Military officials yesterday said the nation will initiate a program to build four diesel-electric attack submarines, with the plan calling for a total budget of about NT$150 billion (US$4.9 billion).
The proposal and associated budget request from the navy has been sent to the Ministry of National Defense for appraisal, the officials said, adding that they envision the first submarine can be built and ready for service by 2025.
According to a report yesterday by the Chinese-language China Times, the budget, if approved, could be allocated next year and the program would be able to start in 2016.
The report listed the state agencies slated to be involved in construction.
The research and development center of Ship and Ocean Industries would be responsible for design, China Shipbuilding Corp would handle manufacturing and the National Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology would outfit the vessels with weapons systems, the report said.
China Shipbuilding and the institute would be mandated to deal with foreign contractors, the report added.
The plans for the submarines are reported to be to make 1,500-tonne displacement vessels.
Taiwan currently has four submarines in service, but military experts say they are “aging and outdated.”
Two Zwaardvis-class vessels obtained from the Netherlands and commissioned in the 1980s and two US Navy Guppy-class vessels, which were delivered in 1973, make up the fleet.
Washington agreed to sell eight 2,000-tonne diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan in 2001 for a reported total of US$12 billion.
However, there has been no progress on the deal because the US does not make conventional-powered vessels anymore and Beijing has reportedly expressed its disapproval over the deal. Budget constraints have also been reported as a limitation.
Ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said that the preferred course of action is still to purchase new submarines from the US, but the procurement process has been held up for many years.
“Therefore, our nation will pursue both foreign procurement and domestic building plans in tandem,” Lo said. “And we welcome the US and other free, democratic countries to collaborate with us to advance our indigenous submarine-building program.”
Lo said that by helping Taiwan to develop and improve its submarine combat capability, the nation’s confidence during cross-strait negotiations will be enhanced.
“This brings a mutual benefit to Taiwan and the US,” he said.
“It would also help to maintain long-term peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
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