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Navy Modernization

The Taiwan Navy has over two dozen major surface combatants. In addition there are four submarines, about 100 patrol boats, 30 mine warfare ships, and 25 amphibious vessels. Despite the Navy's ability to refurbish and extend the service life of its vessels and equipment well beyond expectation, until recently a large portion of the fleet consists of obsolescent World War II-era ships. The Navy's modernization program is intended to replace its aging fleet of surface combatants with newer ships like the French-built Lafayette-class frigate and a domestically-produced variant of the U.S. Perry-class frigate. Taiwan is acquiring advanced antisubmarine warfare technology which will likely improve their ability to counter PLA submarines operating off the coast of Taiwan.

Taiwan's Kuang Hua [Glorious China] naval modernization consists of a number of separate projects:

  • Kwang Hua Project I is the the building of the new generation Cheng Kung class frigates modeled on the US Perry-class frigate.
  • Kwang Hua Project II includes the purchase of six Lafayette-class (Kang Ding-class) frigates from France, which is the centerpiece of the Kwang Hua-2 project for the construction of 16 ships.
  • Kwang Hua Project III includes the 500-ton Jing Chiang class patrol boats.
  • Kwang Hua Project IV includes the lease of eight Knox-class frigates.
  • Kwang Hua Project V is the much delayed plan for the "secondary class warships of the second generation" to build several 1,500-2,000-ton patrol boats with stealth capability that will be a supplementary combat force for "primary class" warships. This program was cancelled, in favor of the Kwang Hua Project VII program.
  • Kwang Hua Project VI includes 30 large 150-ton fast attack missile boats with stealth features.
  • Kwang Hua Project VII is the plan for a "secondary class warships of the second generation" to build eight 2,000-ton patrol boats with stealth capability that will be a supplementary combat force for "primary class" warships.

Taiwan's naval modernization program includes the licensed-production of eight Perry-class (Cheng Kung-class) frigates; the purchase of six Lafayette-class (Kang Ting-class) frigates from France; and, the lease of eight Knox-class frigates from the United States. Both the Perry-class and Lafayette-class frigates are armed with indigenously- produced Hsiung Feng II ASCMs, while the Knox-class frigates are equipped with the U.S.-made Harpoon ASCM. Air defense weapons systems include the Standard air defense missile on board the Perry-class frigates and the Sea Chaparral on board the Lafayettes. The primary mission of these newer frigates is sea control, particularly the capability to protect the sea lanes beyond the range of coastal aircraft. The Navy also has more than a dozen older, World War II-era Gearing-class destroyers and numerous smaller combatants and auxiliaries in its operational inventory.

Taiwan's navy has completed the acquisition of a total of 21 Perry, Knox and La Fayette class frigates equiped with modern shipboard combat systems. This modernization program has provided Taiwan with its greatest advantage relative to China in recent memory, though this advantage will erode over the next decade as Chinese naval modernization plans are eventually fullfilled.

The ROC Navy has developed a second generation of missile frigates and missile patrol boats. The first domestically built missile frigate (FPG-2) was built and handed over to the ROC Navy in May 1993, with the expectation that one such frigate would be produced every 11 months from then on. Construction of the Navy's first missile patrol boat was to be completed by March 1996, with the rest finished by 2000.

The "Kuang Hua" program also includes the future acquisition of three types of smaller surface combatants: 12 Jin Chiang-class 580-ton guided missile patrol combatants; 10-14 1,500-2,000 ton corvettes; and, 50 fast attack missile boats (150-250 ton) to replace the aging fleet of Hai Ou-class boats currently in the inventory.

Approved by Congress after US diplomatic recognition was switched from Taiwan to Beijing, the Taiwan Relations Act obligates the United States to help meet Taiwan's defense needs. China -- which considers Taiwan a renegade province -- has consistently opposed the US sales. Every president since 1982 has made their decision about Taiwan's defense needs in the context of events in that year dealing with Taiwan.

By the turn of the century there were American-built 13 LSTs and 4 LSMs in the ROCN service. Through the LST is truly not a modern ship, in the 1970s the LSTs were re-constructed with a number of differences. The Navy reconstructed the shape and replaced the propulsion system. In the 1980s, the Navy renewed for the living cabins with air conditioning. And 4 LCVPs were installed into each ship. In the 2000s, modern communication facilities were installed, such as military satellite phone or wireless network.

