After more than a decade of delays and reversals, the navy has confirmed that it will embark on a domestic submarine program next year, with a prototype to be delivered within three to four years.
Taiwanese and US sources told the Taipei Times earlier this month that officials from the Taiwanese Navy had briefed a small group of legislators from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during a classified meeting late last month or early this month. Legislators from the Democratic Progressive Party are also said to have attended the meeting.
While not mentioning the initial meeting with legislators, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that the navy would brief senior government officials and legislators on the issue and seek budgets for the program within two months.
One US source, who has been actively involved in efforts to procure submarines for Taiwan over the years, told the Taipei Times in a meeting on Feb. 11 that an unspecified budget for the 2013 financial year has been set aside for a domestic diesel-electric submarine program, which would involve a unique design and assistance from one or a number of foreign countries.
The navy is reportedly aiming for a design with a relatively light displacement of between 1,000 tonnes and 1,500 tonnes.
A navy official told the Taipei Times earlier this month that the acquisition of submarines from the US remains the preferred option and that the door — at least on Taipei’s side — has not been closed on such a course of action.
However, after more than a decade of aborted efforts following the offer by the administration of former US president George W. Bush in 2001 to provide eight diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan for the sum of about US$12 billion, Taipei has since resigned itself to the reality that it will likely have to build them itself or acquire them from a third party, analysts say.
Local media have reported that three countries have expressed an interest in either assisting Taiwan develop its own submarine prototype or selling it ships recently decommissioned from their own fleets.
Although it did not exclude such a possibility, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday would not provide confirmation on the matter.
One country, Germany, has often been rumored to be a possible candidate for the program. However, an official at the German Institute, Taipei denied yesterday any knowledge of such efforts as being underway.
Greece has been another country that has been rumored as a possible candidate, although the economic crisis that has beset the country could make it difficult to realize such efforts.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who sits on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said yesterday that acquiring submarines from abroad would be difficult, as most countries that manufacture them enjoy good relations with Beijing and were reluctant to risk compromising those ties over the sale of submarines to Taiwan.
Lin said a more feasible alternative would be for Taiwan to consult with international naval experts to develop its own subs.
The Taipei Times reported in December last year that naval authorities were readying to send personnel abroad to study production technology or to negotiate technology transfers to develop pressure-resistant hulls, which are said to be among the most challenging aspects in building submarines.
Additional difficulties for domestic shipbuilders could also arise from an alleged decision by the US Navy to bar top US defense firms, such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Corp, among others, from participating in Taiwan’s submarine program,both under a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) program or Direct Commercial Sale (DCS), which requires approval from the State Department.
The US-based source with good knowledge of the matter confirmed as much during the discussion earlier this month, and if true, the directive could have a significant impact on the ability of the Taiwanese navy to integrate torpedo and ballistic missile systems, along with the electronic suites, into the submarines.
Ahead of the notification for the US$5.8 billion arms package to Taiwan announced in September last year, Taiwanese negotiators reportedly told Washington that a compromise for not obtaining the 66 F-16C/D aircraft Taipei was seeking could be the resumption of Phase 1 efforts on a submarine design.
Although the F-16 aircraft were not included in the notification, the US Department of State and the US National Security Council are said to have smacked down the proposed compromise, forcing Taiwan to go it alone.
In addition to expected pressure from Beijing on Washington not to assist Taiwan on the program, the US Navy is reportedly wary of seeing additional undersea vessels in the narrow Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, fearing that the increased traffic could lead to accidents.
Regional navies are also said to be failing to abide by customary navigation rules for undersea forces by ignoring the pre-established depths and “corridors” — similar to the air corridors used for civilian aviation — to avoid collisions.
NOVEMBER ELECTIONS: The KMT urged the CECC to exclude Taiwanese from the arrivals cap, as they would lose their right to vote if they could not return by July 26 The COVID-19-related border control measures and the cap on the number of international arrivals are not being eased, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday as it reported 112 imported cases of the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is CECC spokesperson, said a meeting was held yesterday morning in which the Cabinet decided that current border control measures would remain in place. He said the main considerations were global COVID-19 cases increasing 21 percent last week, imported cases of Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 continuing to be detected
Samsung Electronics Co yesterday commenced mass production of 3-nanometer chips that are more powerful and efficient than predecessors, beating rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) to a key milestone in the race to build the most advanced chips in the world. South Korea’s largest company said in a statement that it was beginning with 3-nanometer semiconductors for high-performance and specialized low-power computing applications before expanding to mobile processors. By applying so-called Gate-All-Around transistor architecture, Samsung’s 3-nanometer products reduce power consumption by up to 45 percent and improve performance by 23 percent compared with 5-nanometer chips, it said. Samsung’s push to be first
Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung (張學友) has been criticized by the “Little Pink” — a term used to describe young, jingoistic Chinese nationalists on the Web — for saying “Hong Kong jia you [加油, an expression of encouragement].” To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule on Friday, China Central Television made a series of programs in which it interviewed Cheung and other celebrities. Cheung, speaking in Cantonese, said in the interview that “Hong Kong has been through a lot in the past 25 years, including ups and downs” and ended with the phrase “Hong
‘STRONG SUPPORT’: Liberal International expressed concern over Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s airspace, saying they could undermine regional peace Liberal International on Saturday passed a “World Today Resolution” recognizing the threat that China poses to Taiwan, while supporting Taipei’s inclusion in international organizations. Liberal International was established in 1947 as a federation of liberal political parties from around the world. Last week, it held its 63rd congress in Sofia, Bulgaria, which was attended by 221 representatives from 58 countries. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), in her capacity as chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), delivered a speech in a pre-recorded video at the congress’ opening on Thursday. DPP spokeswoman Hsieh Pei-fen (謝佩芬) yesterday said the party, which has been a member of