On February 6, 2023, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) issued a press release, responding to some local media reports.
Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News (UDN), quoting an anonymous source, reported that senior government officials directed MND to draft special budgets for weapon systems procurement, which includes:
- 300 billion NTD (10 billion USD) for building the second to eighth Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) follow-ons.
- Develop a civilian spec UAV for military purpose, to build a UAV fleet.
- An “upgraded AEGIS variant of domestic built frigate”.
Taiwan’s MND stated the followings in the press release:
- The second to eighth submarines are program plans. The decision to build follow-on submarines (or not), shall be made after the prototype submarine have gone through all operational evaluation and trials. MND is not currently drafting budgets in relations to the follow-on IDS.
- The mass production of civilian spec UAV for military purpose, has been a part of the annual regular budget to be implemented since the policy was decided. MND have never been drafting special budget for this program.
- There is no so-called “Domestic built upgraded AEGIS frigate variant” program. The program to build frigates will be conducted carefully, taking enemy threats, program plans regulations, national defense budgets into consideration, to meet the need of defense operations.
The MND, in its press release, also urges the public to not speculate about its financial planning with unilateral information, to avoid negative impacts on force building and combat readiness.
First IDS launched in September 2023
UP MEDIA quoted an anonymous source saying that the IDS prototype is scheduled to be launched on September 2023. The IDS systems of will be tested on ground for at least 6 months in the shipyard facility for the exclusive use of IDS. After everything meets the requirement, the prototype ship will be moved to the dock to conduct surface sea trials. The underwater tests will be conducted later, if the surface test is completed smoothly. The schedule to start underwater test depends on how well surface tests go. Underwater tests is expected to take at least one year.
For the record, the Republic of China (ROC / Taiwan) 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. The keel laying took place on 16 November 2021.
As we previously reported, the IDS 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. Senior military officers told local media that the 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.
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.
Current submarine force of Taiwan
Currently, Taiwan has four submarines. ROCS Hai Shih (sea lion), SS-791 and ROCS Hai Pao (seal), SS-792, are World War II vintage and were transferred from the U.S. in 1970’s.
Both of them received Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion and are unofficial called Guppy class in Taiwan. The two ships are still operational and reportedly capable of combat.
The other two are ageing Chien Lung-class, also known as Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) class. ROCS Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) SS-793 and ROCS Hai Hu (Sea Tiger) SS-794 were purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980’s.
The Chien Lung class are fitted with licensed production AEG SUT 264 heavyweight torpedoes purchased from Indonesia in 1980’s, Harpoon missiles purchased from U.S. in 2008 and MK-48 torpedoes purchased from U.S. in 2017.