Talk of the Day -- Taiwan Thinking of Building its Own Submarines

Taiwan is evaluating the feasibility of building submarines on its own with technical assistance from the United States, according to a local newspaper.

The U.S. government approved the sale of eight diesel-powered submarines to Taiwan in 2001, but no progress has been made on the project since then.

Frustrated by the country's inability to procure submarines, Taiwan's military has gradually changed its attitude from "waiting for U.S. approval" to considering building submarines on its own with U.S. technological support, the United Daily News (UDN) said in a special report Monday.

The shift became even more evident after Yen Ming became defense minister and Adm. Chen Yung-kang took over the helm of the Navy Command Headquarters, according to the paper.

The following are excerpts from the UDN special report on the submarine-related issues:

Both the military and local shipbuilding community are assessing the feasibility of building conventional diesel-powered submarines at home instead of procuring them from the U.S.

A shipbuilding industry association is scheduled to come up with a comprehensive assessment report by June 2014.

Sources familiar with the Navy's submarine procurement project cited several reasons why the potential deal with the United States has remained stalemated.

First, the U.S. asked Taiwan to pay a contract design fee of more than NT$10 billion (US$338.36 million) even before the type of submarine to be sold to Taiwan was determined.

Partisan wrangling over the issue at the time prompted Taiwan's Legislature to balk at making the upfront payment.
A more critical obstacle to progress lies in the U.S. Navy's reluctance to build diesel-electric submarines at a U.S. shipyard because it fears that Congress would ask it to buy the conventional submarines to save money if an American shipyard had the capability to build such a ship.

Acting on the instructions of Defense Minister Yen, the Navy sponsored a closed-door seminar at the Armed Forces Club in Taipei in late November to discuss the feasibility of building submarines in Taiwan.

Adm. Chen chaired the meeting, which was attended by representatives from government agencies as well as academia and the private sector.

All participants reportedly agreed to list "building submarines locally" as an option.

Military and shipbuilding industry executives admitted that Taiwan still cannot build torpedoes, sonar, propulsion systems, combat systems and submarine periscope lenses.

Taiwan also needs to upgrade its blueprint design technology, they said.

Against this backdrop, they said Taiwan should seek U.S. technology transfer in those fields if it wants to build submarines at home.

A model used in Taiwan's building of Ching-kuo indigenous defense fighters (IDFs) in the past could be applied to the submarine building project, they said. U.S.-based General Dynamics had helped with IDF design. (Dec. 9, 2013). 

(By Sofia Wu) - [via]

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