Author Topic: Taiwan’s Future Submarines Should Be Unmanned  (Read 1800 times)


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Taiwan’s Future Submarines Should Be Unmanned
« on: September 04, 2018, 04:22:32 PM »
From: The Diplomat - August 31, 2018
Having embarked on a program to develop indigenous submarines, the government of Taiwan is seeking to develop a new generation of submarines to replace its aging Chien Lung-class that has been in service for some three decades. With an operational lifespan that has already been extended, Taiwan sees the urgency for a new fleet of submarines to meet its growing 21st-century defense needs. With foreign sales of submarines (i.e., by Germany, Japan, and Israel) proving to be unrealistic, and its main armament and defense supplier, the United States, lacking older diesel submarines, Taiwan has opted to pursue its own design.

The Taiwan-based China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) – the country’s main ship-building company – sought the government contract and almost immediately initiated a submarine development center in Kaohsiung. Taiwan envisioned the development of eight to 12 submarines over the span of two decades, with the first system to enter into service in 2026. With the assistance of the United States – officialized when Congress voted for the defense act of 2018, offering Taiwan technical support for its submarine program – Taipei’s aim is to revamp the existing fleet. Well documented as asymmetric weapons, a new generation of submarines would serve Taiwan with instruments of deterrence, particularly given China’s relative shortcomings in its anti-submarine capabilities – something which Beijing actively has sought to reverse.

Despite its ambitions, Taiwan lacks experience in the field of submarine development. Its current arsenals are composed of 30-plus-year-old Dutch models and U.S. relics from World War II that have been around for roughly seven decades. Adding to this, the United States has not produced the type of diesel submarines that Taiwan initially sought to build for more than three decades, thus translating into a steep and demanding learning curve for the Taiwan defense industry. Thus the CSBC’s announcement explicitly underscored the need for foreign support. Production estimates in terms of costs and time will likely exceed initial estimates; the history of weapons development is scattered and nearly every ambitious case of development displayed exorbitant overruns. With its limited defense budget and deteriorating strategic balance vis-à-vis China, Taiwan is in a difficult position. Pressure for foreign support such as European technology remains. Time is another critical condition that Taiwan will have to deeply study. With the first submarine not becoming operational, at least in principle, until 2026, more than a decade will pass before Taiwan’s deployment of a single submarine, leaving an ever increasing gap in Taiwan’s defense architecture.