Navy estimates submarine budget

HIGH AMOUNTS: The projected costs announced by the navy are much higher than anticipated and may exceed the military's total for new weapons systems

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 4

Initial estimates by the navy indicate that it would need at least NT$400 billion to buy eight conventional submarines from the US, a figure much higher than that previously reported by the press, a senior navy official said yesterday.

The costs might increase to NT$500 billion if the submarines the US offers Taiwan were of a more advanced type, the official said.

The NT$400 billion estimate is for submarines displacing under 2,000 tonnes each, while the NT$500 billion estimate is applicable to a submarine of around 3,000 tonnes displacement.

The navy could accept smaller submarines with tonnages between 1,500 and 2,000, which would include, for instance, a German-made type with a crew of 40, the official said.

The navy would not consider buying smaller submarines, which it regards as toys rather than weapon systems.

"We do not know what type of submarine the US would offer us. We have to admit that the process is not progressing smoothly," the official said.

"The US will send a delegation to Taiwan by the end of the year to report on what type of submarine it could procure for us. Before they arrive, we do not know ourselves what the end result will be," he said.

"If the US can find us only small submarines, we estimate that the package's total cost would be around NT$400 billion. But if the US said it could acquire bigger submarines for us, the cost would be up to NT$500 billion," he said.

Despite being unclear on the type of submarine the US will select for Taiwan, the first of the eight non-nuclear submarines will not be delivered until 2013, the official said.

"The timetable makes sense only on condition that the US finalizes its selection of submarines by the end of the year. After the type of submarine has been selected, we will spend four years on pre-construction preparation work and six years on construction," he said.

"So we will have to wait for a total of 10 years for the first of the eight submarines to be delivered to the country," he said.

It was the first time that the navy went into such depth on the topic of the submarine deal with the US.

The estimated cost of the deal are much higher than what was initially reported by the press. The reported figures ranged between NT$150 billion and NT$200 billion, but never as high as NT$400 billion or NT$500 billion.

The navy's high estimates show that the military will need much more money than the estimated special budget of NT$520 billion for the purchase of new weapon systems in the next 10 years.