Hot on the heels of China's recent nuclear submarine fleet unveiling, Taiwan has now showcased its first delivered submarine-hunting Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
The first Taiwanese Orion made its public debut at a handover event staged on 31 October 2013, in the presence of defence officials and Ma Ying-yeou - the President of Taiwan. The aircraft is one of 12 ultimately set to equip the Republic of China (Taiwanese) Navy, with three more airframes scheduled to arrive in coming weeks and the remainder by 2015.
According to President Ma, the Taiwanese P-3C fleet is "the most advanced among the hundreds that are serving many countries in the world." He added: "I believe that after the aircraft join the air force, we will see our underwater anti-submarine, ship-to-ship and air attack capabilities greatly enhanced."
Taiwanese Navy Orions
The Taiwanese Navy Orions are refurbished P-3C models. Capable of carrying out sustained 17 hour patrol missions, each carries MK46 torpedoes and Harpoon missiles. Military experts suggest that, equipped with these advanced maritime patrol aircraft, Taiwan's submarine-hunting capability will become no less than ten times more effective than at present.
In Republic of China Navy service, the Orions are the replacement for Taiwan's Grumman S-2T Turbo Trackers, which arrived in 1999. 27 Turbo Trackers were supplied but barely 50 per cent of them remain active. All Taiwanese Turbo Trackers now serve within the Republic of China Air Force.
A key component of NATO's maritime patrol capability, the Orion was originally the US Navy's Lockheed P-2 Neptune replacement and has now been in service for more than 50 years. Adapted from the Lockheed L-188 Electra airliner, it was given a weapons bay and a MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) system, used to detect submarines.
Taiwanese Submarine Hunters
News of the Taiwanese P-3C submarine hunters purchase first emerged in 2007, after former President Chen Shui-bian stressed the need for strengthened defences against China.
Almost six years on, his successor yesterday announced: "Although ties with the Chinese mainland have improved significantly in the last five years, they have not changed their military deployments targeting Taiwan. We must not relax our military preparations."
Right now, it's thought that China's PLA (People's Liberation Army) has some 1,500 missiles pointed Taiwan's way.