Taiwan to draw on submarine upgrade experience to build own subs

04/05/2017 03:37 PM
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One of the Chien-Lung class submarines (CNA file photo)
One of the Chien-Lung class submarines (CNA file photo)

Taipei, April 5 (CNA) Taiwan will draw on the experience of an ongoing program to upgrade two of its aging submarines to support a project to build the country's own submarines, an institute contracted to conduct the programs said Wednesday.

National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) officials said in a report prepared for a legislative hearing Wednesday that the institute has completed an evaluation of periscope upgrades for the two Chien Lung-class submarines and has begun reviewing a design to upgrade their weapons systems.

That experience, the report said, will help support the defense ministry's indigenous submarine project.

The report said the institute is discussing a design for the weapons systems of the planned home-grown submarines and other issues with shipbuilder CSBC Corp. -- the contractor of Taiwan's indigenous submarines.

A total of NT$2.9 billion (US$95.34 million) will be budgeted from December 2016 to December 2020 for the design of the ships, according to a report presented by the Ministry of National Defense to the Legislature on the country's indigenous submarine and jet trainer programs.

Military officials added at Wednesday's hearing that the local submarine program aims to build eight ships and will still need assistance and technologies from the United States to carry out the program.

In late March, CSBC Corp. and the NCSIST signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan's Navy in Kaohsiung to jointly build submarines for the military.

The first home-grown submarines will be built within eight years and will be able to be commissioned into service within a decade, the shipbuilder said.

As for the program to upgrade the two Chien Lung-class submarines Taiwan purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980s, the NCSIST said in its report that it will refer to the design of weapons systems on other naval ships and enlist the help of foreign defense companies to extend the life of the aging submarines.

The program will also rely primarily on domestically manufactured components in an attempt to boost the country's defense industry, the report said.

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.

Taiwan currently has four submarines in Navy's fleet, including two World War II-era ships purchased from the U.S. in the 1970s.

As for the indigenous advanced jet trainer program, a design for the aircraft's exterior and interior has been completed and an initial review of the design of the aircraft is scheduled for May, the NCSIST said in its report.

The first aircraft under the program, which has a budget of NT$68.6 billion, is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2019, it said.

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

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