Thursday, April 19, 2012

Taiwan faces balance of naval power crisis

In the next few years, the Taiwanese navy could be down to 18 frigates/destroyers in the 3,000-plus tonnage category, from 43 during the 1996 Missile Crisis

A backlog of costly arms acquisitions by Taiwan could be forcing the navy to cut back on requests for frigates from the US, which threatens to exacerbate the widening tonnage gap in the Taiwan Strait as the nation decommissions ageing vessels.

Citing a Taiwanese defense industry source, Defense News said in a report published this week that the navy could request two — rather than four, as initially planned — decommissioned long-hull Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates as excess defense articles (EDA) from the US.

The article said the plan to acquire the four frigates was cancelled late last year because of cost and technical considerations, adding that the military was struggling to pay for roughly US$18 billion in weapons released by the US in the past four years.

Although China Shipbuilding Corp (中船) is capable of building Perry-class frigates — it has built eight so far, known locally as Cheng Kung-class — the source told Defense News that acquisitions from the US would be the quickest and least costly way to add the much-needed vessels to the navy. Building them would cost upwards of US$2 billion, the source said, much higher than the “near-scrap” price under EDA, even when refurbishment and upgrade costs are added.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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