A local media outlet (UP MEDIA) quoted an anonymous source as saying that the first Kang Ding-class frigate, Xi Ning (西寧, PFG -1203), was selected as the prototype for the modernized Ding-class frigate.
Under the program, the frigates will be upgraded with improved combat management systems (CMS), radar systems, vertical launch systems (VLS), and new surface-to-air missiles (SAM).
UP MEDIA also reported that the prime contractor for the upgrade program, the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), has invited Taiwanese shipbuilders to come aboard the ship to inspect the parts to be upgraded.
NCSIST expects to solicit bids in the first quarter of 2023, and the contract will be awarded to the lowest bidder. If all goes smoothly, construction will begin in the second quarter of 2023.
Another Taiwanese media platform, Liberty Times Net (LTN), also quoted an anonymous military source as saying that anti-ship missile (ASM) upgrades are also part of the upgrade program and the Taiwanese Navy will spend 3 years evaluating whether the upgraded systems meet its needs for combat and whether international systems integration to “link Taiwanese missiles with French systems” is going well.
It is reported that a 32-cell Hua Yang vertical launch system (華陽垂直發射系統) developed by NSCIST will be installed in the B turret position to replace the RIM-72C Sea Chaparral SAM system, which has been criticized for decades for its extremely short range
The Hua Yang VLS is capable of launching Taiwanese TC-2N SAMs and French SAMs. To install the VLS, the bow part of the ship will be cut to be opened, and the piping in the forward half of the fuselage must also be redesigned.
According to UP MEDIA, most of the electrical cables and power lines will need to be rewired for the CMS upgrade. The main mast, which houses radar, sensors and fire control systems, will be made of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP). It will have a similar appearance to Singapore’s Formidable-class frigate. The upgraded Kang Ding-class will be as capable as the Formidable-class.
About Kang Ding-class Frigates
In the 1990s, Taiwan procured 6 new La Fayette-design frigates from France, but China’s intervention prevented Taiwan from receiving the weapon systems of the frigates from France.
Taiwan had to equip the frigates with U.S.- and Taiwanese-made weapon systems, including the RIM-72C Sea Chaparral SAM system, which is considered inadequate for defense against modern anti-ship missiles and aircraft because of its effective range of 3 to 4 km.
The Kang Ding class is mainly used for anti-air warfare (AAW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), escort, blockade defense, and joint interception operations.
It was previously reported that France would assist Taiwan with the upgrade work, as the frigates were designed and built in France. The decoy launching systems aboard the Kang Ding-class ships have already been upgraded.