ching Fu Group had boosted its listed capital to NT$5 billion, partly from bank loans, and was in talks over a series of joint ventures with Chinese companies. Ching Fu owner and president Chen Ching-nan and his son, company vice chairman Chen Wei-chih were in Shanghai in June 2017 to meet with China MCC20 Group’s Zhang Jinxian regarding a joint venture to build luxury resorts and an amusement park on Dongshan Island in China’s Fujian Province.
It was announced in November 2017 that Ching Fu had defaulted upon its loan and that Ching Fu would be unable to complete the minesweeper contract. The losses incurred by these banks could reach up to 12.5 billion NTD.
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