Taiwan Looks To Buy 2 Perry-Class Frigates From U.S.
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI — Struggling to pay for recent weapons released for sale by the U.S., Taiwan may seek to buy two former U.S. Navy Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates after its plan to buy four was terminated.
The Taiwan Navy originally planned to buy four Perrys from the U.S., but the effort was blocked by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in late 2011 because of cost and technical considerations, a Taiwan defense industry source said. The MND has been having difficulty paying for $18 billion worth of U.S. arms released by the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program between 2008 and 2011. It is also pushing the U.S. to release 66 F-16C/D fighter aircraft on hold since 2006.
There has been criticism among defense analysts in Taipei and Washington who suggest Taiwan would be better off building the warships in Kaohsiung.
A U.S. defense analyst said the U.S.-built Perrys are “too old and too expensive” for Taiwan, especially when they are older than the eight Perrys Taiwan built locally. The China Shipbuilding Corp. built eight PFG-2 Perry-class frigates (Cheng Kung-class) under license between 1993 and 2005.
However, the Taiwan defense industry source indicated the older U.S. frigates would “represent the quickest and least costly way for Taiwan to fulfill this requirement.”
“Taiwan has no money to build new Perrys, the last of which, built 10 years ago, cost over $570 million,” he said. “Today, building four new PFG-2s would cost well over $2 billion, as compared with near- scrap prices for surplus ... Perrys, plus refurbishment and upgrade.”
Taiwan’s eight 3,800-ton Knox- class (Chi Yang-class) frigates were procured from the U.S. in the 1990s. All are based at Suao Naval Base with the 169 Patrol Squadron and perform primarily anti-submarine warfare missions along Taiwan’s east coast. Each ship is equipped with SQS-26CX, SQS- 35(V) and SQR-18A(V)1 sonars.
Weapons include ASROC Mk 16 anti-submarine rockets, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, SM-1MR air defense missiles and Mk 46 torpedoes. Each ship can carry one MD500 anti-submarine warfare helicopter. The MD500 is assigned to the 501st Helicopter Squadron at Tsoying Naval Base.
In 2003, seven Knox frigates received the H930 modular combat systems stripped from the seven remaining Gearing-class destroyers later scuttled as reefs.
The next year, the Taiwan Navy began debating options to replace the Knox after the 932 Chi Yang (ex-FF 1073 Robert E. Peary) became temporarily inoperable because of mechanical and structural problems. The local Chinese-language media dubbed the frigates “beached wrecks.”
The Navy was initially divided on building smaller vessels in the 2,000-ton range, while others pushed for larger vessels capable of handling more weapons. Both plans were dropped when the MND continued to delay the decision because of budget problems.
If Taiwan is unable to procure a replacement for the eight Knox frigates, it will be down to 18 warships over 3,800-tons: four Kidd- class (Keelung) destroyers, eight Perry-class frigates and six La Fayette-class (Kang Ding) frigates.
In 2000, the Navy had 39 warships over 3,000 tons. During the 1996 Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis, Taiwan had 43 destroyers and frigates.