On March 14th the first of a class of twelve Taiwanese twin-hull WPC (High Efficiency Wave Piercing Catamaran) patrol ships was launched. This ship, the Tuo Jiang (Tuo River) will enter service in early 2015 after sea trials and any needed modifications. These vessels are very fast and very heavily armed. The WPC type ships are under 1,000 tons, 60.4 meters (180 feet) long and have a top speed of 68 kilometers an hour. The crew of 41 operates several weapons systems, including up to 16 anti-ship missiles (Hsiung-feng 2 and 3 models) a 76mm cannon, a 20mm anti-missile autocannon (for anti-missile defense) and four 12.7mm machine-guns.
There is no anti-aircraft system (other than some shoulder fired missiles) and no helicopter hanger (but a rear deck that a helicopter weighing up to ten tons can operate from). The waterjet propulsion system makes for a very maneuverable ship. Sufficient supplies are carried for patrols of up to a week.
The Hsiung-feng 3 missile is described in Taiwan as a “carrier killer” The anti-ship missiles are designed and built in Taiwan. The 6.1 meter (19 foot) long Hsiung-feng 3 weighs 1.5 tons (with a 181 kg/400 pound warhead) and has a top speed of 2300 kilometers an hour. Max range is 130 kilometers. It uses inertial and GPS guidance to get to the general vicinity of the target, then several other sensors to lock on to a specific ship and hit it. Hsiung Feng 2 anti-ship missiles (subsonic speed, range of 160 kilometers, half the weight of the Hsiung Feng 3) and has a less advanced guidance system.
The WPC type ships are part of a program to replace older patrol craft with newer and more effective designs. Three years ago Taiwan commissioned the first of 21 Kuang Hua-6 (KH-6) guided missile patrol boats. These 34.2 meter (106 foot) long, seven meter (22 foot) wide, 170 ton ships have a crew of 19. They are armed with four Hsiung Feng 2 anti-ship missiles, a 20mm autocannon, two 7.62mm machine-guns and two decoy (for incoming missiles) launchers. Top speed is 55 kilometers an hour. At cruising speed of 22 kilometers an hour, the ships can stay at sea for about two days at a time. The other twenty KH-6s are all in service now. The KH-6s replace thirty older, and smaller (57 ton) Hai Ou class boats. These patrol boats guard the coast, and especially the 180 kilometers wide Taiwan Straits that separate China and Taiwan.