TAIPEI, Taiwan --- The US signed over two decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates to Taiwan last week, which are scheduled to enter the navy’s service by the end of May.
The vessels were signed over on Thursday at a ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina, attended by Commander of the Navy Admiral Huang Shu-kuang, Representative to the US Stanley Kao and unnamed US officials.
The event was a deliberately low-key affair, purportedly in a bid to avoid provoking diplomatic conflict, particularly with China.
The Ministry of National Defense refused to comment on the transfer, but Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying yesterday confirmed the handover.
The navy dispatched a team of officers to the US to receive training in how to operate the frigates and the vessels would be sailed to Taiwan either jointly or separately, depending on the progress of the training, with both vessels expected to arrive within two months, Tsai said.
“The two frigates have been retrofitted to extend their service lives by about 30 years, making them a highly cost-effective option for the navy,” Tsai said.
The USS Taylor and the USS Gary were in service between 1984 and 2015. They were purchased for a total of about NT$5.5 billion (US$177.21 million) making them substantially cheaper than Taiwan-made Cheng Kung-class frigates — the design of which is based on Perry-class frigates — which cost up to NT$17 billion each.
The US Navy began to deploy Perry-class guided missile frigates in the 1970s and 1980s. The US built 51 of the frigates for its navy and authorized its allies to build them. Eight such frigates have been built in Taiwan.
Despite calls to rename the two vessels after naval heroes, the two frigates have been named the Mingchuan after Qing Dynasty Taiwan governor Liu Ming-chuan and the Fengjia after poet Chiu Feng-jia, who led the resistance against Japan following the Qing Dynasty’s cession of Taiwan to Japan.
In related news, Huang is scheduled to have meetings with high-level US officials, likely from the White House and the Pentagon, although details of the meetings were not revealed, Tsai said.
Huang is the first high-level Taiwanese military official to visit the US following the passage of the US National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which for the first time included a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan.
“Huang is not the first and will not be the last high-level official visiting the US…. I believe there will be military exchanges involving higher-level officials in the near future,” including the minister of national defense and the chief of general staff, reflecting closer defense ties between the two nations, Tsai said.