Taipei (AFP) April 12, 2010
Taiwan has unveiled the first images of a high-tech missile corvette specifically designed to counter the threat of China acquiring an aircraft carrier, officials and media said Monday.
A computerised graphic of the 1,000-tonne "carrier killer," which has so far been kept secret from the public, has gone on display at Taipei's military museum, run by the defence ministry.
The vessel will be capable of cruising at speeds of up to 55 kilometres (34 miles) an hour and boast technologies helping it to evade radar detection, the Taipei-based Apple Daily reported, citing military officials.
The navy hopes to arm the corvette with Taiwan's home-grown Hsiungfeng III supersonic ship-to-ship missile, according to the report.
The military museum did not provide any details, while the defence ministry declined to comment on the report.
The report came after the head of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, Tsai Teh-sheng, told parliament in November that China has started building its first aircraft carrier.
Taiwanese military analysts expect China to need at least 10 years to build its first operating carrier group complete with carrier-based fighters and other warships.
But they warn that once the Chinese arms build-up is completed, it will have a far-reaching strategic impact on the region.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved markedly since China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president in 2008, vowing to adopt a non-confrontational policy towards the mainland.
But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since 1949 when the mainland's civil war ended.
earlier related report
Dubbed by local media as a "killer carrier," the vessel is expected to be armed with its domestic Hsiungfeng III ship-to-ship missiles, Taipei's Apple Daily reported. Digital images of the 1,000-ton vessel were made public at Taipei's military museum. Plans of the ship were kept confidential for months.
Citing military officials, the Apple Daily said the corvette will be capable of cruising up to 34 miles per hour, featuring also, technologies helping to evade radar detection. The report didn't elaborate and defense officials have declined to comment on the report.
News of Taiwan's vessel follows revelations by Taiwan's National Security Bureau that China is building its first aircraft carrier.
Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be brought back into the fold. It has used a number of means, diplomatic and military, to deter other nations from officially recognizing Taiwan as an independent state.
Even so, relations between both sides have increasingly thawed, allowing Taiwan to pursue trade deals with other countries that have long been reluctant to antagonize Beijing.
Military analysts in Taipei say China may need at least 10 years to build its maiden aircraft carrier. But once completed "the Chinese arms build-up is completed, it will have a far-reaching strategic impact on the region," Defense News reported.
Despite signs of cross-straits rapprochement, relations between the two countries turned testy earlier this year when China slapped sanctions on U.S. defense manufacturers selling arms to Taiwan. The proposed U.S. arms package includes 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters and communications equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fleet.
Earlier this week, defense officials in Washington said that the sale of 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters was due to be finalized in May.
Defense News reported that U.S. government officials and representatives from Boeing were set to arrive in Taipei next month to seal the deal.
The helicopters were initially offered to Taiwan eight years ago but the U.S. Congress was only recently informed of the sale.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, told Defense News that the Taiwan would take full delivery of the Apache helicopters by early 2013. The helicopters are said to be mounted with Stinger Block air-to-air missiles and AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.
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