Home » Budget Industry » Taiwan Kicks Off Domestic Attack Sub Program

Taiwan Kicks Off Domestic Attack Sub Program

A 1980s vintage Hai-lang submarine, built in the Netherlands and operated by the Republic of China Navy. ROC Photo

A 1980s vintage Hai-lang submarine, built in the Netherlands and operated by the Republic of China Navy. ROC Photo

After waiting on the U.S. to make good on plans to develop a diesel electric attack submarine (SSK) for almost 15 years, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence announced it was kicking off its own domestic attack submarine construction program this week, the agency told Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.

Defense officials told the legislative body preparation work would begin this year starting with a modest $315,000 start into a $94.46 million four-year effort, beginning in earnest in 2016.

The planned result would be around four SSKs to replace the island’s current boats — two Dutch-built, 1980s vintage 2,600-ton Hai-lang-class SSKs and two World War II era U.S. Guppy-class boats used for training.

“At present the navy’s demand is submarines ranging from 1,200-3,000 tons,” Vice Adm. Hsiao Wei-min with the Republic of China Navy (RoCN) told the legislator on Monday.

The new boats are a long awaited hedge against the expansion of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the looming threat of an amphibious assault from the mainland.

“After Taiwan has lost air and sea control, it’s the subs that will still be able to attack groups of amphibious landing aircraft,” Wang Jyh-perng, RoCN reserve captain told the Asia Times in 2011.

In 2001, the Bush administration promised Taiwan eight U.S.-built SSKs but the boats never materialized for several reasons.

A MND spokesman told Jane’s in October, “that Taiwan would continue to lobby the United States for assistance with a submarine purchase, although the absence of any U.S. experience in conventionally powered submarines of the size and class that Taiwan is seeking suggests it is unlikely to get much in the way of support.”

SSKs serve best as a costal defense platform and the U.S. submarine force almost exclusively operates far from American shores.

With rare exception, the U.S. naval submarine industrial base has built only nuclear submarines (SSN) since the 1960s. USNI News also understands there are elements in the U.S. Navy reluctant to stray from the SSN model.

Taiwan’s other submarine options are non-existent.

Other countries have been fearful of drawing the ire of mainland China by supplying Taiwan with submarines, or even design help.

In November, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated its position on foreign design aid to the ROCN following the announcement of U.S. and Italian companies in developing a domestic mine countermeasures (MCM) ship.

“We ask relevant countries to respect China’s core interests, adhere to the one-China principle, neither sell arms to Taiwan in any form nor assist Taiwan in developing its military equipment, and take concrete actions to support the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and peaceful reunification of China,” said a foreign ministry spokesman.

Taiwan is in the midst of naval capabilities refresh. In addition to the submarine program, it plans to acquire four U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry frigates and has recently launched the first of a planned class of missile frigates.

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Categories: Budget Industry, Foreign Forces, Submarine Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the USNI Online Editor at the U.S. Naval Institute.
He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. In his role he covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Sam is a 2003 graduate of Virginia Military Institute.

  • China Lee

    “After Taiwan has lost air and sea control, it’s the subs that will still be able to attack groups of amphibious landing aircraft,” Wang Jyh-perng, RoCN reserve captain told the Asia Times in 2011.
    That is faulty reasoning. If Taiwan loses air control, China’s PLA Air Force can drop tens of thousands of airborne troops, tanks, armored vehicles, trucks, and supplies onto Taiwan.

    Basically, it’s over when China gains air superiority over Taiwan.

    • NavySubNuke

      Interesting theory – do you have a reliable source on China’s strategic airlift capacity? I hope you realize that what you are suggesting would require hundreds if not thousands of aircraft.
      Also, how many airborne trained troops does China actually have? Do they even have tens of thousands of troops certified for parachute operations?

      • China_Lee

        “China’s airborne forces consist of three divisions located in the Guangzhou Military Region and are part of the PLA’s strategic reserve.”

        China has 10 IL-76 heavy airlift transport aircraft. Also, China has built a domestic Y-20 heavy airlifter.

        To transport three divisions of airborne troops and heavy weaponry, China’s airborne fleet will make multiple trips.

