Two refurbished mine hunters acquired by Taiwan will commence sea trials next month and are expected to be delivered to the Taiwanese Navy in May or June, British journal Jane’s Defence Weekly reported last week.
The two Osprey-class coastal mine-hunting ships USS Oriole and USS Falcon — both decommissioned from the US navy in June 2006 — were part of the US$6.4 billion arms package notified to US Congress in January 2010 as Excess Defense Articles.
The 895-tonne ships, renamed MHC 1310 Yung Jin and MHC 1311 Yung An, underwent comprehensive hull, machinery and combat management overhaul and upgrades in the US, Jane’s wrote.
At the time of announcement in 2010, the US$105 million deal was expected to include an overhaul of the AN/SQQ-32 sonar.
The ships, whose hulls are made of fiberglass and designed to survive an underwater explosion, use sonar and video equipment to detect moored and undersea mines and a remote-controlled mine detonating device to secure key waterways.
The Osprey-class ships will augment the Taiwanese navy’s mine-hunting capabilities, which currently rely on four Yung Yang-class (ex-US Agile-class) minesweepers built in the 1950s, four Yung Chia-class (ex-US Adjutant-class) coastal minesweepers, also built in the 1950s, and four German-made Yung Feng-class mine hunters commissioned in 1991.
Overhaul and reactivation work is almost complete and Taiwanese crews are receiving training ahead of the sea trials next month, Jane’s reported.
Taiwan had been seeking the Osprey-class ships since 2001. Military strategists say that China could use naval mines to impose a sea blockade against Taiwan in time of conflict.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy reportedly has between 10,000 and 100,000 naval mines in its inventory and is believed to conduct annual mine-laying exercises.