Taiwan’s Warning to China—Meet the Aircraft Carrier Killer Corvette

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December 17, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: TaiwanChinaAircraft CarrierAnti-Ship MissileCorvette

Taiwan’s Warning to China—Meet the Aircraft Carrier Killer Corvette

Could these smaller, missile-toting ships actually pose a threat to large Chinese aircraft carriers?

This year China sent a loud and clear message to the U.S. Navy when the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) conducted several tests of its new “aircraft carrier killer” missiles. However, Beijing may have received a similar, and notably as clear message from Taipei this month after the Taiwanese Navy announced that it has launched the first of its heavily armed “carrier killer” corvettes.

The domestically-produced vessels have been touted as a key component to the independent island nation’s defense efforts against its mainland neighbor. The corvettes, which have earned the nickname “aircraft carrier killers,” are armed with subsonic and supersonic missiles.

Taiwan News reported that President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the launch of the first Tuo Chiang-class guided-missile corvettes at a ceremony at the Lungteh Shipyard in Yilan’s Su-ao. The launch of the corvette on Dec. 15 followed another launch of the first Anping-class offshore patrol vessel, which was launched by the Taiwanese Coast Guard Administration on Dec. 11.

While the two vessels are similar, the Navy version is far more heavily armed, and is designed to take on Chinese warships. The Tuo Chiang-class is equipped with an OTO Melara 76mm naval gun on its forward deck, and is armed with Sea Sword II anti-aircraft missiles, eight subsonic Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) anti-ship missiles, eight supersonic Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) medium-range missiles, one Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS), two 12.7 mm Browning M2HB machine guns, and two Mark 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes.

By comparison, the Coast Guard Administration’s Anping-class offshore patrol vessels, which are meant for law enforcement purposes, are lightly armed. Its weapons include a 20mm cannon, high explosive rockets and a water cannon. However, these vessels can be upgraded to carry the HF-2 and HF-3 missile systems in a time of war. Exactly how quickly such a conversion might take isn’t known, but as the two classes of vessels are similar, the Coast Guard ships could be equipped quickly and ready for action.

Both ships were built by the Kaohsiung-based Jong Shyn Shipbuilding Group, and feature a modern catamaran design. This can provide better stability, maneuverability, less draft, greater speed and superior fuel efficiency. The Tuo Chiang-class corvettes have a length of 60.4 meters, displacement of 685 tons, a maximum operational range of 1,800 miles, and a top speed of 43 knots, according to Lungteh Shipbuilding. The first of the class is expected to be officially delivered to the Taiwanese Navy next July.

Taiwan is also expected to receive a total of eleven of the stealthy carrier killer corvettes over the next five years, with plans for the Taiwanese Navy to receive six by 2023 and five more by 2025. The question is whether Beijing will see the corvettes as an actual threat.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Reuters.