Taiwanese authorities submitted a shopping list in 2001 that included top-of-the-line US destroyers of the "Arleigh Burke" class equipped with the "Aegis" radar system, which has missile defense applications. China contends such a sale would tip the military balance in the Taiwan strait. On 24 April 2001 it was announced that the Bush Administration had decided that the "Aegis" sale be deferred in favor of less sophisticated "Kidd" class destroyers. The administration also offered Taiwan P-3C submarine-hunting planes, and to make an effort to help the island acquire up to eight diesel submarines, which are no longer made in the United States. Bush also deferred a Taiwanese request for Apache helicopters and M-1 tanks.

  • Each of the four Kidd-class destroyers are comparable in combat capability to the Sovremenny-class destroyers that China has acquired from Russia. Taiwan's acquisition of four such ships will almost certainly prompt China to complete the contemplated purchase of two additional Sovremenny-class destroyers, giving each country a total of four such ships.
  • The new diesel submarines to be purchased by Taiwan are comparable in combat capability to the three nuclear-powered Han-class submarines built domestically by China or the four Kilo-class submarines China has purchased from Russia and probably surpass the capabilities of China's pair of domestically produced Song-class diesel submarines. Whether China would seek to offset this rough parity in modern submarines through additional construction or purchases from Russia is uncertain.

On April 19, 2004 a report in the Taipei Times indicated that the Taiwan military was considering a plan to buy decommissioned Spruance class destroyers from the United States to replace aging Knox class frigates. Reports indicate that Taiwan would have to buy about four ships to replace eight Knox ships. Nothing came of these discussions.

In August 2006 the US Senate took up a bill to allow the Bush administration to sell Taiwan two ships to augment its aging minesweeping fleet. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved and sent on to the full Senate a bill to authorize the sale of two Osprey-class minesweepers, the Oriole (MHC-55) and the Falcon (MHC-59). While the cost of the ships to be offered to Taiwan was not enumerated, the US Navy estimated that the bill, which would also include the sale of one minesweeper to Turkey and two amphibious dock ships to Mexico, would net US$84.5 million. The United States House of Representatives considered similar legislation in November 2007. H.R. 3912/S. 1565: The Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2007, would have transferred to TECRO (the Taiwan office in the United States) the OSPREYclass minehunter coastal ships ORIOLE (MHC-55) and FALCON (MHC-59). Neither bill was considered by its full respective body. Two Osprey-class coastal mine hunters were decommissioned 30 June 2006 in formal ceremonies at Naval Station Ingleside. USS Falcon (MHC 59) was decommissioned during a ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. and then at noon, USS Oriole (MHC 55) held her decommissioning ceremony. Falcon and Oriole were the second pair of the 12 coastal mine hunters that have been decommissioned.

On 03 October 2008 the US Defense Department notified Congress that it had approved the sale of a US$6.46 billion package of weapons to Taiwan. The sales would cover some of the $12-billion package approved by President George W. Bush in 2001. That package was held up by debate in Taiwan's legislature. The US did not, however, approve diesel-electric submarines and Black Hawk helicopters that Taiwan had sought.

On 20 May 2013 the Republic of China Navy Command confirmed that it was seeking to purchase two active Perry-class frigates from the United States. The Navy Command said in a press release that the price and date of delivery will not be decided until after the US Congress passes legislation allowing the transfer. It denied a news report saying that the proposed acquisition includes a 'mini-Aegis' fire control system and a vertical launch surface-to-air Standard I missile system. Neither system was ever requested, the Navy Command said. It was responding to a report in the Liberty Times saying that the ships will be delivered to Taiwan's Navy next year at a total price of NT$600 million (US$20 million). The paper said that Taiwan wants to replace its fleet of eight U.S.-made Knox-class frigates built in the 1960s.

