The Republic of China navy has made a major breakthrough in the development of an absorbent paint that can provide stealth capabilities to its weapons platforms, local media reported yesterday.
The radar-absorbing material, which reports said has been in development for a number of years, was recently tested on a 57-tonne Hai Ou (“Seagull”)-class fast attack boat, which has no stealth features, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported.
Two Seagulls, the No. 53 and No. 59, were deployed during the test. The No. 53, whose hull, machine guns, missiles and cabin were coated with the absorbent material, remained invisible to radar, while the No. 59, which was used as a control and did not receive the coating, was easily detected.
Only after the No. 53 came within sight did the radar finally detect it, reports said.
The stealth coating has resulted in a halving of the distance at which a vessel remains invisible to radar, reports said.
The test with the two Seagulls reportedly involved both land-based radar and radar on board a ship at sea that was approached by the two attack boats. When the two Seagulls closed in on the ship, the control vessel was picked up by radar from a distance of 10km, while the No. 53, with the coating, was only detected after it had come within viewing distance.
When the two boats sailed away from the ship and could barely be observed by the naked eye, the No. 53 was no longer picked up by radar, while the control was still clearly visible, even at a distance exceeding 10km.
Unconfirmed reports within the navy also claim that during a test at night, an observer vessel was unable to pick up the No. 53 by radar at a distance of 730m.
Although Navy Command confirmed it had tested the coating on the Seagulls, it would not comment further on the tests.
It is not known whether the stealth coating would be used in the navy’s fleet of locally manufactured 170-tonne Kuang Hua VI (“Glorious China”)-class missile boats, whose design and shape already give it stealth capabilities.
Ten Kuang Hua-class vessels entered service in May last year. Another 20 are to be delivered by China Shipbuilding Corp, Taiwan (台灣國際造船) to the navy by next February, bringing the fleet to 30.
The Kuang Hua VI, which come armed with four Hsiung Feng II (“Brave Wind”) ship-to-ship missiles developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST, 中山科學研究院), is intended to replace about 30 of the Israeli-designed Seagulls after the almost 20-year-old vessels are retired at the end of this year.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP