Tue, Oct 07, 2003 - Page 4 News List

US impressed by submarine project

INDIGENOUS DEFENSE China Shipbuilding has solved many techincal problems to prove it can play a vital role in the construction of eight Taiwanese submarines

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

After more than a year's effort, state-run China Shipbuilding Corp has overcome many of the technical difficulties of building submarines and is winning confidence from the US in its bid to build some of the eight conventional submarines that the US promised to acquire for Taiwan two years ago, the company's officials said yesterday.

China Shipbuilding has completed a section of a submarine hull to prove it is capable of building submarines. The section, which comes from the stern, is considered to be the most difficult part to build.

A US government delegation that came to Taiwan recently was greatly impressed by the hull section when they visited China Shipbuilding's Kaohsiung headquarters.

Hsu Chiang (徐強), the company's chairman, confirmed the visit of the US government delegation in a recent inquiry from the Taipei Times.

"They came to see how our indigenous defense submarine pro-ject was going and we showed them our achievements. We convinced them with our data," Hsu said.

"The roundness measurement of the pressure hull section we have completed shows that it has reached international standards in the average diameter deviation and radius deviation. They were quite impressed," Hsu said.

The recognition from the US government delegation was a boon to the company, which has been fighting for the right to participate in the submarine project since it was announced.

Under the plan, China Shipbuilding would observe construction of the first two submarines, build parts of the next four and then build the seventh and eighth entirely.

The indigenous defense submarine project is reminiscent of the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), a Taiwan-built plane that took two decades to develop.

But the navy is unconvinced that China Shipbuilding is up to the job.

Even Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) has expressed concerns. Tang said at the legislature earlier this year: "Who would take responsibility if the locally-built submarine develops any problems?"

Nevertheless, over the past year, China Shipbuilding has overcome many technical difficulties, such as the supply of high-grade steel for the hull and a wide range of welding skills needed to build the pressure hull.

The company admits, however, that there is still a long way to go.

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