Taiwan Commissions First Stealth Patrol Boat
By WENDELL MINNICK
ZUOYING NAVAL BASE, Taiwan - Taiwan's
Navy commissioned its first squadron of 10 stealthy 170-ton Kuang Hua-6 (KH-6) guided-missile patrol boats at Zuoying Naval Base, Kaohsiung, in the southern part of the island on May 18.
The Navy is creating three squadrons dubbed the Hai Chiao (Sea Sharks), consisting of 30 boats in all. The first squadron to be commissioned, the 5th, will be based in Zuoying, but naval officials would not comment on the planned locations of the other two squadrons.
Adm. Lin Chen-yi, chief of the general staff, and Cheng Wen-lon, chairman of China Shipbuilding Corp. (CSBC), which built the vessels, officiated at the launching ceremony.
The remaining 20 boats, scheduled for commissioning in 2012, are under construction by CSBC in Kaohsiung, a military spokesman said.
The original FABG-60 prototype, which is taller and wider than the boats commissioned, was on display for the ceremony.
Most of the KH-6's weapon systems are indigenously produced, including four Hsiung Feng-2 (Brave Wind) anti-ship missiles, a 20mm T75 anti-aircraft stern gun, a T74 7.62mm unfastened machine gun and four AV-2 decoy systems.
Taiwan turned to the international market for its navigation and other support systems, including Sweden-based Consilium, Canada-based Jastram Engineering, Japan-based Ibuki Kogyo and South Korea-based Chungsol Marine. In 2007, Taiwan placed a four-year, $149 million order for 90 16-cylinder Series 4000 diesel engines for the K-6 from MTU Asia, a subsidiary of German company Tognum.
The boats have a top speed of 30 knots and a range of 1,000 nautical miles.
The Hsiung Feng-2 anti-ship missile has a range of 150 kilometers at Mach 0.85. The Taiwan Strait is extremely narrow - 220 kilometers at its widest point and 130 kilometers at its narrowest. This limited the land-based variant of the Hsiung Feng-2, but the KH-6 will allow Taiwan to strike ships at ports along China's coast.
"In an ongoing effort to counter neighboring Chinese threats, Taiwan will continue to invest in its maritime defense capabilities," said Amy McDonald, a naval analyst with AMI International in Bremerton, Wash. "The KH-6 program represents one of the key ROCN [Republic of China, or Taiwan, Navy] programs meant to ensure stability throughout the Taiwan Strait."
The KH-6 will replace roughly 30 aging Israeli-designed 57-ton Hai Ou (Sea Gull)-class missile patrol boats armed with Hsiung Feng-1s. The Hsiung Feng missile family is designed and built by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan's leading military technology research and development facility.
The KH-6 is part of a new generation of patrol boats being fielding by navies. Worldwide, the forecast for the fast attack craft (FAC) market is for 130 new hulls, with a total market value of $6 billion to $7 billion, over the next 10 years, McDonald said.
"A closer look reveals that the Asia-Pacific region leads the world in FAC investments," accounting for more than half of the FAC market share by value through 2020, she said. "The KH-6 program accounts for about 20 percent of Asia-Pacific's FAC spending, compared to about 11 percent of FAC investments overall."