Republic of China Navy Takes Possession of First Two ex-Kidd-class DDGs

After what has seemed like endless wrangling, the Taiwan Navy has taken possession of the first two of four US Kidd-class guided missile destroyers that it has been seeking since 2001.

In December, 2005, two Taiwanese crews took delivery of two of the four Kidd-Class destroyers, Keelung and Suao, purchased from the US in 2003 for a total of $800 million. The crews set sail from the US, manning the 563-foot-long, 9,700 ton ships. The ships are armed with two Mk26 launchers for Standard SM2 MR surface to air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, ASROC and Mk46 torpedoes, two 5/54 caliber naval rifles, and two Phalanx close-in-support weapons systems. Each can also carry two helicopters. Originally ordered by the Shah of Iran in the late 1970s, they were blocked from final sale when the Iranian Revolution erupted and hundreds of Americans were taken hostage. Subsequently, the US Navy took possession of the four destroyers, which gained the unofficial title of “Ayatollah Class.” They are similar in many respects to the US’ Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, but lack the Aegis missile system and carry inferior electronics and were designed principally for littoral warfare a la Iran’s coast. The ex-Kidds are being delivered to Taiwan with the New Threat Update (NTU) air warfare system upgrade and the Navy Tactical Data System (NTDS).

While Kidds are not AEGIS ships, it is noted that they can have their missile engagement and defense capabilities slaved to AEGIS ships with the NTU. Thus, an AEGIS DDG or CG of the US Navy could effectively use the Kidd systems to help defend the Straits, using the AEGIS system as the controller and director. Short of the US AEGIS class vessels (and perhaps the Japanese AEGIS class vessels), the Kidd class are considered by some analysts as the best all around destroyers afloat.

Taiwan also employs a number of the less capable Cheng Kung/Kwang Hua 1 class (PFG-2/ex-Perry-class guided missile frigates), which are being phased out of use by the US Navy. While the US Perrys have been largely “defanged” with the removal of their surface-to-air missile systems in a cost-savings measure (reducing the Perry’s to largely defenseless “floating targets,” according to some critics), the ROCN Perrys have not been so hobbled and still include their anti-air and anti-surface capabilities.

Taiwan had recently also been reported to be planning upon building its own Aegis Class Ship, the Tien Tan (Altar of Heaven ) class. Features of the 9,000 ton ship had been expected to include AN/SPY-1D/F-like radar capability; one LP 127mm/54 Mk 45 Mod 1 or 2 gun; two Phalanx Close-In-Weapon System (CIWS); eight Harpoon SSMs in two quad launchers; two Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) - 32 cells forward and 32 aft for Standard SM-2ER SAMs; VLS ASROC; AN/SPS-67(V)3 surface search radar; two SRBOC six-barreled Mk 36 Mod 12 chaff and IR launchers; SLQ-25 Nixie torpedo decoy; possibly the AN/SLQ-32(V)3/SLY-2 ECM; probably the AN/SQQ-89(V)6 combining an SQS-53C bow-mounted active search and attack sonar and an AN/SQR-19B passive towed array (low frequency); and one SH-60B/F LAMPS III helicopter. If these plans are realized, the Tien Tan would be commissioned no earlier than 2008, and likely not before 2012. Four of the class are tentatively planned, although money and political issues continue to cloud the future. The arrival of the ex-Kidds further clouds the issue. In any event, Taiwan is reorganizing its navy around the Kidds as the principal assets in the navy’s new four battle groups.

Earlier this year the two destroyers were involved in a computer-simulated war game that was part of this year's annual Han Kuang military exercises, and they reportedly performed well. During the simulation, the two simulated DDGs reportedly engaged several dozen Sukhoi-30 and other Chinese jets north of Taiwan. One Kidd was “sunk” by Chinese anti-ship missiles, but not before shooting down 19 missiles and 16 Chinese jets.

The two ships are to be based at the Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung City after construction of a new deep-water wharf at the base is completed. Taiwan will take delivery of the remaining two destroyers next year.

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