Buying second-hand submarines from abroad has become one of the options under consideration by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) due to mounting difficulties in the acquisition of new models, but it might not be the best solution, a retired vice admiral of the navy said yesterday.
"Second-hand submarines are acceptable if they are only to be used as interim substitutes for new models that can not be acquired anytime soon," retired Vice Admiral Lan Ling-li (
"To use [second-hand submarines] against the Kilo-class submarine that China bought from Russia would not make any sense at all," Lan said.
"Used submarines could be acquired in two to three years, while new models that Taiwan has eyes on could not be obtained until 2012. Before the arrival of the desired submarines, the navy might choose to buy used submarines as temporary substitutes," he said.
Lan made the remarks when asked by the Taipei Times on the phone to comment on Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming's (湯曜明) declaration on Thursday that the MND will consider all options, including buying second-hand models, in its effort to procure eight conventional-powered submarines for the navy.
Lan, who had planned for the navy several major arms buildups lasting till today, said the navy should not give up hope of getting newly-designed submarines since these submarines could cause the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait to tip toward Taiwan.
"China relies heavily on seaways for the transportation of oil bought from the Middle East. If we deploy two submarines along the sea route that China uses for oil transportation, China will become extremely nervous and has to send quite a number of surface ships to protect its oil tankers," he said.
This would happen if Taiwan could get newly-designed submarines that are extremely quiet and can stay under the water for a much longer time than older models.
If Taiwan could only get second-hand submarines, like those currently used by Spain and Italy, the threat to China would be quite limited.
The navy, though its negotiations with the US for the submarine deal have not gone well, still insists on buying only newly-designed submarines, saying it has no plans to purchase any second-hand ones.
But the final decision-maker at the defense ministry has greater decision-making flexibility. As Tang has said, all possible options, including buying second-hand submarines, will be taken into consideration.
Although Lan has said that the second-hand vessels would be "temporary substitutes," it is not known whether the MND still wants to buy newly-designed submarines after getting for the navy all that it needs from the used- submarines market.
As defense source warned, however, the ministry has to make sure that it can get end-user certificates for second-hand submarines to be bought from abroad.
An end-user certificate is a kind of warranty provided by the original manufacturing country of the product involved.
If Taiwan could not get end- user certificates for used submarines to be bought from abroad, it would not be able to get a steady and regular supply of spare parts and technical support.
* The plan would update the navy faster than the purchase of new submarines.
* Vice Admiral Lan Ling-li suggests the idea as a ``temporary substitute.''
* The Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming said the ministry is looking into the idea, but did not say whether new submerged vessels would be purchased later.
* Spain and Italy have second hand submarines in their fleets.
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