Mon, Apr 16, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Indigenous submarines offer hope

By Ray Song 宋磊

The US Department of State on April 7 formally approved a marketing license needed for US manufacturers to sell technology to Taiwan that would enable the nation to build domestic submarines. The news was very encouraging.

Undeniably, submarines have always been the weakest link in Taiwan’s navy. The service age of active submarines has reached the standard for replacement. Building a new generation of submarines is an urgent task at this time, and now that the US has given Taiwan an admission ticket, if all goes well, the first submarine will be commissioned in 2025.

Submarines have always been high-precision weapons. Whether it is a maritime blockade or a wartime anti-landing operation, experience shows that if an aggressor possesses submarines, it can break through such enemy blockades.

It is true that the navy has made efforts to build up underwater warfare capabilities over the past 30 years. However, due to China’s deterrence and Taiwan’s international status, the navy has not been able to have a complete underwater force.

To maintain national security, almost all warships are equipped with anti-submarine equipment. It is not difficult to see that to compensate for its lack of underwater combat capability, the navy uses water and airborne anti-submarine systems as countermeasures.

Readers might ask, if Taiwan has a record of building domestic warplanes, why has it not successfully developed “Indigenous Defense Submarines”? This has not happened because Taiwan is unable to manufacture sonar equipment, propulsion systems, periscopes and other crucial components.

The US is willing to give manufacturers a chance to sell technology to Taiwan, which would enable the nation to build domestic submarines. Of course, this does not mean integration will not present difficulties, but for self-exploration, the domestic submarine policy can get more aid.

According to the Ministry of Defense’s plans, building six to eight domestic submarines would cost more than NT$400 billion (US$13.7 billion). The cost-effectiveness puts considerable pressure on the armed forces to build the submarines.

From a national security perspective, nearly 90 percent of Taiwan’s sea transportation in peace time passes through the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, and China could block Taiwan using its navy during wartime. To ensure the safety of marine supply lines, it is necessary to use submarines to keep shipping lanes safe.

It is important that the navy obtain an underwater force. However, it should also make sure to enhance its underwater rescue capabilities. If a submarine accident were to happen and the navy is unable to deal with it, it would need to rely on foreign help to perform underwater rescue missions.

Building submarine forces will bolster national security, but rescue ships also need to be put in place to build a complete submarine force that will include reconnaissance, operations and rescue.

Ray Song is a graduate of National Chung Cheng University’s Institute of Strategic and International Affairs.

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