The submarine game in East Asia is heating up, with multiple new submarines being constructed. Japan recently launched the first of the new Taigei-class. South Korea launched the second KSS-III class boat, and there is evidence that China is building new nuclear submarines. Not to be left behind, Taiwan is moving forward with its first indigenous submarine design. A brand new shipyard was set up in Kaohsiung (Southern Taiwan) for this ambitious program.
According to a CSBC press statement, President Tsai Ing-wen, CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung, NSC Secretary General Gu Li-hsiung, Deputy Secretary General Chen Wen-zheng, Minister of National Defense Yim Te-fa, Chief of Staff Huang Shu-guang, and Navy Commander Liu Chi-bin presided over the “Commencement Ceremony of the Construction of the National Submarine Project” at CSBC’s Kaohsiung factory.
Senior military officers told local media that the prototype submarine will be fitted with ‘high-efficiency batteries developed and produced by domestic manufacturers” instead of an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. This most likely refers to the use of Lithium Ion battery technology.
“The weight and volume are lighter and smaller than the traditional battery. The battery kinetic energy and battery life are far better than traditional batteries. The general stated that this domestically-made high-efficiency battery has been certified by a well-known international shipping company and will be installed on the prototype national-built submarine. Follow-up ships of the national-built submarine program will also follow this path, and all of them will be fitted with domestically-made high-efficiency batteries. […] AIP systems are subject to export control in all countries that produce them and their acquisition cost is very expensive. Taiwanese submarines will use high-efficiency batteries produced in Taiwan, because the overall benefit is higher than purchasing AIP systems abroad”.
Taipei Times quoting a military official
It will be armed with MK-48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology heavyweight torpedoes, UGM-84L sub-launched Harpoon Block II missiles, and other combat and digital sonar systems provided by US suppliers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, Taiwanese naval officials said.
After four years of hard work, CSBC has overcome all the difficulties and finally finished the preparation for construction. According to the contract, the construction period will take 78 months, including the construction of the factory and all the preparation time. The prototype is scheduled to be delivered to the navy in 2025.
Cheng Wen-lon, China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC)’s chairman
About Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) Project
The ROC Navy and local shipyard China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) signed a construction contract for a prototype submarine as part of the Indigenous Defense Submarine project (IDS) in May 2019. According to the initial schedule, the design of the prototype will be completed by the end of the year and its delivery to the ROC Navy is expected for 2025.
According to Covert Shores, the new design builds on the Hai Lung class, keeping a similar form but deviating notably by X-form rudders and a more contemporary sail. This implies that it will be double-hulled with a relatively conventional internal arrangement.
The new design appears to be based on the Dutch design heritage, which makes sense as Taiwan operates two Dutch designed boats. The fitting of new battery technologies, probably lithium-ion, will put the design into the upper tier of non-nuclear submarines. Other countries are also building submarines with these battery technologies, notably Japan, South Korea and Italy. Navies have been slow to adopt lithium-ion batteries for submarines due to safety concerns, They are too prone to fire. Countries which are pushing ahead with this technology however believe that they have solved this problem. For Taiwan, coming in fresh, this may be a fresh challenge however.
H I Sutton from Covert Shores.
Taiwan’s current submarine force
The ROC Navy has two ageing Chien Lung-class submarines built in the Netherlands in the 1980ies as well as two “vintage” Hai Shih-class (former U.S. Navy Tench-class SSKs transfered to Taiwan in 1973).
Prior to their transfer to the ROC Navy, the United States sealed up the 10 torpedo tubes ( six forward and four aft ) of the submarines. Rumor has it however that the torpedo tubes were reactivated a long time ago.
The Chien Lung-class is currently fitted with German-made AEG SUT 264 heavyweight torpedoes. Decision to replace the German torpedoes by American ones was made back in 2011. Nine years later, it looks like the deal will finally go through: The United States’ State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Taiwan of eighteen MK 48 Mod6 Advanced Technology (AT) Heavyweight Torpedoes (HWT) back in May this year.
Given the age of both classes of submarines (which will almost certainly require some upgrade work, at least in their combat management systems), the MK 48 will likely be intended for Taiwan’s future submarine class which is set to be delivered in just five years (as seemingly “confirmed” by local naval officers).