Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fast-attack missile boats’ Achilles’ heel?

Hsiung Feng launchers are installed on a frigate
By disabling radar and data links needed to acquire target information, China could blind Taiwan’s fast-attack missile boats and render them practically useless 

The effectiveness of Taiwan’s fast-attack missile boats to counter the Chinese military will largely depend on the vessels’ ability to acquire targeting information, which might not be guaranteed in a full-scale war scenario, a defense expert said recently. 

Unable to compete with the People’s Liberation Army Navy on a tonne-for-tonne basis, the Taiwanese Navy has in recent years embarked on an “asymmetrical” program, developing and fielding fast-attack boats equipped with a variety of surface-to-surface and anti-ship missiles. 

Since 2010, three squadrons, for a total of 31 170-tonne Kuang Hua VI fast-attack missile boats, have entered service in the navy. Each boat is equipped with four Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) anti-ship missiles, which have a range of approximately 150km. Last year, the military also began modifications on some of its 500 tonne Ching Chiang-class patrol boats to outfit them with four Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) ramjet-powered supersonic anti-ship missile launchers. Five Cheng Kung-class frigates have also been outfitted with HF-3s as part of a NT$12 billion (US$406 million) program to arm the navy with 120 HF-3s, a 300km-range missile that since last year has been known as Taiwan’s “carrier killer.” And a new 450-tonne radar-evading fast attack corvette currently under development is expected to be outfitted with eight HF-2 and HF-3 launchers, and possibly the 650km-range HF-2E. 

All those platforms, however, could be rendered into useless hulls if the offshore radars and data links required to launch the missiles are disabled. 

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

No comments: