Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Navy to retire its older destroyers

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Short of personnel to man the four Kidd-class destroyers it is buying from from the US, the navy plans to retire its seven Yang-class destroyers as soon as possible, defense officials said yesterday.

According to the navy, the four Kidd-class destroyers will need a total of 1,468 crew members. Decommissioning the Yang-class destroyers would free up 1,827 personnel.

In response to an inquiry from the Taipei Times, the Navy General Headquarters confirmed that it has worked out a retirement plan for the Yang-class destroyers but said the plan has not yet been approved by the Ministry of National Defense.

This is the only way the navy can find to handle a manpower shortage that will get worse in the next few years after a new streamlining project is launched in all three branches of the armed forces next year.

Under the "Chinchih" project the navy will lose 5,000 service members. A total of 30,000 personnel will be cut from the three service branches over a three-year period, bringing the nation's defense forces down to a total of 350,000.

Even though it will only lose 5,000 personnel, the navy will have to make a sizable structural adjustment.

The Yang-class destroyers, which have been in operation for nearly six decades, were received from the US in 1970s.

They underwent a major systems upgrade in early 1980s to become the navy's most powerful warships for many years.

The upgrade was codenamed "Wuchin No. 3" so the destroyers are also known as Wuchin No. 3 ships.

They were the first ships to be armed with the American-made Standard SM-1 air defense missiles.

A navy official who served on one of the ships said the SM-1 missiles test-fired from the Wuchin No. 3 ships always hit their targets.

This was a veiled reference to the SM-1 that was fired from a locally built Chenkung-class frigate during the Hankuang No. 19 exercise on Sept. 4 but didn't hit its target.

"The Wuchin No. 3 ships, though old in design and structure, have greater fire power than the Chenkung-class frigates," the navy official said

It is a pity that they will be taken out of service. They could still be used for at least another 10 years," the navy official said.

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