Taiwan showcased some of its native-built warships at an event designed to send a message of deterrence to China, local officials and analysts said.
Over the weekend, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense organized a naval exercise off Keelung in northeast Taiwan as part of three days of multidisciplinary exercises at various locations to demonstrate the military’s combat readiness, the ministry’s press service said.
“We want the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) [of China] think twice before acting ”, Colonel Sun Li-fang of the Political War Bureau of the Taiwanese Army Command told the media to one of the exercises.
The Defense Ministry said two Taiwanese-designed corvettes, including the new Ta Chiang, participated in the naval exercise on Friday. They were seen performing pursuit and shooting simulations in rough sea conditions.
The 500-ton corvettes, dubbed “aircraft carrier killers,” were built by the Lung Teh Shipbuiding Company in Yilan County. They are armed with Sea Sword II medium-range air defense missiles, anti-ship missiles, 76mm cannons and close range weapons systems.
Shu Hsiao-huang, an analyst at the National Defense and Security Research Institute, was quoted by the newspaper Central press agency (CNA) describing ships as “mobile, stealthy, fast and powerful”.
The corvettes can be fitted with missile launchers if necessary, but Shu said that in the meantime they are well suited for “gray area” patrols, including in the South China Sea. Gray zone activities are generally not explicit acts of war but detrimental to the security of a nation.
In 2011, the Taiwanese parliament approved a budget of over US $ 850 million to build up to 12 new warships to meet new maritime challenges mainly from China. With around 360 ships at the end of 2020, China has the world’s largest navy, according to a US Department of Defense Report.
Beijing considers Taiwan, an autonomous island located about 160 kilometers from the mainland, to be part of China. He stepped up military exercises around the island. Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state. It is also a claimant in the South China Sea, along with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Mine laying systems
During the naval exercise, the Taiwanese Navy also presented for the first time its home-designed automatic mine laying system used on board the new Min Jiang-class ships. These mine-laying vessels are not large but have high-tech navigation capabilities which should facilitate fast and precise mine-laying operations in enemy waters.
The island’s navy has four native-built rapid mine-laying vessels – two of which were only delivered last month.
Last weekend’s exercise was conducted using the worst-case scenario – an PLA attack – explained Qi Leyi, a Taipei-based military analyst and commentator for RFA Mandarin.
“The new fast minelayer boats can greatly prevent enemy beach landing operations and become a reliable fighting force for Taiwan’s multi-area deterrence,” Qi said.
“Taiwan cannot compare to China in terms of the number of warships, so it has to look for better technology,” he added.
Mine warfare has become increasingly important in maritime conflicts, as sea mines are among the most dangerous naval weapons. The PLA Navy carried out a large-scale bomb drop last month and mine-laying exercise at sea on the islands of the South China Sea.
China frequently conducts military exercises in contested waters, but it is unusual for the PLA to deploy warplanes to drop bombs and lay mines during a live fire exercise.