The nation’s first stealth missile corvette was christened yesterday — a development that is expected to give the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) the capability to counter larger enemy warships.
The 500-tonne Tuo River (沱江) is the first of possibly 12 ships to be built locally under the Hsun Hai (迅海, Swift Sea) program.
The twin-hull corvette, described as a “carrier-killer” by local media, has a maximum speed of 38 knots (70kph) and a range of 2,000 nautical miles (3,704km). Its speed and low radar signature allows the corvette to get close to enemy targets, experts said.
The ship, 60.4m in length and 14m wide, carries a crew of 41. Its armaments include Hsiung Feng II and Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles.
The newly developed 500-tonne catamaran had been compared to China’s Type 022 Houbei fast attack missile ship, also a catamaran, due to similarities in their design.
When asked about the comparison yesterday, Republic of China Navy Admiral Chen Yung-kang (陳永康) said the Tuo River missile corvette was “infinitely better” than China’s Type 022.
According to Lung De Shipbuilding Co, the Tuo River is a modulated ship and welded together from 40 separately produced parts and sections.
It is also the first catamaran to be constructed from aluminum alloy.
The missile corvette’s range of 2,000 nautical miles would enable it to make a round-trip patrol from Taiwan to Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea, the ROCN said.
The addition of the ship would help greatly in routine patrols to the South China Sea region, it added.
Chen also said the impetus in designing the ship was to produce a highly mobile missile corvette with large missile bays and greater range, and with strong striking and stealth capabilities.
“One of the reasons to emphasize building our own naval warships is to upgrade our overall naval defense capabilities, as well as strengthen the navy’s surface-to-surface combat abilities,” Chen said.
Yesterday’s christening ceremony was held indoors in Suao (蘇澳), Yilan County, and the ship is to undergo final tests and reviews before it is officially launched.
It is expected to be deployed in the first half of next year.
In 2011, the legislature approved a NT$24.98 billion (US$853.4 million) budget to fund the construction of between seven and 11 corvettes, but a fleet of 12 ships is expected to be built.