Taiwan-based China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) inaugurated a new submarine development center in Kaohsiung in the southwestern part of the country to support the company’s bid for a government contract to build the Republic of China Navy’s (RoCN) new fleet of six to eight diesel-electric submarines, Formosa News reports.
According to the Chairman of CSBC, Cheng Wen-lon, the company has been planning this new center for the past ten years. CSBC has produced 116 ships of various types for the RoCN and the country’s coast guard between 1975 and 2015. However, chairman was adamant that the company will need technical assistance from abroad to build the new subs.
“The government wants to build Taiwan’s first submarine and more vessels for use by the navy and various government agencies,” the chairman said during the ceremony. “We are ready to offer our full support to the government and will seek technical assistance from abroad.” In June, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense announced that it will allocated NT$470 billion (US$14.84 billion) between 2018 and 2040 on 12 shipbuilding projects.
However, the plan to field a new fleet of domestically-designed submarines goes back a bit further, as I noted elsewhere (See: “Taiwan to Upgrade 2 Submarines”):
Taiwan announced in late December 2014 that it will domestically start building a fleet of indigenous submarines under the so-called Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) program. The program’s aim is to construct eight attack submarines over the next decade. The program design phase is slated to begin this year. The first boat could be launched as early as 2024 and enter service with the ROCN two years later.
CSBC plans to design the new submarine by the end of this year. Yet, as I reported previously:
Taiwan lacks the expertise to jumpstart such an ambitious defense program and delays as well as cost overruns will be likely. European and American shipbuilders will, in all likelihood, help in some capacity, although it appears improbable that the United States or European countries will agree to substantial technology transfers for an indigenous submarine program given the People’s Republic of China’s likely reaction and the threat of an overall deterioration of China-West relations.
The ROCN currently operates four submarines – two World War II-era U.S.-made Guppy-class subs and two Dutch-built Hai Lung-class (improved Dutch Zwaardvis-class) class submarines commissioned in the late 1980s. In April, the navy has announced a $12.35 million life extension program that will upgrade the two Hai-Lung class submarines — the Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) 793 and Hai Hu (Sea Tiger) 794—and fit them with a new combat system, among other things. The ROCN also intends to purchase U.S.-made Mk 48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) torpedoes.