U.S. approves sale of 4 Perry-class frigates to Taiwan

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – United States President Barack Obama on Thursday signed an authorization of the sale of four Perry-class frigates to Taiwan, a move welcomed by the Ministry of National Defense.
The 30-year-old vessels are expected to arrive in Taiwan during the first half of 2016 at the earliest to replace the aging fleet of Knox-class ships, which have been in service for about half a century.
According to media reports, it was not clear yet whether Taiwan was only interested in two of the vessels or wanted to buy all four of them.
The guided missile frigates USS Carr, USS Elrod, USS Gary and USS Taylor were commissioned in 1984 and 1985 but are now in the process of being decommissioned, reports said. Taiwan’s Navy owns eight Cheng Kung-class frigates reportedly modeled on the U.S.-made vessels.
Defense spokesman Major General David Luo said in Taipei Friday that the ministry thanked the U.S. government and Congress for their support for Taiwan. The sale of the frigates demonstrated Washington’s strong commitment to Taiwan’s security, he added.
The military had listed more than NT$5 billion (US$158 million) in the 2015 budget for two of the Perry-class frigates, reports said, with a review of further needs likely to follow. A group of Navy representatives is expected to travel to the U.S. to make preparations for the delivery of the 4,100-ton frigates, reports said.
The Taiwanese office in Washington, D.C., also expressed gratitude to the members of the U.S. Congress for finding the time to pass the measure. If the measure had not passed, it would have been up to the newly elected Congress to deal with it again from the start after its swearing-in next year, reports said. The Senate and the House of Representatives both approved the sale earlier this month.
The USS Taylor and USS Gary are based in Mayport, Florida and San Diego, California respectively. If they could be handed over to Taiwan before their decommissioning some time next year, it would save the Navy a significant amount of spending on repairs, reports said. The frigates could be directly transferred to Taiwanese control and sail away to the island, according to defense experts.
The Navy was not really interested in the USS Carr and USS Elrod because they had already been decommissioned and at least one of them was equipped with an antiquated anti-submarine system, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported.
Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Hsueh Ling criticized the U.S. for selling the USS Taylor because it had been damaged in a crash. The Navy should be careful with its procurement and make sure it doesn’t buy a ship which looks good but turns out to show numerous problems a couple of years down the line, she said.
There were also questions about whether the U.S. would dismantle the SQR-19 sonar system from one of the ships or would also sell it to Taiwan, reports said.
Navy officials reportedly said it was up to the Ministry of National Defense whether Taiwan would buy only two or all four Perry-class frigates.