Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taiwan Begins Building Fast Attack Boats

Defense News


Taiwan Begins Building Fast Attack Boats

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s state-owned China Shipbuilding Corp. (CSBC) has begun production of 29 170-ton Kuang Hua-6 (KH-6) guided-missile fast attack boats (FABG), with delivery of the first expected in late 2009, sources said.

Since the program was begun in 1996, the KH-6s have gone through birth pangs to get to the production stage. The Taiwan Navy requested 50 vessels, but budgeting cut it to 30.

After three years of research and development and $13 million, the Navy’s Ship Development Center at Tsoying Naval Base, Kaohsiung, introduced the first working prototype in 2003, the FABG-60.

In 2005, CSBC received a $292 million contract but had to fight off a bid challenge by Jong Shyn Shipbuilding that delayed production until 2007. The new KH-6 will replace roughly 50 aging Israeli-designed 57-ton Hai Ou (Sea Gull)-class missile patrol boats and will be armed with four Hsiung Feng-2 (HF-2) anti-ship missiles and a 20mm gun. The Sea Gulls are armed with two HF-1s, which are based on the Israeli Gabriel missile.

The HF family is designed and built by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, which also produces the Tien Kung air defense missile and the Tien Chien air-to-air missile.

At Mach 0.85, with a range of only 100 to 120 kilometers, the HF­2 normally would not be within range of China’s coastal areas. The distance between Taiwan and China is extremely narrow — 220 kilometers at its widest point and 130 kilometers at its narrowest. However, deployment on the new FABGs will allow the missile to hit targets along China’s coast.

The boats have a top speed of 30 knots and a range of 800 nautical miles. Its main deck is canted at 12 degrees to reduce its radar signature, and reportedly a special paint reduces the infrared signature.

The boats will be equipped with three 16-cylinder Series 4000 diesel engines purchased from MTU Asia, a subsidiary of Tognum. Taiwan procured 90 engines from Tognum in 2007 for $149 million.

There have been unconfirmed rumors the boats will be armed with newer HF-3 anti-ship missiles with a range of 150 to 200 kilometers, but the new missiles appear too large and heavy for the vessel. Despite this, 30 FABGs armed with 120 HF­2s will make the small boats potent threats to China’s Navy.