WASHINGTON – It took the better part of two years, but Congress has finally approved the potential transfer to Taiwan and Mexico of six frigates being decommissioned by the US Navy.
The move means negotiators have permission to make a deal for transfer of the ships, four of which are still in service.
The act also authorizes the sale of the frigates Taylor, Gary, Carr and Elrod to Taiwan.
The 2012 version of the Naval Transfer Act, containing a number of ships for Turkey, also failed, largely due to concerns in Congress about Turkish political policies.
Frigates are especially popular ships for foreign transfer, being relatively cheap to operate yet effective in a variety of roles. More than two dozen former US Perry-class frigates serve with foreign navies, while a number were built especially for other countries.
All the countries in the current and previous versions of the bill already operate former US Navy warships.
Taiwan operates eight Perry-class frigates, all built in Taipei by the China Shipbuilding Corporation. The additional frigates would be their first ex-US Navy Perrys, although the Taiwanese Navy operates older former US Navy frigates.
Mexico also operates six former US frigates of older vintage. If approved, these would be the first Perry-class frigates in Mexican service.
McClusky is scheduled to be decommissioned Jan. 14, while Curts was decommissioned in February 2013.
The Perry-class frigates were conceived in the 1970s as low-cost escort ships armed with surface-to-air missiles to protect convoys and amphibious ships. Early in this century, the US Navy phased out the Standard SM-1 missile that armed the ships and largely did away with external missile launchers in favor of vertical launch systems. None of the US Navy's current frigates retains a Standard missile capability.
As expected, China vigorously opposed any deal with Taiwan.
"It brutally interferes with China's internal affairs, sabotages China's sovereignty and security interests, and runs counter to the trend of peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait," Xinhua quoted Qin as saying. "China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this and has lodged solemn representations with the United States both in Beijing and Washington. We reserve the right to take further action."
Christopher P. Cavas was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.