Sat, Mar 26, 2005 - Page 2 News List

AIP needed for subs: lawmakers

ADVANTAGE A MUST The subs Taiwan purchases from the US must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems to be effective in defense, KMT legislators say

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators yesterday said they would support the budget to buy eight diesel-powered submarines if the subs were equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems, which enables a vessel to be submerged under water for longer periods of time.

"What Taiwan needs is a really advanced submarine force, not an outdated one. I think a submarine force with the AIP system would be an advanced force," said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民).

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) said at the legislature on Thursday that the ministry currently has no plan to include AIP systems in the submarine deal because they are not a "mature technology," and because it would be a heavy financial burden on the navy.

However, Lee said, "the US and the ministry will select contractors and the type of submarines only after Taiwan approves the purchase, and the ministry has not ruled out the possibility of equipping the subs with AIP systems."

Chief of Navy Lee Hai-tung (李海東) yesterday said that, with an AIP system, a submarine could submerge for two weeks or longer without having to surface. In contrast, he said, a diesel-electric submarine without an AIP system must surface every four to seven days.

Subs must eventually surface to replenish their air supply and recharge their batteries.

KMT Legislators Shuai and Lu Hsiu-yen (盧秀燕) said a diesel submarine without an AIP system must surface and thus reveal its position every 4 to 5 days, and such a submarines have limited combat capabilities.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said that, countries such as Germany, Sweden and Japan are able to build the AIP system, and it is rumored that China has successfully developed the AIP system for its Ming-class submarines.

As a result, the AIP system should not be seen as a cutting-edge technology, but he will nonetheless urge the ministry to obtain it, Lee said.

Chang Li-teh (張立德), a senior editor with the Chinese-language Defense Technology Monthly magazine, said if a Taiwanese sub force wants to have a strategic edge against China in defending territorial waters and for reconnaissance missions, it would be better to have a submarine force with the AIP system.

Chang also said the reality is that it would take conventional diesel-powered submarines three to four days to travel from Taiwan to the South China or East China Seas, and then they would need to surface. He also said that it is very easy for diesel submarines to be detected and attacked when they surface because the process is very noisy.

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