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Taiwan Navy initiates upgrade for Kee Lung-class destroyers.

According to information published by Liberty Times on May 12, 2024, the Taiwanese Navy's Kang Ding-class frigate Chen De, is currently undergoing a comprehensive upgrade.
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Taiwanese Kang-Ding-class frigate Chen De. (Picture source: Taiwanese MoD)

Military sources have indicated that the Navy is planning a similar upgrade for the Kee Lung-class frigates. This upgrade will include a complete overhaul of combat systems and replacement of the outdated Standard Missile-1 (SM-1) with the more advanced Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) for air defense. However, this project will commence only after the completion and verification of the Cheng De’s upgrade, which is expected to take a minimum of three years.

Sources also revealed that the Navy is evaluating whether the Kee Lung-class ships will use the "Hua Yang" vertical launch system (VLS). Although the "Hua Yang" system has passed combat evaluation tests, installation issues have arisen within the Navy itself.

Due to increased pressure from frequent incursions by Chinese aircraft and vessels, the Navy is unable to upgrade more than one class of ships simultaneously. Therefore, the Kee Lung-class upgrades are scheduled after the Cheng De. The Cheng De has already been stripped of its main armaments and is currently in the process of installing and testing new equipment, with the upgrade expected to be completed within three years.

The Cheng De’s upgrade includes a complete replacement of combat systems, radar, and air defense missiles. Short-range Sea Chaparral missiles will be replaced by the domestically produced medium-range Sea Sword II missiles. Additionally, the "Hua Yang" VLS will be installed beneath the foredeck.

The Kee Lung-class upgrade plan involves updating combat systems and air defense missile launch systems, replacing all SM-1 missiles with SM-2. Whether the "Hua Yang" system will be used, or the current launch racks will be upgraded, remains under evaluation.

Military sources disclosed that the "Hua Yang" system has successfully passed operational testing with the Sky Bow III missile but has not been installed on new Navy vessels. The delay is attributed to internal Navy decisions.

Initially, the Navy planned to pair the "Hua Yang" system and passive phased array radar with a larger tonnage vessel in the "New Generation Missile Frigate" program. However, a shift in Navy policy redirected the budget from a prototype of the new missile frigate to two prototype light frigates, leaving the "Hua Yang" VLS without a platform.

Reports indicate that while the light frigate’s design can accommodate the "Hua Yang" VLS and Sea Sword II missiles, it lacks sufficient space for the long-range Sky Bow III missile and would require a radar system upgrade to support it.

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