Taiwan hoping to launch home-grown submarines within a decade

03/21/2017 04:45 PM
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Kaohsiung, March 21 (CNA) Taiwan is hoping to build its first home-grown submarines within eight years and commission them into service within a decade, the local shipbuilder commissioned to carry out the submarine program said Tuesday.

CSBC Corp. Taiwan Chairman Cheng Wen-lon (鄭文龍) acknowledged there were problems to be worked out because Taiwan lacks any experience in building submarines, but he said the difficulties were being addressed.

He also noted that CSBC Corp. has built more than 100 ships for the Navy and said the company would use that experience in developing the local submarine program.

Cheng's comments came after the shipbuilder and the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan's Navy in Kaohsiung earlier in the day to jointly build submarines for the military.

The project is part of a broader initiative to develop an independent national defense industry.

Under Tuesday's MOU, the project will have two main phases. The first will be to complete the design for the subs and have a budget of approximately NT$2 billion (US$65.64 million), Cheng said.

The second stage will involve building the submarines, he said, without giving any cost projections for the vessels or estimates of how many submarines might be built.

According to the schedule, home-grown submarines will be completed within eight years and then formally commissioned into service within a decade, he said.

Cheng was coy when asked about the planned submarines' design and whether it would be based on the designs of existing submarines in the Navy's fleet, which were purchased from the United States in the 1970s and the Netherlands in the 1980s.

"The design will be based on a model that meets the need of Taiwan's self-defense," he said.

NCSIST Vice President Gao Chung-hsing (杲中興) said the most important part of the program is a system to integrate all of the equipment and ensure the safety of ships operating underwater.

The NCSIST will cooperate with CSBC Corp. in these areas, Gao said.

Tuesday's signing was also witnessed by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who said the construction of submarines is the most challenging aspect of Taiwan's policy to create an independent national defense industry.

Taiwan has long tried to acquire submarines from other countries with little success because of their reluctance to upset China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory rather than recognizing it as an independent state.

U.S. President George W. Bush authorized the sale of eight diesel electric submarines to Taiwan in 2001, but the deal never came to fruition because of political wrangling in Taiwan and questions over whether the U.S., which did not produce conventional submarines at the time, could actually supply the vessels.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ls

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