It's as if the U.S. Navy added 30 destroyers in three years. That's how much the Pentagon is beefing up Tawain's fleet, with two pairs of retired Kidd-class anti-air destroyers. The first set was transferred on Oct. 29. The second pair will be handed over in 2007.The Kidds were retired by the U.S. Navy in the mid-1990s and purchased by Taiwan in 2001. With the advent of the Arleigh Burke class armed with Aegis radar, Vertical Launch System for SM-2 missiles, the rail-launcher-armed Kidds became redundant, despite being less than 20 years old when retired.At 9,000 tons displacement, the Kidds will increase by one-third the tonnage of Taiwans major surface combatant force. (Lately the U.S. has been decreasing its surface fleet by as many as ten hulls and tens of thousands of tons per year.)Besides significantly bulking up Taiwans navy, the Kidds will give the force its first modern air-defense capability and should prove a significant deterrent against Chinas largely-outdated surface fleet, which depends heavily on land-based air cover. The Kidd deal has understandably angered China. While many in the U.S. are eager to tout China as the next superpower and a naval rival, cooler heads point out that China is heavily dependent on maritime trade and energy imports and that its naval modernization is largely intended to secure sea lines of communication and to counterbalance Indian intrusion into regional waters. Besides, on the seas China is still a generation behind the U.S. and years behind Taiwan. The Kidds only extend that disparity.-- David Axe
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