Staff, The China Post
1 November 2015
Taiwan is looking to Europe as an alternative to the United States as a source of technological assistance in an effort to build submarines domestically, a report said yesterday.
A delegation from Taiwan's Navy already visited submarine makers in Europe in September, the United Evening News said.
The revelation comes on the heels of opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman and presidential nominee Tsai Ing-wen's vow to step up efforts for the Navy to build submarines locally if elected president.
According to the paper, two European suppliers expressed willingness to help Taiwan obtain parts and components it needed to extend the service of the country's two aging Chienlung-class submarines — assistance that the Navy could leverage for its submarine building bid.
The Chienlung-class Hai Lung and Hai Hu are the only two submarines in active service in Taiwan. They were manufactured in the Netherlands in the 1980s based on the Dutch Navy's Zwaardvis-class submarines, but the Navy has had difficulties obtaining replacement parts and components for them.
Taiwan's Navy has another two U.S.-built submarines from the World World II era, but they are only for training purposes.
The U.S. government has promised to sell Taiwan new diesel-powered submarines, but there has not been any significant progress made.
Faced with growing threats from mainland China's expanding naval power, Taiwan's Navy has been desperate both to prolong the service lives of the Chienlung vessels as well as obtain new submarines either by buying from others or building them on its own.
The Navy hopes that the outside help in extending the use of the Chienlung vessels could give it access to some of the technical know-how that would allow it to conduct reverse engineering, the United Evening News said.
The Navy hopes the reverse engineering could give birth to Taiwan's own designs for locally built submarines.
It is looking to spend NT$3 billion in the next four years on a project to produce Taiwan's first-ever submarine blueprint, the paper said.
The Navy meanwhile has also allocated a budget of NT$300 million for the military-run National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology to develop upgrades for the Chienlung submarines' electronic warfare systems, the paper added.
But the Navy has not given up the hope of obtaining submarines from the United States.
Tsai said Thursday that if she is elected, her administration will introduce a project to develop a 1,500-ton submarine prototype next year.
Tsai said the plan is to have the first domestically developed submarine enter service within 10 years, and mass production of the submarines would then begin.
The submarine project is part of the DPP candidate's policy to revitalize the local defense industry.