Navy officials yesterday said the Ministry of National Defense will go ahead with its domestic submarine program, and several Taiwanese shipbuilders are seeking collaboration with foreign companies to undertake the work.
More than 20 US and European companies have expressed interest in working with Taiwanese counterparts to build new submarines for the Republic of China Navy, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Admiral Pu Tze-chun (蒲澤春) said at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Pu said the ministry has discussed details of the project with local and overseas shipbuilders, and is assessing their qualifications to ascertain if they are capable of undertaking the project.
The vessels’ design is expected to be completed by 2019, Pu added.
Navy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Hsiao Wei-min (蕭維民) said the overhaul program for the nation’s two World War II-era Tench-class submarines, which are now used for training, would be the first step toward carrying out the domestic building program.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) raised concerns over progress on overhaul work on the two 70-year-old US-built submarines, known as Hai Shih and Hai Pao.
Huang expressed concern over a lack of expertise and experience among Taiwanese shipbuilders conducting the overhaul work and that problems were encountered in dismantling the hulls, as some sections apparently cannot be put back into their original configuration.
Hsiao said the overhaul work is going well, and that the hulls were only partially dismantled. adding that so far, there have been no problems in the reassembly process.
The maintenance and renovation work associated with the overhaul is being carried out by contractor China Shipbuilding at the navy’s shipyard in Kaohsiung Harbor.
Ministry officials displayed a submarine propeller at Tuesday’s ship commissioning ceremony, at which they reiterated the military’s goal to acquire new vessels to improve the nation’s anti-submarine capabilities.
If the nation fails to acquire new submarines, it will undermine the defensive capabilities of our armed forces, Deputy Minister of National Defense Liu Chen-wu (劉震武) said.
Liu said the propeller was a demonstration of the navy’s desire to acquire new submarines.
He added that a domestic submarine program is needed by the navy and supported by the public.
Additional reporting by CNA