The Knox-class frigates which the navy bought from the US are to receive weapons-control systems from the seven remaining Yang-class destroyers scheduled to be decommissioned within two years, defense sources said yesterday.
The conversion will greatly improve the combat capability of the Knox-class frigates, which need good weapons-control systems to integrate different systems on board for greater accuracy and faster response.
The Yang-class destroyers are to be decommissioned in a year or two so that manpower may be redirected to four Kidd-class destroyers awaiting delivery from the US.
The US-developed systems, classified as H930 MCS (modular combat system), were the first in the world to adopt a distributed computer architecture for the management of on-board weapon systems.
Taiwan's navy was the first in the world to use the H930 system. A total of seven Yang-class destroyers, originally Gearing-class in the US, underwent conversion to the H930 system in a project code entitled Wuchin No 3.
The seven destroyers thus became known as Wuchin No 3 ships.
With the H930 system installed, the ships became the most powerful in the navy in terms of reaction time and capacity to integrate different weapons systems.
Now, nearly two decades after the conversion, the Wuchin No 3 ships continue to outshine many newer vessels.
To many in the navy, these ships are even better than Chengkung-class frigates, which are the most combat-capable in the navy.
But given that the destroyers have been in service for over five decades, including their service in the US Navy, and that the navy does not have extra manpower for the operation of the four destroyers to be delivered from the US, they have had to give way to the new ships, naval officials said.
"The weapons-control systems on the Wuchin No 3 ships are not to be scrapped however, since they are still quite workable and can be used for many more years," they said.
Eleven Jan (詹皓), a senior editor with Defense Technology Monthly magazine, said the weapons-control system of a ship is like its brain, the key to the ship's overall performance.
"The brain of the Knox-class frigate is very slow. It takes several minutes to respond to an emergency situation," he said.
"But with the Wuchin No 3 system, it needs only 10 seconds to get the job done," Jan said.
"The Knox-class frigate is weak in its integration of weapons systems. It will receive a great boost in this area if equipped with the Wuchin No 3 system," he said.
The navy leased and then bought a total of eight Knox-class frigates from the US in the early 1990s.
Not all of these frigates are to be upgraded to the Wuchin No 3 standard, since only seven Wuchin No 3 weapons-control systems are available.
The Knox-class frigates were brought in because of their strong anti-submarine capabilities.
Each of these ships has a towed array sonar, which is highly effective in detecting submarines.
But other than anti-submarine capabilities, the Knox-class frigates do not have any other substantial combat capability.
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