Taiwan Orders Engines for Stealthy Missile Patrol Boat
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
The Taiwan navy has placed a four-year, $149 million order for 90 diesel engines from MTU Asia, a subsidiary of Tognum. Three of the 16-cylinder Series 4000 engines will power each stealthy 170-ton Kuang Hua-6 (KH-6) Guided-Missile Patrol Craft.
The KH-6 was designed by the navy’s Ship Development Center in Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsung; a prototype was introduced in 2003 after three years of development.
The boats have sophisticated surveillance and fire control systems, radars and data links. With a top speed of 30 kts and a range of 800 nautical miles, the boat is 34.2 meters long, 7.6 meters wide, four meters high and has one 20mm gun. Its main deck is canted at 12 degrees to reduce the radar signature; special paint reduces the infrared signature.
The KH-6 will be armed with four Hsiung Feng 2 (Brave Wind) anti-ship missiles. During the annual Hankuang 19 exercise in 2003, the KH-6 prototype test-fired one HF-2 missile that destroyed a retired Yang-class (Gearing-class) destroyer. The HF-2 was developed by the military’s Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, which says the missile has a range of 150 km at Mach .85 — sources say more. CSIST’s other missiles include a new HF-3 and a land attack cruise missile version, the 600-km HF-2E, that can strike deep inside China.
Launched in 1996, the KH-6 program has seen numerous setbacks. Fifty boats were planned, a number halved two years later due to budget constraints. In 2005, state-owned China Shipbuilding Corp. (CSBC) received a $292 million contract, then fought off a challenge by Jong Shyn Shipbuilding.
The 30 KH-6s will replace 50 47-ton Hai Ou-class (Sea Gull) PTGs, which carry two HF-1 missiles and whose aluminum-alloy hulls had coorosion problems. In 1998, a Hai Ou hull buckled after running aground and sinking off Penghu Islands southwest of Taiwan. Based on the Israeli Dvora-class, the Hai Ou were built indigenously in the early 1980s with public donations. The donations were given as a show of support for the military after the U.S. switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
Sources say the KH-6 will perform hit-and-run attacks on Chinese ships attempting to cross the Taiwan Strait during an invasion or naval blockade.
“Winning a contract in this economically vital region is a significant achievement, especially as the reliability of MTU’s engines played an important role in the customer’s decision,” said Rainer Breidenbach, Board Member at Tognum AG and Chief Executive at MTU Friedrichshafen, in a Tognum press release.
In related news, Taiwan’s navy plans to test-fire a Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missile from a Kidd-class destroyer on Sept. 12. In 2001, the U.S. sold Taiwan four Kidds for $732 million. Dubbed the Keelung-class (DDG-1801), the ships were commissioned in 2005 and 2006.