Taiwan is capable of building its own Aegis-equipped destroyers, and would actually prefer to do so, but would only build them if the United States agreed to transfer the military technology at the heart of the system.

According to the Taipei Times, Taiwanese Vice Adm. Hung Cheng-lo, deputy chief of the general staff for defense planning, said Taiwan has the shipbuilding experience but lacks only the software technology to build ships equivalent in performance capability to U.S. warships.

USS John A Moore, a Perry-class frigate decommissioned in September 1998. Taiwan has built its own warships based on this class.

“Our state-run China Shipbuilding Corporation [CSC] has experience and competence in building warships,” he told the paper. “It built the Chengkung-class frigates” for Taiwan’s navy.

The ships, which are based on U.S. Perry-class frigates, are still under construction under a program to build eight of them. The program, which began in 1989, is slated to end soon, with the construction and delivery of the eighth warship. The last ship should be delivered to Taiwan’s navy in 2004; each vessel costs around $212 million.

“The previous shipbuilding experience of the CSC shows that we Taiwanese are not inferior to the people of any other country,” Hung said in speech to lawmakers earlier this week.

In addition to the seven Chengkung-class frigates, six Lafayette-class frigates have been purchased from France and six Knot-class frigates have been leased from the United States to form the backbone of Taiwan’s fleet.

Other naval officials told the newspaper that while Taiwan was eager to get advanced U.S.-built warships like Aegis-equipped destroyers, officials were less interested in buying them without technology transfers than they are about building them in Taiwan with U.S. technology.

One of the reasons why, officials say, is the lengthy amount of time it would take to acquire the U.S.-built ships. Even if the Bush administration agrees to sell Taiwan Aegis air-defense and battle-management warships at a meeting between both countries later this month in Washington, D.C., it would still take eight to ten years to build, test and transfer the warships.

Taiwanese officials have said they were interested in buying four of the U.S.-built ships, but the Bush administration has not publicly committed to the sale.

“If the U.S. agrees to sell us the Aegis-equipped ships this year, the ships will not be delivered to us for another eight to ten years,” one unnamed Taiwanese naval official told the paper. “What the navy wants most is to buy technology from the U.S. and build the Aegis-equipped ships in Taiwan.”

One CSC official quoted by the paper said the company “absolutely has the ability to build Aegis-equipped ships.”

“The CSC is very good at assembling ships, as long as it gets the blueprints for them,” said the official, who was not named. “It will be the same with the Aegis-equipped ships.”

“When we built the Chengkung-class frigates, we took only 40 months to produce one vessel,” the official told the paper. “We have the ability to build advanced ships. What we need is technical support from the U.S.”

Perry-class frigates are primarily warfare ships intended to provide open-ocean escort of amphibious ships and convoys in low- to moderate-threat environments in a global war with the Soviet Union. They could also provide limited defense against anti-ship missiles existent in the ’70s and ’80s, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

The ships are equipped to escort and protect carrier battle groups, amphibious landing groups, underway replenishment groups and convoys. They can also conduct independent operations to perform such tasks as maritime interception operations and exercises with other nations.

The class, however, is viewed as vulnerable to multiple anti-ship missile threats and functions now primarily in an anti-submarine and patrol role.

They are robust, however, as demonstrated by past incidents. The USS Stark was hit by two Iraqi-fired Exocet anti-ship missiles in 1987. And the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine. But both ships survived, were repaired and returned to the fleet, FAS said.

The U.S. Navy has 36 Perry-class frigates in active service. The namesake warship, the USS Oliver Hazard Perry, built in 1977, was decommissioned Feb. 20, 1997.

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U.S. killed Aegis sale?

Lawmakers urge Aegis sale to Taiwan

Taiwan questions release of arms ‘wish list’

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