The navy yesterday was asked to justify an apparent decision to delay plans to launch a program to build submarine chasers to increase the nation’s coastal defense capabilities.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) told a Foreign and National Defense Committee meeting at the legislature that while the navy had assigned budgets for the Hsun Hai Plan, under which the nation would develop a 900-tonne, 40m-long twin-hull corvette, the plan had since been delayed.
The navy first announced the plan in April. The submarine chasers would reportedly carry up to eight Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles, with a range of 150km, and eight recently developed Hsiung Feng III supersonic anti-ship missiles. The corvettes are to be designed by United Ship Design and Development Center, with assistance from the academic community.
The navy put into service its first indigenous Kuang Hua VI-class (KH-6) missile boats in May, which are also part of an initiative to strengthen coastal defense. Nineteen KH-6s are believed to be in service at present.
Lin said he wondered whether the navy’s apparent lack of determination to complete the project was the result of the Lafayette frigate scandal, which could still be haunting the service.
The Lafayette kickback scandal stems from a 1991 deal to buy six French-made Lafayette-class frigates for US$2.8 billion — a deal that severely strained France’s relations with China at the time.
On May 3, the Ministry of National Defense won a lawsuit it had filed with the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration over the deal, in which the court ruled that the French company, Thomson-CSF (since renamed Thales SA), had engaged in bribery with numerous parties to secure the deal to sell the frigates to Taiwan. The company was ordered to repay the Taiwanese government about US$861 million.
“Some navy officials believe it is better not to build new warships because incidents are likely to happen when such big programs are launched,” Lin said.
Navy Chief of General Staff Vice Admiral Lee Hao (李皓) said the program was classified and that he could therefore not discuss it at the meeting.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER