Taiwan breaks ground on indigenous submarine shipyard

KAOHSIUNG (The China Post/ANN) - Taiwan has broken ground on a shipyard to produce eight diesel-powered submarines, highlighting the government’s determination to make the indigenous armaments industry a new priority.

The government has allocated NT$49 billion (US$1.61 billion) over seven years to build the submarine with the goal of boosting Taiwan’s defense capabilities in the face of China’s growing military might.

President Tsai Ing-wen, who presided over a ceremony on May 9 in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, said that developing indigenous defense systems aimed at boosting the Navy’s combat capabilities in asymmetrical warfare.

Submarines are an effective way to deter a foe from surrounding the island by sea, she added. “We, therefore, have no other choice but to build our own indigenous submarines.”

Taiwan operates four aged submarines, two of which were purchased from the United States in the 1970s, while the other two were bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s. Pressure from China, however, has prevented it from buying more abroad.

The submarine factory’s construction is scheduled to be completed next year, according to Cheng Wen-lon, chairman of CSBC Corp. Taiwan, the country’s largest shipbuilder, and builder of the submarine. The prototype submarine will be viable in five years before the first submarine is delivered a year and a half later, he said.

After overcoming challenges over the past years, authorities said that Taiwan has finally obtained export permits for the key technologies needed to design its own submarines.

Chinese-language media reported that the aforesaid submarines will feature an X-form rudder system instead of the traditional cross-shaped rudder.

The use of X-form rudders aims to improve underwater maneuverability, reduce collision risk when docking and lower noise from propeller flow interactions, F. S. Mei, director of the U.S.-based Taiwan Security Analysis Center, told the Central News Agency.

The Ministry of National Defense announced in March that the contract design phase of Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine project has been completed and a prototype will be ready by 2024.

The completion of the contract design was the first phase of the project, according to Defense Minister Yen De-fa. The project will now move to blueprint design, followed by the construction of a prototype and mass production, he added.