There may be countless Chinese fables and folk tales, but the most apt comparison of the showdown that could come between China and Taiwan is the biblical “David vs. Goliath,” which was described in the Book of Samuel in which the Philistine giant was defeated by the young David in single combat. It also seems that Taiwan as David could have a proverbial “sling” to counter China’s spear in the form of a new class of heavily armed “carrier killer” corvettes.
In December, Taipei announced that it had launched the first of its small but powerfully armed domestically-produced vessels. The corvettes are armed with subsonic and supersonic missiles.
On Thursday, the second Tuo Chiang-class corvette, Ta Chiang (PGG-619), was officially commissioned into the Republic of China (ROC) Navy during a ceremony in the presence of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Additionally, the second Min Jiang-class mine-laying ship was also delivered to the ROC Navy during the event.
In addition to being the second carrier killer corvette to enter service, the Ta Chiang is also noted for being upgraded and modified from the lead vessel of the class. She was laid down in May of 2019 and launched last December, and began her sea trials in early May. The agile, catamaran-style warship has a displacement of 685 tons and was built by Lungteh Shipbuilding.
Change of Roles
The Tuo Chiang-class was developed to be produced in two variants – including air-defense or anti-air warfare (AAW) and anti-surface ship (ASuW) versions. A total of a dozen have been ordered, and originally, the ROC was set to receive three ships in the first batch that were to focus on the air-defense capability. These would have been armed with the TC-2N surface-to-air missile (SAM) developed by Taiwanese company NCSIST.
The second batch of ships was to be the ASuW version and equipped with subsonic Hsiung Feng-II and supersonic Hisung Feng-III anti-ship missiles, to potential counter surface ships from the People’s Republic of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
However, the plans adjusted in late 2018, and as a result, all of the Tuo Chiang-class corvettes feature AAW and ASuW capabilities. The class was further improved with the development of the second of the class, the newly commissioned Ta Chiang. The next six to be built will be based on those improvements and all of these will be armed with eight subsonic Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missiles, four supersonic Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles, and 16 TC-2N surface to air missiles; as well as an Otobreda 76 mm main gun and a Phalanx CIWS.
“The Ta Chiang warship is not only more concealed and stable in navigation, it is also the navy’s first small ship with air defense capabilities,” said President Tsai during Thursday’s ceremony. “I believe that with the addition of this warship, the Navy’s task of defending the sea and territories will be even more powerful.”
Another Mine Layer
Naval News also reported that a second Min Jiang-class mine-laying ship was also delivered to the ROC during Thursday’s ceremony. Built by Lungteh Shipbuilding, the new minelayer vessel has a length of 41 meters, a width of 8.8 meters, a draft of 1.7 meters and a full load displacement of 347 tons. Her maximum speed is 14 knots and according to Taiwan’s defense ministry, four additional mine laying ships are also on order. These vessels could greatly enhance Taiwan’s offensive mine fighting capacity and effectively counter the threat of the PLA Navy.
David may need all the “stones” it can find to counter Goliath.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.