Taiwan’s naval capabilities just received an upgrade, as the island nation launched its largest missile ship ever on Tuesday. Named Tuo Chiang (or Tuo River), the 500-ton stealth missile corvette is also Taiwan’s first domestically produced warship. The ship has been equipped with anti-ship capabilities, and Taiwanese officials have described it as being Asia’s most capable war vessel.
Defense Minister Yen Ming presided over the opening ceremony of Tuo Chiang in Su-ao, Yilan County, a major port town in northeastern Taiwan. “During our initial testing, the vessel's speed not only met the requirement but far exceeded our expectations.” Yen said at the ceremony. “This has made it the fastest and most powerful warship in Asia.”
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 Tuo Chiang’s first captain, Lt. Cmdr. Wang Te-chien, told the media that 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.
Wang also said that the ship’s commission back in March 2012 was part of the navy’s efforts to replace its aging fleet, and the delivery of the Tuo Chiang will greatly 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 told Taiwanese media.
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.
The Tuo Chiang’s launch comes shortly after U.S. Congress passed a bill last week authorizing the transfer and sale of up to four Perry-class frigates decommissioned by the U.S. Navy to Taiwan. Reuters reported that Beijing has lodged a complaint with the U.S. over the deal and said that America’s involvement in Taiwan’s military remains one of the most important and sensitive issues in Sino-U.S. ties.