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DEFENSE/Taiwan's 1st domestically manufactured submarine ready for testing

09/25/2023 03:02 PM
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A model of a domestically manufactured submarine. CNA file photo
A model of a domestically manufactured submarine. CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 25 (CNA) Taiwan's first domestically built submarine prototype will begin underwater testing after it is launched in a ceremony presided over by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday, according to the leader of Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) program.

After the ceremony at local shipbuilder CSBC Corp.'s shipyard in Kaohsiung, the prototype, named "Hai Kun," will undergo a harbor acceptance test on Oct. 1, followed by a sea acceptance test, and hopefully be delivered to the Navy before the end of 2024, Huang Shu-kuang (黃曙光), convener of the IDS program, said during an internal briefing, which was attended by the media.

The IDS program has targeted building one domestically developed submarine by 2025 and another by 2027 that will be deployed to defend the waters around Taiwan and the area from Suao in Yilan to Yonaguni Island in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, Huang said.

These domestically made submarines mean that Taiwan's Navy will have a total of three combat-ready submarines by 2025 and four by 2027 if the two existing Chien Lung-class (Sword Dragon) subs bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s are included.

Taiwan also has two World War II vintage subs purchased from the United States in the 1970s, but the two U.S.-made Gabby class subs are now used for training purposes only.

According to Huang, the main objective of deploying the submarines is to prevent the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) from encircling Taiwan by blocking the country's access to other locations in the first island chain -- a number of islands including the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, the northern Philippines, Borneo and Taiwan.

Because northern Taiwan is located near Japan's southwestern islands, deploying submarines in the waters between the two nations can help leverage first island chain joint defense operations, Huang added.

The plan is for Japan's forces to defend the narrow Miyako Strait and prevent China's navy from entering the Pacific and launching an "anti-access/area denial" (A2/AD) operation against the U.S. military, he added.

Huang said that if Taiwan's northern waters were sealed off, the Bashi Channel and Balintang Channel -- between southern Taiwan and the Philippines -- would become crucial transit channels for China's military aircraft carriers and other fleets to enter the Philippine Sea.

Therefore, he said, Taiwan's military must also have enough submarines and naval forces to guard the Bashi and Balintang channels, and prevent the Chinese navy from encircling Taiwan.

Huang emphasized that the purpose of the domestically-built submarines is not to attack, but to defend Taiwan's waters.

Huang, a National Security Council adviser, added that to launch an attack on Taiwan, the PLA would need to deploy at least three carrier battle groups in waters to the northeast, southeast and southwest of the island. He said U.S. military strength would also need to decline to make it possible.

He predicted the PLA will have the ability to invade Taiwan by 2027 but will not necessarily do so, adding that Taiwan needs to focus on strengthening its asymmetric warfare capabilities.

Domestic submarine production is crucial in national defense independence and is also an indicator of Taiwan's advancement in asymmetric warfare, Huang said.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang and Evelyn Kao)


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