Taiwan launches its first stealthy 'carrier killer' corvette as it strengthens its defenses against China

  • The new corvette, Ta Jiang, is armed with anti-ship missiles and stealth technology that will allow it take out much larger vessels.
  • The domestically produced warship, along with a new high-speed minelayer, are part of a programme to develop Taiwan's asymmetric warfare capacity.
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Taiwan has launched its first missile corvette designed to take down an aircraft carrier as it seeks to bolster its defences against a possible attack from mainland China.

The new "carrier killer," along with a high-speed minelayer launched earlier this year, was domestically produced and designed to play a key role in the island's asymmetric warfare strategy to counter the much larger force the People's Liberation Army can muster.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its territory and has not renounced the use of force to return it to its control, has ramped up the pressure against the island since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.

At a ceremony to launch the new corvette — named the Ta Jiang — at a shipyard in Suao in northeast Taiwan on Tuesday, Tsai said the new ships were a sign of Taiwan's determination to defend its waters and promote the local defence industry.

"In countering the enemy's threats … in constructing our defensive power, we should employ the concept of asymmetric warfare to deter incoming attacks from the enemy," she said.

The corvette — which has a displacement of 700 tonnes and a top speed of 45 knots (83km/h) — uses state-of-the-art stealth technology to avoid detection and is equipped with subsonic missiles that can destroy targets on land or sea, such as an aircraft carrier. It can also operate in shallow or coastal waters where larger vessels such as destroyers and frigates find it hard to operate.

A Hsiung Feng III missile on display during Taiwan's national day parade, in Taipei, October 10, 2007.REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Huang Shou-chen, chairman of the Lung Teh Shipbuilding Company, which built the new corvette and minelayer, said both were equipped with powerful home-grown weapons systems.

"[The Ta Jiang] is equipped with Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) II and III anti-ship missiles and Hai Chien (Sea Sword) II anti-aircraft missiles developed by the [government-funded] Chung-Shan institute," Huang said, referring to the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology.

The corvette is also equipped with 76 mm cannons, Phalanx close-in weapons systems and T-74 machine guns.

"It is designed to counter the PLA ships by employing hit-and-run tactics and with its stealth function and high mobility, it is difficult to track," said Chieh Chung, a national security researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a think tank of the main opposition Kuomintang party.

He said the same applied to the as-yet-unnamed minelayer — which could drop mines very quickly and make it very hard for enemy ships to attack the coast — and both ships fit perfectly well with Taiwan's asymmetric defence strategy.

Huang said the minelayer, the first in a batch of four, was fitted with an intelligence system designed by the Chung-Shan Institute that automatically planted mines at high speeds.

According to the navy, the Ta Jiang is the first of three corvettes that will be built under a NT$31.6 billion (US$1 billion) programme. The ship is expected to be ready for delivery to the navy next year, with the last following by 2025.

The warship was equipped with one of the world's most technologically advanced computer systems and built partly with high-entropy metal alloys for extra strength and durability, it said.

Its stealth technology and low radar cross-section make the ship virtually invisible at sea and even more difficult to detect when operating close to the coast, and the navy said it was designed to take over many of the missions now undertaken by larger, less manoeuvrable and more expensive frigates and destroyers.

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