The vessel is top-heavy because of its tall superstructure, which raises its ‘center of buoyancy’ and makes it bob around like a cork in high seas. That compromises its ability to go to sea and fight in all weather
The Ministry of National Defense yesterday refused to comment on a report in the Chinese Communist Party-run Guangming Daily saying that the Kuang Hua VI (KH-6, 光華六) fast attack missile boats that have been in service in the Taiwanese navy since 2010 were plagued by deficiencies and were a “fantasy.”
Taiwan commissioned its first squadron of 11 KH-6 radar-evading fast-attack craft, produced by China Shipbuilding Corp, in May 2010. Since then, 20 more of the 170-tonne boats have entered service, the most recent 10 on Dec. 2 last year at Tsuoying Naval Base in Greater Kaohsiung. The 31 boats comprise the navy’s three squadrons, which have been dubbed Hai Chiao (Sea Sharks).
Each boat, which costs about US$12.3 million, comes equipped with four Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles with a range of 150km, as well as a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, a 7.62mm machine gun and decoy systems. The KH-6s, which have gradually been replacing the Navy’s Israeli-made Hai Ou (Sea Gull)-class missile patrol boats, are integral to the defense of Taiwan’s waters. Given the narrowness of the Taiwan Strait, the boats would be able to attack targets at naval bases along China’s coast.
The Guangming Daily on Tuesday claimed that the program was beset with problems and called the Sea Sharks a “fantasy.” At issue, the paper said, was the fact that the guns on the KH-6 needed to be operated manually, which undermined the craft’s “stealth” capability. The article also said the craft was ill-suited for the rough weather conditions in the Taiwan Strait, pointing to an incident involving a prototype that lost power and became stranded on an outer seawall during Typhoon Jangmi in September 2008. In all, the paper said, those deficiencies imposed “several restrictions” on the boats’ use.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with comments by James Holmes and Wendell Minnick. My take on the same story for Jane’s Navy International can be accessed here (subscription required).