Two Osprey-class coastal mine hunting ships that the military has purchased from the US are scheduled to be delivered to Taiwan in July after being refitted and reactivated, according to military sources.
The two minehunters will be commissioned into service in October to help beef up the Navy’s minehunting and minesweeping capabilities to counter the threat of China using naval mines to impose a sea blockade against Taiwan in the event of conflict, the sources said.
The US first announced the sale of the two Osprey-class minehunters — USS Oriole and USS Falcon — in 2006.
They formed part of a US$6.4 billion arms package notified to the US Congress in January 2010.
The USS Oriole was commissioned in 1995, while the USS Falcon was commissioned in 1997. They were both decommissioned from US naval service in 2007.
The military sources said Taiwanese naval personnel went to the US more than a year ago to conduct reactivating missions as well as to receive training in operating the minehunters and to familiarize themselves with the equipment.
The refitted ships have gone on many rounds of sea trials, the sources said, adding that the US will use cargo vessels to deliver the minehunters to Taiwan.
British journal Jane’s Defence Weekly reported early this year that the two 895-tonne Osprey-class minehunters have undergone comprehensive hull, machinery and combat management overhauls and upgrades in the US.
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, a military expert said.
Twelve Osprey-class minehunting ships were built for the US Navy by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in the 1990s and they were in service from 1993 through 2007.
The ships were decommissioned before the expiration of their pre-defined life span in line with a US military transformation plan, the expert said, adding that the US has sold relatively new ones to its allies.