On December 15, 2020 Taiwan (the Republic of China) launched its first heavily armed corvette of the Tuo Chiang Class. There are many sources that conflict each other with regard to the top speed. Given the nature of the hull and the role it is intended for, and since the ship builders have been quoted as 43 knots, we can definitely say that this warship can reach 45 knots.
Designed as a fast warship capable of reaching speed up to 45 knots and with its stealth profiling of the hull and superstructure, this warship serves as an inspiration to many a budding military naval architects and engineers. It smartly employs the ‘hit-and-run’ tactic given its speed and also has the added advantage of a clean superstructure that reduces radar signature. Other key smart engineering aspects include pre-cooling the engine exhaust that reduces IR signature. The PGG-618 which was commissioned in Dec 2014 is the class prototype and is as shown below.
Following this, hull improvements were made and the PGG-619 was launched on December 15, 2020.
What makes this class unique is that the hull is a catamaran with slender demi hulls as opposed to the conventional mono-hulls that most warships are. A heavily loaded corvette of 685 T full displacement (as reported by Taiwan News) with a length of 60.4 m and beam of 14 m, it has a draught of 2.3 m. So from a naval architect’s perspective, a B/T of 6 (approx.), it can be quite concluded that the wetted surface area would be less and hence reducing the resistance. So it is definitely conclusive that high speeds of 40 to 45 knots are achievable. Also if one looks at the hull, the design is such that in the event of the demi hulls getting damaged, the corvette could still work as a monohull, thereby extending the operational time during a war but definitely at the cost of reduced speed and maneuvering capability. (Want to know more about Catamarans and their naval architecture? Read here).
The propulsion installed is MTU 20V 4000 M93L diesel engine – rated at 4,300 kW (5,766 bhp). As opposed to conventional propellers, this warship uses 4 x MJP CSU 850 water-jet that will assist in better maneuverability. The warship is capable of operating at sea-states of 7 in waves of 6 to 9 m high and has a maximum operational range of 1800 miles.
When it comes to armaments, this warship has definitely made headlines given how heavy packed it is. For starters, it has an OTO Melara 76 mm naval gun on its forward deck. Fully loaded with Sea-Sword 2 anti-aircraft missiles, it also has 8 subsonic Hsiung Feng 2 (HF-2) anti-ship missiles, 8 supersonic Hsiung-Feng 3 (HF-3) medium range missiles, one Phalanx CIWS, two 12.7 mm Browning M2HB machine guns, and two Mark 32 surface vessel torpedoes, one each on port and starboard. It also has a flight deck which is primarily for VERTREP. When it comes to electronic warfare and decoys, this warship has 12 counter-IR/RF chaff dispensers with 6 each at the bow and the stern.
According to Taiwan Security Analysis Center (TAISAC), the combat system includes a distributed architecture combat direction system known as “Taiwan Aegis” and it is developed by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology. It has an indigenous search/track CS/SPG-6N(S) Surface Search radar, CS/SPG-6N(T) fire-control radar and electro-optical director. It also has a variable depth SONAR. The warship can complement upto 41 personnel including officers.
Given how power-packed it is, the Taiwan Navy calls it the ‘aircraft-killer’, although this can be ascertained only once it is seen in actual combat. But when one looks at the way it is built and the speeds it is capable of reaching, it can definitely fill in the shoes for a hit-and-run tactic. This can be looked at the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy’s corvette gunships used in the Second World War.
Out of the 12 planned, this is the first one built by the Lung Teh Shipbuilding, Su-Ao, Yilan County, Taiwan. The cost of the programme was approx. US $853 million when it was approved in 2011. However recently, the Ministry of National Defense Budget (MND) stated that the ‘Ta-Chiang’ is the first of the 3 upgraded Tuo Chiang Class corvettes being produced for the Taiwan Navy by 2023 at a cost of US $582.87 million.
One must not confuse these vessels with the Anping-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV), as the latter were equipped with water cannon, 20 mm cannon and high explosive rockets, with added capability to upgrade with HF-2 and HF-3 in the event of a war. They were meant for law enforcement purposes.
Such small, stealth catamaran or trimaran heavy armed corvettes could serve as a major boost even to the Indian Navy especially in terms of countering the increasing PLA presence in the IOR. The advantage of reduced cost per ship facilitates in a fast modernizing Navy.
So what do you think about the possibility of such corvettes in the Indian Navy and how effective they might be, do let us know in the comments below