Amid China’s muscle-flexing, Taiwan has started building its first indigenous submarine. The Island nation will be receiving imported components for its indigenous submarine program, including battlefield integration systems and digital sonar equipment in January at the earliest.
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The Central News Agency has reported that the United States has approved the export of battlefield integration and digital sonar technology, with military officials predicting an early 2021 delivery date. The National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) is overseeing the submarine project, in partnership with the Taiwanese Navy and CSBC Corporation.
Taiwan has expedited arms procurement from the US amid rising Chinese aggression. China has warned that it will go to the extent of using force to keep Taiwan as part of its mainland.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attended the commencement ceremony for its first self-developed submarine at CSBC’s Kaohsiung City shipyard on November 24. The sea trials for the vessel are expected to take place in 2025.
Proud to launch our #MadeInTaiwan submarine program. Thanks to everyone who helped us overcome all obstacles, erase all doubts, & begin domestic production. We’re more determined than ever to continue developing our self-defense industries & safeguard our sovereignty & democracy. pic.twitter.com/AMeihG0g4b
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) November 24, 2020
The new design is being built on the Hai Lung-class, keeping a similar form but deviating notably by X-form rudders and a more contemporary sail, which means that it will be double-hulled with a relatively conventional internal arrangement.
Senior military officers have told local media that the prototype submarine will be fitted with ‘high-efficiency batteries developed and produced by domestic manufacturers” instead of an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system.
They have revealed that it will be armed with MK-48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology heavyweight torpedoes, UGM-84L sub-launched Harpoon Block II missiles, and other combat and digital sonar systems provided by the US suppliers, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Currently, the ROC has two aging Chien Lung-class submarines built in the Netherlands in the 1980s as well as two “vintage” Hai Shih-class (former U.S. Navy Tench-class SSKs transferred to Taiwan in 1973).
The Chien Lung-class is currently fitted with German-made AEG SUT 264 heavyweight torpedoes. In 2011, the decision was taken to replace the German torpedoes with American ones. Earlier this year, the US State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Taiwan of 18 MK 48 Mod6 Advanced Technology (AT) Heavyweight Torpedoes (HWT).
As per media reports, the MK 48 will likely be intended for Taiwan’s future submarine class which is set to be delivered in just five years.