During a Legislative interpellation session, Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) said the ministry has already been in talks with its U.S. counterparts in preparation for receiving the two of the four frigates that are still in active service with the U.S.
The ministry will be sending a group of military personnel to the U.S. soon to check the other two ships, one already decommissioned, another soon to be decommissioned.
“We will not make a decision on whether to buy the two ships that are not in active service until we have made a full evaluation of the two vessels and the nation's defensive needs,” Yen said.
U.S. President Barack Obama last December signed a piece of legislation that authorizes the sale of the four Perry-class frigates. The four frigates that have been offered to Taiwan are the USS Taylor (FFG-50), the USS Gary (FFG-51), the USS Carr (FFG-52) and the USS Elrod (FFG-55).
The four warships were commissioned between 1984 and 1985. Except for the USS Carr, which was decommissioned in March 2013, all are in active service. The USS Elrod is scheduled to be decommissioned later this month.
The MND previously said it only wants two of the four warships, namely the USS Taylor and the USS Gary because the USS Carr has already been decommissioned, while the combat systems on the USS Elrod are outdated.
The MND also previously said it has already allocated NT$5.5 billion this year to buy the two warships.
However, local media on Sunday disclosed that the ministry is now thinking of buying all four ships.
The Chinese-language United Evening News on Sunday quoted military sources as saying that the MND wants to acquire the two decommissioned ships in order to acquire the sonar systems on board.
Rumors about the MND wanting to acquire all four ships have angered several lawmakers who said the military has broken the promise it made at the Legislative Yuan that it only wants two of the ships.
Some lawmakers alleged that the U.S. has pressured the MND into buying all four.
Asked to comment, Yen yesterday denied U.S. pressure on the possible acquirement of the Perry-class frigates.
He also noted that the military has only allocated a budget for two of the frigates.
The military will reportedly be sending a delegation to check on the two decommissioned ships only to learn their conditions and to check whether there are components or weapon systems on the ships that could be retrofitted in the future.
No final decision has been made, he stressed.
USS Gary (FFG-51) Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate in the United States Navy.