Taiwan launched the first of its new heavily armed “aircraft carrier killer” warships on Tuesday, with the homemade vessels touted as a key to the country’s self-defense efforts against China’s overpowering People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the unveiling ceremony of the vessel named Ta Chiang, a new prototype developed on the domestically made Tuo Chiang-class guided-missile corvette.
At the Lungteh shipyard in Su’ao, a township in Taiwan’s eastern Yilan County, Tsai said the new warship program was a sign of the country’s determination to defend its waters and protect its territory and sovereignty.
The upgraded Tuo Chiang-class warships come equipped with subsonic and supersonic anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, as well as an array of anti-surface weaponry, including torpedo tubes and Hsiung Feng III missiles capable of hitting range targets at distances of up to 250 miles.
The new fleet of stealthy “carrier killers” will comprise 11 vessels in total, the first of which will be delivered to the Taiwan Navy by July 2021. The navy said it plans to take delivery of six new corvettes by 2023, with five more expected by 2025.
Taiwan’s maritime forces had ordered three new corvettes for delivery by 2025, but the number of vessels was increased due to “increasing threats by the enemy,” the navy said in a press release Wednesday.
The Tuo Chiang-class corvettes, which can reach speeds of up to 43 knots, will significantly increase Taiwan’s asymmetric warfare capabilities, analysts said. The fast and maneuverable warships will take over many of the missions currently being performed by the island’s larger frigates and destroyers.
In the event of a military confrontation in the Taiwan Strait, the heavily armed corvettes, which will be more difficult to detect thanks to new stealthy technology, will be adept at surprise attacks using hit-and-run tactics, according to reports.
Su Tzu-yun, Taiwan’s top national security analyst, said the corvettes represent one of Taiwan’s “three treasures” in the country’s asymmetric warfare capabilities against China’s PLA, which has been sending warplanes near the island and conducting drills in the Taiwan Strait.
Alongside Taiwan’s land-based anti-ship missile launchers and its recently announced homemade submarines, the island’s troops will be able to deter Chinese beach landings and hit the PLA’s supporting surface vessels, said Su, who works for the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
“‘Aircraft carrier killer’ is just a moniker,” Su told Taiwanese media. “It will be effective against all of the PLA’s large warships.”
Taiwan’s military spending is dwarfed by that of its cross-strait counterpart, which has a reported budget 15 times higher than Taipei. However, military analysts believe a Chinese takeover of Taiwan will not be straightforward.
At the ship-launching ceremony on Tuesday, the navy also took delivery of a rapid minelayer, another warship which will prove critical to Taiwan’s coastal defense. Three more minelayers are expected by the end of 2021, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.
During her speech, President Tsai praised the country’s capable defense research, hinting that Taiwan could one day become an equipment supplier for Western democracies.
Last month, Tsai launched Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine program, which promises to deliver the first of eight diesel-electric underwater craft by 2025.
The new “Made in Taiwan” submarines will carry American-made weapons systems from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.