Eager to moderate the threat it faces from an increasingly sophisticated China, Taiwan has been investing heavily in modernizing its naval capabilities. As part of that effort, Taipei recently welcomed a U.S. Senate decision to approve the sale of four Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates for its navy. While Taiwan purchases a considerable amount of military hardware from the United States, it also has a vibrant indigenous defense industry. Most recently, the Republic of China Navy (RoCN) inaugurated a 20,000 ton multi-role fast combat support ship: the Panshih.
The Panshih, which entered the RoCN on January 23, was built by Taiwan’s state-owned shipbuilder CSBC Corporation for a total cost of $130 million and will be used as a military transport, maritime rescue, and humanitarian assistance vessel. The Panshih, while not a direct answer to the threats Taipei faces from across the Taiwan strait, will be a versatile addition to the RoCN’s fleet. IHS Jane’s 360 describes the vessel’s physical specifications: “Panshih is 196 m long and 25.2 m wide and has a full load displacement of 20,000 tonnes. It can carry a crew of up to 165 and has a range of 8,000 [nautical] miles.” The Panshih, alongside the Wuyi, will be the RoCN’s second supply ship. The Wuyi has been in service since 1990.
According to the Taipei Times, the RoCN, shortly after taking delivery of the Panshih, “showcased the medical capabilities of [the] newly acquired supply vessel.” The same report notes that the RoCN opened the ship to the media. According to an on-board survey, “There is a small hospital on the ship that includes an operating theater, a dental room, three regular wards and an isolation ward. It is stocked with advanced equipment, such as endoscopy devices and mobile X-ray machines.”
While the Panshih is primarily a supply-and-support vessel, it has some offensive capabilities. Specifically, the ship is equipped with a Phalanx close-in weapons system, a 20 mm Gatling gun and short-range Sea Chapparral surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, according to an RoCN official who spoke to Taipei Times. The Panshih also fields several .50 cal machine guns and 30 mm turrets. The ship is designed for operation with supporting frigates and destroyers. The weapons fittings are somewhat unusual for a support ship.