Taiwan military launches new corvette, ‘target of PLA aircraft’

By Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/16 20:51:55

A Z-9 attack helicopter attached to a naval aviation regiment under the PLA Eastern Theater Command hovers over the parking apron during a real-combat flight training exercise in late September, 2020. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Li Hengjiang)

The island of Taiwan launched its first heavily armed Tuo Chiang-class corvette on Tuesday, with Taiwan media calling it an "aircraft carrier killer," but Chinese mainland military experts said on Wednesday that the corvette's threat to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is limited and will only become a target of PLA aircraft.

A PLA Z-9 helicopter recently conducted a live-fire anti-ship missile exercise, and analysts said this tactic is very suitable to counter small ships like the 700-ton corvette from the island of Taiwan.

The Ta Chiang, which is Taiwan's first domestically built Tuo Chiang-class guided-missile corvette, was launched on Tuesday in Yilan county, Taiwan News reported the same day.

Nicknamed the "aircraft carrier killer," the corvette is designed for combat with Chinese mainland warships, the Taiwan News report said, noting that the ship will be delivered to the island's navy in July 2021.

It has a displacement of 685 tons and is loaded with anti-aircraft missiles, subsonic anti-ship missiles, supersonic missiles, a Phalanx close-in weapons system, two machine guns, and two torpedo tubes, according to the report.

It is a small ship with strong firepower, but its planned tactic against the PLA will not work, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Taiwan's military could attempt to use the ship to launch missiles against PLA ships from outside of the PLA's air defense area, but the PLA may not use warships against the island's corvettes in the first place, but instead use aircraft to destroy them, so the Tuo Chiang-class corvette will not be able to become an "aircraft carrier killer," Song said.

With a large number of vessel-borne fighter jets, the PLA aircraft carriers have effective long-range strike capabilities, and the Tuo Chiang-class corvettes will have zero possibility of survival, Song said.

The corvette is equipped with too many weapons, and since its displacement is so small, it cannot carry radar advanced enough to effectively spot targets and guide the missiles, analysts said, noting that in comparison, the PLA's Type 022 missile boat has an entire intelligence system as support.

A recent report indicates a helicopter could be enough to sink such a small ship.

A group of Z-9 helicopters conducted live-fire anti-ship missile attack drills in the South China Sea on Friday, the PLA South China Sea Fleet revealed on Wednesday.

While a helicopter can only carry limited ammunition, it is efficient in attacking small ships, according to an analysis by Weihutang, a China Central Television program on military affairs.

This makes the Tuo Chiang-class corvette a target candidate for the Z-9, analysts said.

Overseas media has been reporting since November that the Chinese mainland's first Type 075 amphibious assault ship, also known as helicopter carrier, has been conducting tests in the South China Sea and near the island of Taiwan.

A Type 075 can carry dozens of helicopters, and is expected to play a major role in a potential reunification-by-force operation, analysts said.


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