The nation’s two World War II-era submarines are undergoing major renovations to upgrade their capabilities, but the Navy and the contractor might dismantle one to gain sub-building experience and study the manufacturing techniques, Minister of National Defense Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) said yesterday.
Kao made the remarks in response to questions from legislators yesterday regarding upgrades on the 70-year-old subs.
The upgrades are being undertaken at the Navy’s shipyard and by the China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) in Kaohsiung Harbor.
The US-built Hao Si (海獅, sea lion) and Hai Pao (海豹, seal) have been derided as antiques worthy of display in a naval museum.
However, both are still on active duty, a situation that critics contend highlights the nation’s struggle to modernize its submarine fleet, and also accents the navy’s lack of knowledge about new submarine technology.
Kao denied recent news reports that CSBC was looking to cancel its contract for the maintenance and renovation of the subs.
“The work to upgrade the submarines is still ongoing — it was not canceled — but we have to discuss the matter with CSBC to clarify the issues,” Kao said.
The ministry still plans to bolster the navy with new submarines, either purchasing them from foreign nations, or developing an indigenous sub program, he said.
“If we can get assistance and technical support from other nations, then I will support building the submarines ourselves,” Kao said.
Some legislators voiced concern that CSBC lacks experience in the maintenance and repair of submarines and has few qualified technicians, saying that the reassembly of a dismantled sub could be problematic.
Kao replied the major renovations and upgrades are under way, and if CSBC and the naval docks are unable to reassemble the submarines, then one submarine would be refurbished while the other is used to develop insight into the technology involved.
Vice Admiral Shang Jung-chiang (尚永強), assistant chief of staff for logistics at the ministry’s General Staff Headquarters, said CSBC has been reluctant to provide a cost estimate for the tender because of problems with the submarines’ stern and the hull’s oval structure.
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