Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org)
Located outside of Taipei, the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) conducts a full range of basic and applied science, to include requirements generation, system design and integration, manufacturing and life cycle support. The mission of NCSIST is to foster the development, manufacture, and sales of defense technology and weapons; the development, manufacture, and sales of dual-use technology; domestic and international cooperation in technology, information exchange, and promotion; technology transfer, technical services, and industrial consultancy with domestic and foreign partnerships; developing national defense technology talents; military facilities and construction; and cooperation with the Ministry of National Defense. Admiral Richard Chen, Republic of China Navy (Ret.), is a former chief of naval operations for Taiwan and a director at NCSIST. He spoke with Captain Edward Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) in London and Taipei.
The Republic of China has a rather unique defense posture. How does the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology play an important role in achieving the goals of your defense strategy?
Every nation wants to have a very strong and reliable defense capability of it’s your own. You must develop this kind of capability.
Taiwan is an island nation. We rely on importing 98 percent of our energy, and virtually all of our raw materials. All of our products must be exported. So we must maintain the security of the sea lines of communication (SLOC), so our maritime forces are vital to Taiwan’s economic development.
Any disruptions to the choke points or SLOC in the region will not only have an impact on Taiwan, but also Japan and South Korea, as well.
Like everyone, Taiwan is faced with limited budgets, so our Navy must design its fleet smartly, so the nation has the confidence and capability to defend itself. That is the purpose of NCSIST.
You face a very real military challenge from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).
China is expanding their reach, moving further out, and establishing remote bases. The Taiwan Strait is narrow, and they want to control it. There is no room for a mistake. The PRC ships, submarines, bombers, fighters and intelligence aircraft have circled Taiwan. So we need to improve our naval force, air surveillance and underwater detection capability.
Taiwan is surrounded by busy shipping lanes. Do you also have a challenging operating environment?
For example, we have an undersea volcano off Turtle Mountain Island, which has massive explosions and steam eruptions generates noise that makes underwater detection difficult. The Bashi Channel also has a very strong current.
It appears that NCSIST is involved in the full spectrum, from science and technology (S&T) to test and evaluation (T&E). You are involved in product development and manufacturing and delivering and total life cycle sustainment and maintenance of systems.
That’s correct–from top level requirements on down to delivery. The institute plays a key role as the systems integrator. And in cases where we can no longer get spares from the original vendor the institute can help.
What are some of the things that the Institute does in terms of basic and applied research?
We do have some labs conducting very fundamental research in areas such as materials, chemical systems, electronics, information and communications, electro-optics and others.
Do you get into more applied research to take a capability and validate it or prove that it works in the application that you want it to work in?
I can give you an example. For many years, we were using the American phased array radar for Patriot missiles—PAC-2 and PAC-3. But now we have developed our own system. So next step is to apply this ground-based anti-air capability technology to ships at sea. So that means we will have our own ROC Navy AEGIS-like phased array radar system in the near future.
You have an extensive coast defense system that integrates sensors and weapons. Are your afloat platforms integrated in with the shore-based system in some way?
The anti-ship Coastal Defense Missile System is fully integrated. It has fixed sites, mobile and afloat platforms, command and control, and everything is integrated together. Everybody shares the same picture. If you go to any navy command center, you can see the whole picture. We also share some of this information with our coast guard. The Institute provides this kind of capability.
Does the coast guard have a separate sensor network for maritime situational awareness?
Yes, and the Institute also provides this system, with the surveillance radars and fusion system, to the coast guard.
Do you acquire ships and weapons from international suppliers, or do you develop everything in Taiwan?
We do acquire some of our platforms and systems from international suppliers, but much of what we need and have we developed and supplied on our own.
We treasure our friendship with the U.S. government, but since 1979 there have been no formal diplomatic relations. Even though we are eligible for foreign military sales (FMS), the U.S. has restrictions on what it can export based on regional consideration. So while FMS is very important to us, indigenous capability is also a very important factor. We have to build up our own. The institute can help us overcome the challenges of developing capabilities in a timely manner, with long-term support, with a limited budget. There are advanced systems we need to deal with the threat, but that we are not allowed to acquire from a foreign nation. So we have to focus on this arena from a very basic capability, R&D, system integration, and life cycle support. And today the institute plays a key role in terms of defense capability for our nation. But we do continue to appreciate foreign cooperation, especially with our long-term friends from the United States.
Some of the systems you acquired through FMS or DCS may be no longer fully supported, but you are still able to breathe new life into them by giving them new capabilities that you’re developing on your own, which somewhat changes the character of the original ship or platform, which is, I think, a strength of this institute.
The story can go back to 30 years ago, with FRAM I and FRAM II Gearing class destroyers. These ships had already been retired from the U.S. Navy, which no longer used the MK 37 Gun Fire Control System. So we worked with Honeywell to develop our own system called the MCS – Modular Combat System. We were the first country in the world to use a distributed, open architecture system. MCS is more advanced in concept compared to the MK 92 system on the FFG 7 class ships. The MK 92 was based on the WM20 system from the Netherlands. And Honeywell at that time tried to compete for the FFG with their own system called the MK 93. We worked with Honeywell and eventually we arrived at the MCS, which is open architecture, with more capability and redundancy, using redundancy, more capable, commercial off the shelf (COTS) components.
To give those combatants a modern capability, Taiwan developed and installed the HF-1 surface to surface missiles, which had similar performance as the Exocet and Gabriel missiles.
But all of the components of the combat system, from the missiles and guns to ESM, point defense and chaff, were stand-alone independent systems, which required a lot of manpower to man the stations.
