Taiwan has all but given up on acquiring diesel-electric submarines from the US and is expected to embark on a domestic program with assistance from abroad, a leading defense analyst told the Taipei Times.
Longstanding plans to augment Taiwan’s small and aging submarine fleet gained momentum in 2001, when the administration of US president George W. Bush offered to provide eight diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan for about US$12 billion.
With efforts going nowhere, in 2003 the Pentagon suggested that Taiwan consider buying refurbished submarines from Italy, and Rome reportedly agreed to sell four Nazario Sauro-class boats and an additional four following their decommissioning by the Italian Navy. However, Taipei rejected the offer, saying it wanted new submarines.
As a result of political wrangling in Taiwan’s legislature, moves by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the US to appease Beijing amid efforts at cross-strait reconciliation, and pressure from China on Washington, Bush’s deal never materialized.
During a meeting with American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt in January, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated Taiwan’s desire to acquire submarines from the US, which some analysts interpreted as a sign of renewed commitment. Despite this, the arms package announced to the US Congress by US President Barack Obama in October did not include submarines or even a feasibility study.
Another problem that has haunted the sale is the fact that the US has not produced diesel submarines since the 1950s.
This could be about to change, with a US defense analyst familiar with the Taiwanese military saying he feels positive the navy will move ahead on the submarine program in the not-so-distant future.
Mark Stokes, executive director at the US-based Project 2049 Institute and a vocal proponent of a submarine program for Taiwan, said the Ministry of National Defense had given up on acquiring submarines from the US and had decided to launch an indigenous program with foreign assistance.
Military sources claim that research on submarine building has been launched and that the navy is trying to acquire production know-how from abroad.
The ministry has reportedly commissioned a local shipbuilder to contract a country other than the US capable of building submarines for cooperation in building non-nuclear-powered boats.
The Naval Shipbuilding Development Center under Navy Command has been very busy studying the blueprints of the navy’s two Hai Lung-class submarines — Taiwan’s only combat-ready subs — which were acquired from the Netherlands in the late 1980s.
Naval authorities are also reportedly readying to send personnel abroad to study production technology or negotiate technology transfers for building pressure-resistant hulls, which sources say is the most challenging aspect in building submarines.
Stokes said a good number of countries have the capabilities sought by Taiwan.
In the initial stage, the navy could limit its domestic program to small subs in the hundreds of deadweight tonnage, the report said.
Weighing in, James Holmes, an associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College, told the Taipei Times that Taipei was right to give up on the US as a supplier of submarines, as this was never going to happen.
“Anti-submarine warfare is a People’s Liberation Army Navy Achilles’ heel,” he said, adding that “in the abstract a Taiwanese submarine force would be ideal.”
However, this would be a very long-term project whose outcome remains uncertain, Holmes said.
“The general concepts are well known, but there are countless intricacies to converting a design on paper to a real fighting implement,” he said. “There is no substitute for actually going through the learning process of designing, building and operating complex platforms.”
Holmes nevertheless believes Taiwan should focus instead on small craft analogous to China’s Type 022 Houbei fast attack missile boat, which in his view would be a better investment, and come without the delay and uncertainty involved in fielding a proven submarine design.
“If I were advising President Ma or his successor, I would advise them to put the island’s finite resources into platforms that Taiwanese shipwrights know how to build, that can be at sea in the relatively near future and that Taiwan navy crews have some experience operating,” he said.
IN A HURRY: The 199,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine expire on May 31, so the CECC might expand vaccine eligibility, but distribution would begin in a week at the earliest The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines allocated to Taiwan through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing program arrived yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said, adding that, after testing, it would be able to distribute them by Monday next week at the earliest. The 199,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were shipped from Amsterdam on a China Airlines (中華航空) plane and arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 5:21am. After the cargo was examined and release procedures were completed at the airport, the Aviation Police Bureau escorted the vehicles carrying the vaccines to a cold chain storage facility. Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General
HEATED TRAFFIC: As Beijing holds naval drills near Taiwan, the Ministry of National Defense said it had a full grasp of the situation and would handle it ‘appropriately’ A Chinese carrier group exercising near Taiwan is part of what are to be regular drills, the Chinese navy said in a statement late on Monday, further escalating tensions between Taipei and Beijing. The group, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, was conducting “routine” drills in the waters around Taiwan, a move to “enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests,” the statement said. “Similar exercises will be conducted regularly,” it said, without elaborating. The statement came after the Ministry of National Defense earlier on Monday issued a statement regarding a rise in the number of incursions by Chinese jets into
AIMED AT TAIWAN? Institute for National Defense and Security Research research fellow Ou Si-fu said chips can be ‘bought off the shelf’ and then used in weapons The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday said that chips from Taiwanese semiconductor companies were not making their way into Chinese missiles “to the best of our knowledge.” A report in yesterday’s Washington Post alleged that a Chinese company named Phytium Technology Co (飛騰) used chips made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), along with US software, in advanced Chinese military systems. “TSMC has long placed strict controls on their chips. The export of high-tech products from Taiwan is also highly regulated,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said. “According to our understanding, none of the end uses for those products
NO TIME: The driver tried to apply the brakes when he saw the truck, but the train did not have time to come to a full stop, an investigation report said The crane truck that caused last week’s fatal train accident had slid onto the tracks about one-and-a-half minutes before it was struck, the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. The board had launched an investigation into the derailment, which killed 50 people and injured 211 people, making it the nation’s most devastating railway accident in decades. Carrying 494 passengers and four Taiwan Railways Administration personnel, the southbound express train to Taitung hit the truck as it was about to enter the Cingshuei Tunnel (清水隧道) in Hualien’s Sioulin Township (秀林). The train derailed following the collision, with the left side of the eighth