Taiwan launched its first domestically produced warship on December 23, as it strives to upgrade its naval capabilities in response to a perceived threat from China.
The 500-tonne corvette named 'Tuo Chiang' - 'Tuo River' - is the first of its kind ever produced by Taiwan and was described by defense minister Yen Ming as "the fastest and most powerful" in Asia.
“During our initial testing, the vessel's speed not only met the requirement but far exceeded our expectations” said Defense Minister Yen Ming at a launch ceremony held in the port of Suao, in northeastern Yilan county.
The vessel costs about NT$2.1 billion (US$66.2 million), measures 198 feet long and 46 feet wide, has a range of 2,000 nautical miles (2,300 miles) and carries a crew of 41.
The ship was originally designed to have a top speed of 38 knots (43 mph), but the ship managed to achieve a maximum speed of 44 knots (50 mph) in recent sea trials. The Tuo Chiang’s first captain, Lt. Cmdr. Wang Te-chien, said local media.
The delivery of the Tuo Chiang will enhance Taiwan’s naval defense. The ship has good mobility, and it can carry as many as eight Hsiung Feng III supersonic missiles, which can be used to attack aircraft carriers, Wang said.
The navy will conduct further tests on the craft over the next six months, as well as begin training to familiarize crew with the craft. The ship is expected to be service-ready in March 2015. The navy has also announced plans to commission between eight and 12 more of the warships if they can secure funding in the future.
Wang also said that the ship’s commission back in March 2012 was part of the navy’s efforts to replace its aging fleet.