The Republic of China (ROC) Navy has put a stop to trial runs of the new missile-carrying Tuo Jiang-class 618 stealth corvette due to serious design flaws that have undermined the vessel’s operations, senior navy commander Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩) told the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) on Wednesday.
Lu said that several fundamentals flaws in the corvette’s design, along with it being packed with extra weapons and equipment systems, resulted in the vessel having insufficient buoyancy, which affected its maneuverability and stability.
Lu is a former captain of a Jin Jiang-class patrol vessel, which are similar to the 618.
“The core design concept was to build a stealth fast-attack corvette with high maneuverability,” Lu said. “However, later on the design was altered in a bid to make the Tuo Jiang-class ‘invincible warships,’ loading it with anti-aircraft and anti-ship weaponry, along with submarine-hunting and other combat functions.”
“It was like changing the design for a dress while a lady was already wearing it,” he said.
In addition to 16 Hsiung Feng-class missiles and two torpedo launchers onboard, the navy reportedly also has plans for the 618 to carry Sky Sword 2 guided missiles.
However, even without being fully loaded with fuel, equipment and weapons systems, the vessel had already reached its maximum displacement in calm water conditions in the harbor, Lu said.
“It is vital to have a patrol warship that can carry out missions in strong winds and high seas that can arise around Taiwan,” the commander said. “We must ensure the safety of all officers and sailors aboard the ship; that is the most serious challenge.”
Meanwhile, the Navy Command Headquarters said in a statement that the 618 is the first of its class and as a “prototype,” it was being tested to determine its capabilities and limitations.
“The Tuo Jiang class is a different design from traditional warships,” the statement said. “It is designed to be able to counter various threats using modular weapons systems, therefore its payload can vary depending on the situation.”
“Therefore the views are due to a misunderstanding regarding the vessel’s design concept and its operational objectives,” it said.
As the 618 is a prototype, handed over to the navy in December last year, the purpose of testing is to check the corvette’s performance and its limitations, while testing operational variables and deviations from its original design, the statement said.
Any issues that arise can then be corrected and plans reconfigured for subsequent production of more Tuo Jiang-class vessels, it added.
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