TSUOYING, Taiwan - Taiwan on May 18 put into service its first missile boats featuring what the navy described as "stealth" technologies, aimed at boosting defense capabilities against rival China.
The squadron of 10 guided-missile boats, seen by top brass as a major improvement on Seagull vessels that have been in service for the past 20 years, joined the navy at the Tsuoying naval base in the south of the island.
"Its combat capabilities are much superior to the 50-ton Seagull-class missile boats," the navy said in a statement released ahead of a ceremony in Tsuoying.
"The new homemade weapons system is expected to greatly enhance the navy's defense capabilities, thus ensuring the security of Taiwan."
The vessel, called "Kuang Hua No 6", is equipped with "stealth technologies," enabling it to reduce the risk of radar detection, the navy said.
However, the navy did not provide any details about how the vessel's shape or surface materials allowed it to have these capabilities.
The inauguration of the boats signaled Taiwan's desire to maintain a defense capability against its former bitter rival China despite fast warming ties over the past two years.
Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have eased significantly since President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.
Yet Beijing still refuses to renounce its use of force against Taiwan should it declare formal independence.
The island has governed itself since its split with the mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
The new missile boats are each armed with four locally developed Hsiungfeng II ship-to-ship missiles, which have a range of 150 kilometers.
Hsiungfeng II is an improved version of the Hsiungfeng I now deployed on the Seagull-class boats.
The boats inaugurated Tuesday were among a first batch of 12 received by the navy. It is scheduled to acquire 18 others before the end of 2011.