Taiwan’s military said on Thursday it has already begun the process of designing a long-sought-after domestic attack submarine, hoping to complete it in 2024.
Navy Command Headquarters Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mei Chia-shu told a legislative committee session: “We plan to complete the design by 2019 and complete the construction by 2024.”
Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said “outside pressure” was the biggest factor and challenge for the project, referring to mainland China. The mainland considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province that should be reunited with the rest of the country.
The submarine is part of the navy’s 15-year plans to rebuild its military might and strengthen the island’s defence industry. The plan was first announced in 2014 and the ministry established a task force last month to help push the project forward.
No countries have been willing to provide Taiwan with a design blueprint, mainly due to fears of political consequences from mainland China. Mei said the navy was planning to obtain the design blueprint from the Netherlands, the country that designed and built two of the island’s diesel-powered submarines.
Mei said the navy signed a contract with a Dutch company earlier this year to extend the lifespan of the two subs so Taiwan could use the design blueprint as the basis for the construction of the first home-built submarine.
The navy is planning to commission the Ship and Ocean Industries R&D Centre to be mainly responsible for the design and the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology for the integration of the combat system.
Mei did not reveal who the builder would be, but a report obtained by Kyodo News showed the navy was planning to award the contract to CSBC Corp Taiwan.
The report also indicated that Taiwan was capable of building 70 per cent of the turbine system of the submarine, 50 per cent of the outer hull, 30 per cent of the motor system and 30 per cent of the combat system.
Besides obtaining the design blueprint from the Netherlands, the navy also needs the support of other countries capable of building submarines, according to Deputy Chief of the General Staff Admiral Pu Tze-chun.
Pu declined to specify which countries have been contacted.
Other countries that have the capability of building submarines include France, Germany, Sweden, India, Japan and the United States.
The United States, which agreed in 2001 to sell Taiwan eight non-nuclear submarines, has promised to help Taiwan build attack submarines.
However, since then the deal has failed to move forward due to technical and political constraints.
Citing Australia’s recent agreement to engage a French defence firm to construct submarines for its navy, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng warned Taiwan’s navy not to repeat the same “failure”.
Lo said Australia spent a significant amount of money on the contract after wasting time and money trying to build domestic vessels.