The Navy celebrated the 63rd birthday of its oldest vessel -- the Guppy-class SS-791 Sea Lion submarine -- last Thursday.
The SS-791 was not only celebrating its 63rd birthday, but also its 34th year of service in the Navy. Along with the SS-792 Seal, the SS-791 is one of two existing "miracles" in the navy, as it is the oldest submarine still in service.
As part of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Republic of China (台美協防條約), in 1970 the US gave the SS-791 and SS-792 to the Taiwanese Navy -- after serving 28 years in the US Navy.
In 1973, Captain Kuan Chen-ching (
During the ceremony last Thursday, Rear Admiral Wang Hsi-ling (汪希苓), Taiwan's military attache to the US who oversaw the arrangement in the 1970s, officially accepted the two vessels on behalf of Taiwan.
With old piping, big knobs and rudders, old panels, limited space and the pervasive oil smell, the interior of the submarine is strikingly reminiscent of scenes from World War II movies. Sonars and torpedo systems complete the experience.
Among the 75 sailors on board, only the captain enjoys a private room -- and it is smaller than one ping. Everybody else, including the first officer, shares a public room for sleep. Regular meals are provided by a kitchen approximately two pings in size. It takes more than an hour for everybody on board to finish their meal as only 20 people can fit in the dining room at any given time.
With its 5,200 horsepower diesel engine, the SS-791 was initially capable of completing a non-stop 8,350km trip in approximately 45 days. Top speed under water was 12 knots and 16 knots on the surface.
A rumor that could have proven harmful to the navy's image and affect sailors' morale haunted the vessel since its acquisition, however. Some believed there was a real chance that after diving, the two Guppy-class subs would never resurface.
But SS-791 Warrant Officer Liu Tsai-hsin (劉財心) explained why the rumor never turned into reality.
"There is an air tank inside the vessel. When the submarine is on the surface, its entire weight is approximately 1,800 tonnes. When we need to dive, however, the air tank will take in 3,000 pounds [1,360kg] of air, turning the vessel into a 2,400-tonne rock. The system may be old, but it is reliable," Liu said.
Between 1944 and 1946, the US built 45 Tench-class submarines. Fourteen of those were upgraded to Guppy-class in 1950, including the SS-791.
Prior to joining the Taiwanese fleet, the SS-791 was known as the USS-478 Cutlass. It was built in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Main, and completed on Nov. 5, 1944.
The vessel was initially equipped with 10 torpedo launch tubes and sonar systems, with 11 officers and 70 petty officers and sailors.
But the US government's plan to help Taiwan's destroyer fleet conduct anti-submarine warfare resulted in the removal of all torpedo systems from the sub before it was handed over.
After it came into service, the Navy tried to restore its torpedo capability, but its indigenous system never reached optimal operability and the SS-791 was eventually allocated for training purposes.
The Navy's Fleet 256 chief of staff Rear Admiral Yang Yi (楊木益) believes the SS-791 can still make a contribution to the training of the Navy's next generation of officers.
"It is a tough environment for future naval officers to grow in. It is small, old and slow," Yang said. "But, the vessel itself is truly a legend."
Although it is the oldest submarine in service, many contemporary high-ranking naval officers have served on board the SS-791, including Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑), Deputy General-Chief-of-Staff Admiral Wang Li-shen (王立申) and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Lieutenant General Shen Po-chi (申伯之).
Lee was a lieutenant commander when the SS-791 was given to Taiwan and was also the first weapons chief on board the Sea Lion. He later became the third captain of the SS-791.
After new submarines are acquired by the Navy, the Ministry of National Defense will retire the SS-791 and the SS-792. Navy enthusiasts expect the two vessels will be restored after they retire and hope one will be used for training purposes at the Naval Academy while the other will be ported and turned into a museum.
Senior judges yesterday met to discuss the constitutionality of a law that makes adultery a criminal offense, before being ordered by Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) to set a date for a constitutional interpretation within the next month. The judges met to discuss Article 239 of the Criminal Code on offenses against marriage and family, after 18 judges had called for a constitutional interpretation of the issue. Taipei District Court Judge Lin Meng-huang (林孟皇) said that while he had previously tried adultery cases and never questioned the law, his feelings changed when trying a case last year involving baseball star Wang
Instead of hating the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), help change it, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said, as he urged young people to join efforts to reform the party. As the nation marked Youth Day on Sunday, Chiang said in a Facebook post that he wanted to remind people that “the KMT used to be very young.” Now, when people think of the KMT, they equate it with older people, he wrote. “Even if [the KMT] is a 100-year-old party, it must maintain a young mentality, and understand what young people want and what they want the KMT to do,” Chiang wrote.
TOO TIRED: Investigators found that the pilot’s lack of alertness could be attributed to a lack of sleep the previous night, when he had slept with his child It was a copilot’s inappropriate operation of the aircraft and the pilot’s insufficient alertness that led to a hard landing of a China Airlines cargo flight on Dec. 13, 2018, the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. Flight CI6844, a Boeing 747-409 which departed from Hong Kong International Airport, landed on the pre-threshold area of runway L5 at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, about 21m before the head of the runway, an investigation report said. The hard landing damaged three runway lights, but none of the personnel on board sustained any injuries, the report said. When approaching the runway, the copilot failed to maintain
DISTRUST WARRANTED? The WHO is under China’s control and has become a useless organization, while data from China cannot be trusted, a Control Yuan member said China’s demand that the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province, not be referred to with names like the “Wuhan pneumonia” betrays its lack of confidence in itself, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told lawmakers yesterday. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) asked Su, during a interpellation at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, for his view on China’s attempts to redeem its national image in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included China’s efforts to “bleach” its image, including having WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus publicly praise its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and thanking it for buying time