Separated from mainland China by 80 miles of water, the Republic of China (Taiwan) has been in a difficult strategic position for 70 years. The communist regime of the People’s Republic of China represents the existential threat to Taiwan, which is the last remaining bastion of pre-1949 “Nationalist” Chinese government. For Taiwan, maintaining a strong navy –the Republic of China Navy (ROCN)–is one important safeguard of national survival. For views of the various warship types, consult our updated pages.
The fleet of their foe, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), used to be a small collection of inadequate vessels, whose duty was to enforce a coastal presence and support in a limited way the enormous land forces. Jokes about the only threat to Taiwan being from a “million man swim” are no longer relevant, as the PLAN is rapidly expanding in the range of warship types it deploys, the overall number of units, and the range of missions they can perform. The construction of amphibious assault and landing ships may be particularly alarming for Taiwanese military planners.
Taiwan has traditionally purchased or received as military aid decommissioned US Navy Ships. Major examples of these include the refurbished Kidd or “Ayatollah” class destroyers (an upgraded variant of the Spruance Class), and Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates. The dock landing ship USS Pensacola LSD-38, after a 28-year USN career, now serves as the ROCS Hsu Hay.* Two Newport class Tank Landing Ships also continue to serve in the ROCN.
Up until the early 2000s the ROCN destroyer force still consisted of veteran USN ships. Destroyers of the Gearing, Allen M. Sumner, and Fletcher classes all served incredibly long second careers.
There are still some active relics of the wartime US Navy. USN Tank Landing Ships that participated in some of the great amphibious landings of the Second World War still serve, 75 years later, in Taiwan.
Perhaps more remarkable is the veteran boats serving in the submarine fleet. Former US attack boats of the Balao and Tench classes are likely the oldest operational submarines in the World. The USS Cutlass SS-478 conducted a war patrol against Japan just as the War was ending in the Pacific, while the USS Tusk SS-426 was commissioned in early 1946. Both were upgraded to the GUPPY II standard during their long USN careers and then transferred to Taiwan in 1973. Now, they continue to serve alongside “modern” variants of the Dutch Zwaardvis class.
The ROCN has also broadened its procurement of surface combatants. During the 1990s, modified French-designed La Fayette class frigates joined the fleet.
The indigenous shipbuilding industry has supplied increasingly capable ships from missile boats and corvettes to large replenishment / resupply vessels. The ROCS Tuo Chiang is an exciting development for the ROCN – an innovative catamaran design for a heavily-armed missile corvette.
Enjoy our newly expanded pages for the interesting fleet of the ROCN, with sharper satellite imagery added that has enabled us to incorporate smaller ships into the listing, including a new page for mine warfare ships. One old sweeper, ROCS Yung Yang MSO-1306, formerly the USS Implicit, served during the Vietnam conflict and had been the last wooden-hulled warship in the active USN fleet.
* The ROCS Hsu Hay succeeded two USN Casa Grande class Dock Landing Ships. ROCS Chung Cheng served in the ROCN from 1985-2012, after very long USN service. It was reportedly originally bought from the scrapyard!