So NCSIST embarked on a program to integrate all the systems.
Our new integrated capability was based on open architecture. Maybe it wasn’t the very best, but it was suitable and affordable, and we could improve it because of OA.
The architecture, computer and software are all manufactured in Taiwan.
We could install the same basic combat management system on all of our platforms—from logistics ships and minehunters to frigates and destroyers. The difference would be the number of systems to be integrated and the number of consoles to operate them in CIC. And we employed a network-centric concept, where a platform, such as satellites, long-range UAVs, E-2D Hawkeye AWACS and P-3 Orions, could be connected to the sensor grid and the weapons grid and matrixed
We have no upgraded the network to include shooters like the F-16 fighter, A-64E Apache attack helicopter and the PAC III missile. Eventually, we would like to integrate our submarines into the picture.
And if you have an open COTS capability, you can unplug the old one and put in the new.
Yes! From then on, and into the future, we’re using our own fully integrated MCS combat system. Now all the institute’s weapon systems are based on the same idea and same standard. No matter the sensor or the weapon, we can fully integrate it. This is only for the Navy. But NCSIST also supports the other services. And in the situations where we purchased weapon systems from either from United States or other country, and which no longer have logistics support, we have had to find our own replacement, so can use those old system for another decade. Meanwhile, we have developed our own new system to replace it. One example is the Nike I-Hawk system, which we replaced with our own Sky Bow Tien Kung (TK) II air defense system, and the improved the TK II, which is an indigenous fully-integrated air defense system.
SM-1 is another example.
The U.S. Navy will no longer be supporting SM-1. So we use our own capability to build the rocket motor and I think we can support that system for a long period of time. And talking about surface to surface missile systems, we were acquiring the Harpoon anti-ship missile. But at about the same time we developed our own Hsiung Feng II (HF-2), which is a similar concept and capability. So we took a parallel approach, simultaneously taking advantage of FMS, which is a vehicle that connects us to the U.S. even without a formal diplomatic relationship, while also developing our own system. So it’s working very well.
You have, for example, FFG-7 class ships that you built here in Taiwan, and have also acquired a few as excess defense articles (EDA).
Yes, we built eight in Taiwan and we acquired two more as EDA. The ex-USS Taylor and ex-USS Gary were turned over in June of this year. So we now have 10.
Are they identical? Or do they have some unique Taiwan features?
The original eight have our own command and control system, and we are using our own surface-to-surface missile. For the two we just received from U.S., we’re going to use the Harpoon missile system. We will retrofit those ships here in Taiwan. They basically have a MK 92 Mod 6 system, which we call the Block Star because the configuration is a little different from the U.S. version. The U.S. Navy uses one UYK-43 and two UYK-7 computers. In our system, we use two UYK-43s.
You also have four DDG-993 guided missile destroyers.
Yes, the Kidd class. We have named it the Keelung class.
And they have the Mark 26 launcher.
Yes. The weapon system on these ships is very good. They have NTDS (Navy Tactical Data Systems) and NTU (New Threat Upgrade). They are very capable. We have SM-2 on our Kidd-class DDGs, but we cannot operate SM-2 at the full extent of its range from our frigates, so we have improved the SM-1 with a better propulsion section and an active seeker.
Speaking of frigates, you have some Knox-class 1052s?
We still have six of what we call the Chi Yang class.
I commanded ROCS Fong Yang (FFG 933), the former USS Brewton (FF-1086). When I was skipper patrolling our east coast, I held an undersea contact, for 16 hours in active and passive mode using our SQS-26 and our VDS.
Were you tracking one of your own submarines?
You have some new French-built surface combatants, too.
Yes, we have six French Lafayette class frigates, which we call the Kang Ding class. They have been updated with some of our systems, including our missile system. We’re arming them with the Sky-Sword II, which is similar to AMRAMM, carried in quad-pack tubes and fired from a VLS launcher. The ships also have the HF-II is subsonic; the HF-III is supersonic. It also has the supersonic HF-III. This weapon is fired from a canister launcher that is so flexible the Coast Guard can install them.
Are you developing ships with stealth characteristics?
Our new coastal patrol missile corvette, the Tuo Chang class, is a stealthy all-composite high-speed catamaran. It is only 600 tons, but heavily armed with a 76mm gun, both the Hsiung Feng II subsonic anti-ship missile and Hsiung Feng III supersonic anti-ship missile, Phalanx CIWS and Mark 32 triple torpedo launchers. It has excellent seakeeping characteristics and can reach speeds of 40 knots. We have one now, and 11 more on the way. We also have 12 of the older Ching Chiang missile patrol boats.
In addition to the combatants, you also have amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, submarines and auxiliaries.
We used to have many former U.S. landing ships. We currently have two former U.S. LSTs and one LPD, and will be cutting steel next year for a new LPD, which will have is equipped with a full hospital and can embark wheeled vehicles for humanitarian relief efforts. The LPD will have a command center and accommodations for a Marine Battalion, a flight deck and aviation facilities, and a well deck. We have former German and U.S. minesweepers and mine hunters. We have two old submarines from the Netherlands, and two old U.S. boats that we use for training. We have been trying to procure new submarines for some time. We have a number of auxiliaries, including some former U.S. Navy World War II-era salvage ships which are still in service, and performing well all these years later. We have three replenishment oilers that sustain our combatants at sea, as well as support multinational exercises and coalition operations if needed, and can respond to regional disasters. Our newest, the 20,000 ton ROCS Pan Shi, joined the fleet in 2015.