Taiwan set to design, build new, indigenous submarines

Taiwan's Defense ministry has approved the guidelines for the design and construction of an indigenous submarine. Design and development is slated to begin in 2016 and span over four years at a total cost of about US$95 million.

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ROCN SS-793 Hail Lung is one of two ex-Dutch Swordfish class submarine acquired from the Netherlands in 1982.
SS-793 Hai Lung has been operational with Taiwan's Navy since 1982.
SS-793 Hai Lung has been operational with Taiwan’s Navy since 1982.

Taiwan said Monday it was launching a project to build a fleet of eight indigenously designed submarines, after years spent waiting in vain for US models. AFP reported.

The Defense ministry at Taipei approved guidelines for the design of a four year contract for the design of an indigenous submarines. Work on the design is slated to begin in 2016 and span over four years at a total cost of about US$95 million. (Tw$3 billion). Preparatory work expected to begin this year is likely to include a study evaluating different alternative designs considering submarines ranging from 1,200 to 3,000 tons.

The Taiwanese navy ruled out the use of a large fleet of 120 ton midget submarines instead of using conventional submarines. The use of midget submarines was one of the alternative plans promoted by the US administration seeking to bolster the region’s military might against the Chinese expansion along the Pacific rim. Opponents didn’t exclude the midget submarine concept but not as an alternative for a fleet of full size submarines.

Taiwan currently operates two Hai Lung class submarines designated 793 and 794, acquired from Dutch Navy surplus in 1982. (these were formerly the Dutch ‘Swordfish’ class submarines). Taiwan was planning to buy additional four boats of this class but they were turned down by the Netherlands Government because of pressure from the People’s Republic of China.

Taiwan is operating two of the world’s oldest working submarines. The Hai Shin (SS-791) and WW II built submarines, both ex-USS Tusk (SS-426), and ex-USS Cutlass (SS-478). Both were built during WW II, and modernized to Guppy II class in 1949. The two submarines were transferred to Taiwan in the early 1970s and are still operational today, although not in combat ready role.

Taipei repeatedly requested the US to assist in renewing its submarine fleet. In 2001 then-US president George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington’s most comprehensive arms package to Taiwan since 1992. Since then, however, there has been little progress, as the US do not produce conventional submarine while other nations are reluctant to risk their business with China, by supplying arms to its rival – Taiwan.

The submarine modernization will be part of a major 20 year modernization of the entire navy. The plan includes commissioning 4-8 submarines of 1,200-3,000 tons each, build four destroyers of 10,000 tons, and 10-15 catamaran frigates of 3,000 tons (the first of this class was commissioned recently), and new amphibious ships.

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Republic of China Navy (ROCN) Hai Shih (SS-791) is the world’s oldest active submarine – it is the ex-USS Cutlass (SS-478), built during WWII. The two ex-Dutch submarines, Hai Hu (SS-794) and Hai Lung (SS-793) are seen in the background. The two Guppy II class submarines were acquired from the US Navy in 1972. Photo via HuronSerenity, Reddit.