Currently, the ROC Navy has a surface fleet composed of 4 Kee-Lung-class (formerly American Kidd-class ) destroyer, 10 Cheng Kung-class frigates (8 licensed ships based on US Oliver Hazard Perry-class, 2 purchased from US., 6 Kang-Ding-class (French-built La Fayette-class) frigates, 6 Chi-Yang class (formerly American Knox class) frigates, 12 Ching Chiang class patrol ships, 1 Tuo-Chiang class corvette, 31 fast attack missile crafts, 9 amphibious ships and 9 minesweepers. Most of the ships came into service between 1990’s and early 2000’s.
ROC Navy’s ambitious force building plan
The ROC Navy has been working on its future force building plans since 2014. The Force Building Vision for the Next 15 Years was revealed on January 2014, it included two Landing Platform Docks, 11 Tuo-Chiang class catamaran missile corvettes, 10 to 15 medium frigates (which is said to be 2,000 tons class ), four destroyers equipped with advanced air defense systems.
In September 2014, the ROC Navy Headquarters unveiled a more detailed ship building plan for the coming 20 years, which includes four 10,000-ton class destroyers equipped with advanced air defense systems (believed to be replacement for the aging Kee-Lung-class), 10 to 15 3,000-ton class frigates, Landing Platform Docks and four to eight 1,200 ton to 3,000 ton Diesel-electric submarines.
In April 2016, Taiwanese President-elect Tsai Ing-wen vowed to fully support Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) project after taking office, but her party also realized that it is impossible to fund everything that navy wants. Finally, the IDS and advanced jet trainer became top priority. The surface force of the navy didn’t get much attention.
In June 2016, the ROC Navy announced a 12-item force building plan, then Chief of staff of Navy, Vice admiral Mei Chia-shu (梅家樹), told Legislators that the Navy intends to complete the plan within the coming 22 years. 47 billion New Taiwan Dollar (1.5 billion USD) budget will be used for the plan. Admiral Mei also said that no Aegis warship will be built in the next year.
ROC Navy’s new missile frigate
Taiwan tried to develop an indigenous air defense warship since the 1980s. The ship’s air defense system was named Advanced Combat System (ACS), but the development didn’t succeed. The project was terminated in the mid-1990s. A new missile frigate design was revealed in June 2016 and was said to be based on the concepts of ACS.
There were two similar ships shown in the ROC Navy vision of 2016. One was the the “New Generation Missile Frigate”, the other one, the “New Generation Main Battle Ship” (later called New Combatant by CSBC).
Recent Taiwanese media reports showed that the Navy is in the dilemma of equip the smaller ship with imported combat systems which are smaller, or equip the larger ship with indigenous large sized combat systems.
Navy officials told Legislators that the ROC Navy is planning the develop a 4,500-ton frigate which is capable for patrolling the Taiwan Strait, escorting the supply ship to remote islands and securing sea lanes of communication. The budget allocated budget would be 24.5 billion New Taiwan Dollars budget and 7 years would be needed for project completion. The ship would be equipped with locally designed and produced surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles and combat systems.
However, Taiwanese Legislators probably don’t have confidence in the Navy’s plan. One governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator said, according to current available information, the Navy plans to develop a 4,500-ton frigate which is equipped with 4 ESA radar antennas, a 24-cell VLS, but the U.S. is developing the Constellation-class frigate, a 7,500-ton ship equipped with 3 ESA radar antennas and a 32-cell VLS. The ROC Navy shall think carefully whether they can really develop the ship or not.