MELBOURNE, Australia — Taiwan has issued a request for tender to build a new amphibious ship for its Navy, according to local media.

The Liberty Times, quoting unnamed Taiwanese naval officials, reported that bids were solicited on April 12 for local shipbuilders to construct the first landing platform dock, or LPD, for the island's Navy, with $207 million allocated up to 2021 for the project, including $42.75 million in 2017.

It also reported that the tender will close May 10, with the first of what is expected to be two such ships to enter service in 2021. They will be used to support amphibious operations and transport tasks, and act as hospital ships and vessles for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in peacetime.

The winning bidder will build the ship according to a design prepared by the Navy, which calls for a length of 502 feet and a weight of 10,000 tons. The design also requires the ship be fitted with a 76mm gun and Phalanx close-in weapon systems. It will also have the indigenous TC-2N missile system for air defense, a top speed of 21 knots and a range of up to 7,000 miles. 

The primary onboard sensor will be a new 3-D radar most likely based on the Taiwanese CS/MPQ-90 Bee Eye, and the ship will carry an advanced command, control, communications and intelligence system. The well dock will be able to support various landing craft and the AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicle. Helicopter landing facilities are also planned, although there will be no hangar for an organic helicopter capability.

The new LPDs will replace a trio of former U.S. Navy amphibious ships currently in Taiwanese service, comprising of a single Anchorage-class dock landing ship and two Newport-class tank landing ships, all of which were acquired in the early 2000s. The older ships are increasingly expensive to sustain, and the dock landing ship Hsu Hai, formerly USS Pensacola, has been reported as unsuited for Taiwan's needs.

Taiwan has an ambitious indigenous shipbuilding plan in place, with 12 new shipbuilding and force modernization programs covering a 23-year period announced in 2016. These include new submarines and destroyers in addition to the LPDs, although funding questions for some of the other shipbuilding programs remain.

Forecast International's analyst of global military markets, Dan Darling, had earlier written that despite a 2017 defense budget outline totaling $10.4 billion, the Taiwanese Navy's "broad ambitions come as the Ministry of National Defense has steadily been increasing the ratio of allocations toward the personnel side in hopes of enticing quality new recruits. Doing so has the knock-on effect of shrinking the portion of the fiscal pie left over for capitalization, thus leaving a professional armed force without the advanced hardware touted as justification for fielding a smaller active-service military."

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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