Mine-hunting vessels will enable Taiwan to keep key ports and shipping lanes open in the event of blockade by mining. Under the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2007 the President is authorized to transfer vessels to foreign recipients on a sale basis under section 21 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2761) to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office of the United States (which is the Taiwan instrumentality designated pursuant to section 10(a) of the Taiwan Relations Act (22 U.S.C. 3309(a))), the OSPREY class minehunter coastal ships ORIOLE (MHC55) and FALCON (MHC59). On September 29, 2010, the US Congress passed a resolution authorizing US Government sale of one more Osprey class mine hunter to Taiwan.

On 31 August 2010, it was announced under the coming year's defense budget, Taiwan planned to lease 1 or 2 more Newport LSTs from US, but by 2014 nothing seemed to have come of this idea. By some accounts the 4 remaining Adjutant class coastal mine hunters were retired on 29 December 2010, but other sources report them in service as of 2014. On 31 October 2011, all 8 PCL were retired. On 28 December 2011, the 2 Lung Jiang (PSMM Mk5) Missile Guided Patrol boats (PGG 601 and 602) in the 131st Fleet were retired from ROC Navy service, after entering service in 1978 and 1981.

Originally the US LST-755 Class Tank Landing Ship, the ship joined the R.O.C. Navy in 1946 and was later renamed the Chung Hai (LST-201). In August 1958, R.O.C. Chung Hai was involved in a battle in the Taiwan Straits, where it successfully attacked and sank an invading Chinese torpedo boat. The ship was decommissioned at a Kaohsiung port in February 2010, after serving the country for over six decades. A pair of LSTs were reportedly retired on 29 December 2010.

The R.O.C. Navy Command said 02 July 2, 2014 it had decided to keep a decommissioned warship amid concerns raised by a group of retired Navy personnel after it was reported that the Navy could destroy the ship for financial reasons. In a released statement, the Navy Command said it did consider turning the R.O.C. Chung Hai Tank Landing Ship into a target ship for an upcoming drill because of a limited budget and difficulty maintaining the condition of the vessel. However, since many have expressed concerns over the proposal, the Navy decided to drop the plan for now. The Navy would continue to work with local government and possibly draft a new proposal for how to make use of the decommissioned ship so that people can better understand the contribution it made in R.O.C. war history.

As of 2014, World Warships reports all but the Kao Hsiung command ship retired. IISS reports all still in service, while Combat Fleets reports "Several of the class are reportedly in reserve status." Mike Colombaro over at World-Combat-Fleets-Review reported in 2012 that 7 Chung Hai class (Ex US 1940's LST) were present, but noted "Current status unclear."

2014 National Shipbuilding Plan

Wendell Minnick reported 20 September 2014 that "The Navy will introduce the plan to the public in November for local build programs for four 10,000-ton destroyers, 10 to 15 3,000-ton catamaran frigates, amphibious transport docks to replace 11 dock landing ships and tank landing ships, and four-to-eight diesel 1,200-3,000-ton submarines to replace two Dutch-built submarines. US companies will still be allowed to participate in the supply of many systems, Navy officials said, but reliance on local companies will be the focus. The Indigenous Defense Submarine program is the only possible exception. US and European companies can partner with Taiwan on the program..."

This appeared to be the latest iteration of the long standing and long delayed Navy wish list that has been around since at least the turn of the century. Under the latest version of the plan, the Tien Tan AEGIS Advanced Combat System Ship would be locally built, whereas at one time consideration had been given to buying US-built Arleigh Burke vessels.

As of 2004 Taiwan had plans for the Kuang Hua 7 program in which eight 2000-ton corvettes of conventional design were to replace the Knox class. As usual, a decade later nothing had come of this scheme, which is now superceded by the plan for 10 to 15 3,000-ton catamaran frigates. The new ships will be completely built in Taiwan at an estimated rate of one ship per year.

In September 2014, the ROC Navy was scheduled to propose a 20-year fleet modernization program. The plans include the construction of submarines, catamaran frigates, destroyers, and amphibious assault ships. According to a naval official, the ROC Navy planned to build four destroyers with a displacement of 10,000 tons each in order to replace its four aging Kidd-class destroyers. The new destroyers would be equipped with Aegis combat systems and the cost of building each ship is estimated to come in at up to NT$ 15 billion (US$ 500 million).

