Taiwan progressed with domestically designed submarine

First indigenous defence submarine to be launched in five years, shipbuilder says as construction work begins, according to Taiwanese media.

Taiwan has revealed details of its home-built submarine as President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to bolster the self-ruled island’s navy power to counter possible attacks from the mainland.

The vessel will have an X-shaped stern resembling Japan’s diesel-electric Soryu-class attack submarine, and the shipbuilder announced on Thursday that the first one is expected to be launched in 2024.

“Our first indigenous defence submarine is expected to be launched 60 months from now, and delivery will be completed in 78 months,” said Cheng Wen-lon, chairman of Taiwanese company CSBC Shipbuilding, during a ceremony in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.

The shipbuilder has won the NT$49.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) contract to build a prototype submarine after the island was unable to find foreign suppliers, who came under pressure from Beijing.

In 2001, then US president George W Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines to the island, but delivery was never made, partly because the US no longer built such vessels. Germany and Spain reportedly declined to sell their designs to Taiwan out of fear of provoking Beijing.AdvertisementTaiwan’s indigenous defence submarine (IDS) project – its quest to develop and build its own submarines – received a boost last year when the administration of US President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for American weapon suppliers to market submarine technology to the island.

“Beginning this afternoon, we will start constructing various plant facilities for our project,” Cheng said in Thursday’s breaking ground ceremony for building the state-of-the-art facilities that will enable construction and repair of the eight submarines Taiwan aims to build.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen inspects the model of the island’s first indigenous submarine at Thursday’s ceremony. Photo: AP
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen inspects the model of the island’s first indigenous submarine at Thursday’s ceremony. Photo: AP

Cheng said his company was equipped to undertake the project with the aid of the military, the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology – the island’s top weapon design and research agency – and a 166-member team of top engineers and technology experts.

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He said that CSBC had already completed a heavy cargo wharf with capacity to load 30 metric tons per square metre, and that the expected completion of plant facilities next year would allow submarine construction to begin soon.

Tsai said at the ceremony that, despite scepticism about the project, its progress offered “solid proof that Taiwan can make it”.The president said building the submarines was highly important and necessary because “they are capable of deterring hostile vessels from surrounding Taiwan”, referring to the warships that Beijing has sent to sail or stage war games near the island.

“Being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I have the resolution and courage to lead all [Taiwanese forces] to take on the challenges,” she said.

The IDS programme is a key part of Tsai’s defence policy in the face of mounting tensions across the Taiwan Strait. It aims to build a fleet of eight diesel-electric submarines to replace Taiwan’s four ageing vessels, to boost its defences as Beijing ramps up pressure.

According to Taiwanese media reports, several US firms have started providing CSBC with the technology needed for the construction projects since Washington gave the green light for them to negotiate contracts.

It was reported that India, Japan, France and Germany also expressed interest on the Taiwanese submarine project,– offered technical assistance to design and build diesel-electric submarines in Taiwanese shipyards.

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