Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine, armed with U.S. made heavyweight torpedoes is set to enter sea trails next month for delivery to the navy in 2024.
Amid China’s growing intimidatory air and sea patrols around the island nation which it claims as its ‘province,’ the submarine will act as a deterrence against Beijing’s warships including its aircraft carriers.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to launch the first of eight new submarines on September 28. The submarine will be equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis combat management system besides MK-48 heavyweight torpedoes, one of the most potent undersea weapons in the U.S. Navy’s arsenal.
The MK-48 heavyweight torpedo has top speed of 55 knots and a range of up to 50 kilometers. It features advanced guidance systems, both active and passive homing, and a formidable heavyweight warhead for devastating impact. It is equipped with superior acoustic sensors and adaptability for diverse mission profiles.
Reuters quoted Admiral Huang Shu-kuang, who is leading the indigenous submarine program as saying, “If we can build up this (submarine) combat capacity, I don’t think we will lose a war (against China).”
Taiwan's fleet of 10 submarines, which includes two Dutch-made ones from the 1980s, will complicate China's ability to project power into the Pacific, he emphasized. Its goal is to have a minimum of two newly developed submarines, produced domestically, operational by 2027.
The first submarine, priced at T$49.36 billion ($1.54 billion), is set to begin sea trials next month. Taiwan plans to leave space for submarine-launched anti-ship missiles in subsequent models, contingent on production availability in the U.S., where capacity is already tight.
Huang stressed that Taiwan's diesel-electric submarines can effectively deter China within the first island chain, which spans from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, and on to Borneo, encircling China's coastal waters. This aligns with the strategic concept of the U.S. military to contain China within this island chain.
China's active navy near Taiwan's eastern coast has raised concerns about a potential attack. Submarines will play a crucial role in safeguarding Taiwan's Pacific supply route and deterring Chinese ships from the east.
Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng expressed concerns about the increased frequency of China's military activities around Taiwan, raising the risk of accidental clashes leading to broader conflicts. Over the last fortnight, numerous fighters, drones, bombers, and various aircraft, alongside warships, including the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, have been conducting operations in close proximity.
Taiwan sought help from other countries to build submarines
Taiwan's submarine project received assistance from seven nations, despite limited diplomatic ties. Project lead Huang sought export permits from countries including the United States, Japan, South Korea, and India. A retired British rear admiral and his team played a vital role in securing permits from Britain through a Gibraltar-based company. Notably, Britain significantly increased submarine parts and technology exports to Taiwan last year.
Taiwan faced challenges, including a global chip shortage and a supplier withdrawal due to leaks to the Chinese embassy. Both Taiwan and the U.S. are reevaluating their defense strategies, emphasizing larger boats in response to China's growing military presence in its territorial waters and airspace.