The same official disclosed that the navy also plans to build four catamaran frigates with a displacement of 3,000 tons each to replace its current Cheng Kung-class and Lafayette-class frigates. The new ships will be completely built in Taiwan at an estimated rate of one ship per year.

2016 National Shipbuilding Plan

According to Taiwan media reported on 20 June 2017, the Taiwan Navy announced a "national shipbuilding" planning content, scheduled from 2018 to 2040, to spend NT $ 470 billion (about 15 billion US dollars).

President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office 20 May 2016, reaffirmed her goal June 4 of pushing for a self-reliant national defense force, when she boarded a domestically built warship off Yilan County in eastern Taiwan. "In addition to enhancing naval combat capacity, it will also help the development of the shipbuilding and machinery sectors, as well as system integration," she emphasized. "The government will continue to promote the policy of building its own vessels."

Han Pi-hsiang, chairman of the Taiwan Shipbuilding Industry Association, said that he welcomed the government policy, and estimated that it will help push the sector's production value to NT$70 billion per year. Since 2001, developing locally built warships has been a hotly debated issue in Taiwan, in the face of increasing military enhancement efforts by other countries in the region.

The Navy plans to build rapid minelayers, next-generation frigates, rescue ships, next-generation destroyers, minesweepers, submarines, amphibious dock vessels, multi-functional transport ships, and more Tuo Jiang-class corvettes.

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly expressed the importance of autonomous national defence and has proposed a policy in line with this view. The policy included submarine fleet production to begin in 2016 and be fully operational within ten years. This policy is projected to motivate industry experts, increase capital investment and accelerate technology development. Additionally, it is expected to boost civil-military cooperation. As well as encouraging industrial technology upgrades, there will be stimulated development of related fields, increased foreign investment, and new job opportunities. Academia is also expected to benefit from new areas of specialized and professional research.

The Navy is slated to allocate NT$470 billion (US$14.59 billion) for 12 shipbuilding projects during the 2018-2040 period, Navy Command Headquarters Chief of Staff Vice Adm. Mei Chia-shu said 20 May 2016. The Navy will first focus on building a new model of amphibious transport dock, high-speed mine-laying ships and the Tuo Jiang - class corvette. When asked whether the defense ministry will actually begin the construction of Aegis-equipped warships next year, Mei said there is no plan at the moment.

In June 2016 the Taiwanese Navy announced 12 new shipbuilding and force modernization programs covering a 23-year period at roughly $14.7 billion on Monday. This indigenous build effort is part of an overall plan to wean Taiwan off expensive and politically troublesome US defense acquisitions which often consist of refurbished older platforms and develop a robust defense industry on the island. The projected timeline runs from 2017 to 2040.

  1. submarine - The United States agreed to sell Taiwan eight diesel-electric submarines in 2001, but the deal has not been completed, as the U.S. has not built diesel-electric submarines since 1959. It is difficult for Taiwan to acquire submarines from other countries due to its delicate relations with China.
  2. Aegis destroyer - Local media have reported that the Navy is hoping to build 6-8 Aegis-equipped destroyers to replace its aging Kidd-class fleet, which they have been calling the most eye-catching plan among the 12 projects.
  3. frigate
  4. Tuo Jiang-class missile corvette catamarans - The Navy will first focus on building 11 additional stealthy Tuo Jiang-class corvette starting in 2017. This is aiwan's first domestically developed stealth missile corvette.
  5. Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD)
  6. landing platform dock (LPD) "Fortune Plan" - The Navy will first focus on building a new model of amphibious transport dock. Contract designs for the new amphibious transport dock will be finalized in 2016.
  7. high-speed minelayer - The Navy will first focus on building new high-speed mine-laying ships in 2017.
  8. multi-purpose transport
  9. more AAV7 assault amphibious vehicle
  10. underwater swimmer delivery vehicles for special forces
  11. assorted weapons for special forces

Despite the impressive list that includes a wide variety of vessels and systems, orchestrated by the Navys Naval Shipbuilding Development Center, the list is considered by some Taiwan defense analysts to be a Christmas wish list. Only three of the programs had been officially authorized and funded for construction. The three funded programs are the LPDs, additional Tuo Jiang-class corvettes and minelayers. The three programs are estimated at $1.875 billion and cover a timeline of 2017 through 2025.




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