        Math: 11 heavy airlifters x 10 sorties per day = 110 cargoes per day

        110 cargoes per day x 10 days = 1,100 cargoes

        • NavySubNuke

          Interesting – I didn’t realize China was able to produce planes that didn’t require maintenance flown by crews that don’t require sleep.
          Also, the 76-MD has a payload of 48 tons depending on the variant — 48 tons * 2000 lbs per ton / 300 pounds per paratrooper (assume trooper is ~220 – 230 pounds in full combat load + additional supplies dropped with each trooper) = max load of 320 troops. This means it would take over 100 trips to transport a single division – by weight alone. Assuming a round trip flight of 4 hours and a loading time of 1 hour that means that every 5 hours you would complete 10 drops. So – assuming you could fly nonstop (which you can’t) and assuming you can actually fit all 320 troops in each plane (which you probably can’t but I don’t know for sure) it would still take over 50 hours to transport a single division with almost no supplies. Oh and if even just 2 of those 10 crash – either by enemy action, pilot error, or simply maintenance problem (assuming all 10 are working at the same time to begin with) it would almost 3 days to move that 1 division.
          Sorry but your theory doesn’t really hold up once you start looking at it closely.

          • China_Lee

            “Interesting – I didn’t realize China was able to produce planes that didn’t require maintenance flown by crews that don’t require sleep.”

            Use multiple shifts of workers. Three rotating groups for every eight hours.

            Also, China is building more indigenous Y-20 transports. They are beginning to install domestic WS-20 engines on the Y-20. The WS-20 is 10% more energy efficient, because it is high-bypass.

          • Michael Rich

            China is just now getting high-bypass turbofans? lol.

          • China_Lee

            The United States is incredibly advanced technologically.

            China has been working overtime trying to follow in U.S. footsteps.

            When you consider the U.S. built the Mach 3+ SR-71 in the 1960s, it is mind-blowing.

            The United States casts a huge technological shadow. Chinese people understand the enormity of the task in trying to catch the United States. It will take decades.

        • Secundius

          A standard 20-foot long TEU carries 47,500 of cargo x 110 cargoes, thats 5,225,000-lbs (2,370,202.133-kilos) per day. I don’t think the PRC has that airlift capacity, yet…

  • NavySubNuke

    I am surprised the Germans are such cowards on this. They are willing to sell boats to the Israeli’s after all. I guess I underestimated how deeply the Chinese have embedded the hooks into them.

    • RobM1981

      Good point, but I think there is a bit more to it.

      Selling boats to Israel might put a bit of pressure on anti-Israel (read “oil producing”) countries, but most of those countries need German goods and services more than Germany needs their specific oil. Petroleum can be purchased elsewhere, especially these days.

      China is different. China’s market is developed in many ways, but still expanding like crazy. Germany doesn’t want to lose access to that market, even for a few years.

      • Secundius

        @ RobM1981.

        The PRC are a major Technology Exchange Partner with Israel. Israel has been caught several time by the USA trying to sell and swap US. technologies with the PRC. The PRC, PLAN have a Major Naval Base in Haifa, Israel. It’s also Germany’s “back-door open approach” to the PRC, through Israel…

    • Maybe all the Germans can do is sell the brain skills to Taiwan, so they can build their own SSK. Germany doesn’t need to sell Taiwan the Actual SSK subs but the knowledge on how to build one.

      • Secundius

        @ Nicky.

        I like you new look Nicky, couldn’t see you to clearly with the photograph…

      • NavySubNuke

        True – especially the manufacturing techniques and lessons learned on internal layouts/spacing.

        • All Taiwan needs is to learn how to build their own SSK’s. They just need to learn how to build one.

      • twphision

        Taiwan may start to build smaller SSK subs without AIP system at beginning, but that will take for 15 years to finish first one.

        • Or they can get the Russians to help Taiwan show them how to build their own SSK submarines

          • Secundius

            @ Nicky.

            Russia is the ‘Poor Kid” on the block with “Nukes”, the last thing Russia needs is the PRC as a Rival or an Enemy. If Russia didn’t have “Nukes”, it would lose a land war with Israel…

          • Russia is desperate for Military sales and one option is has that can punish china for copycatting Russian Military gear is to sell the same gear to their Rivals.

          • Secundius

            @ Nicky.

            Soviet Russia made copies of our B-29 Strategic Bombers during WW2, then they Mass Produced the AK-47 and gave it out like “Candy” to the rest of the world. What Russia did to us (the USA), the PRC is doing to them. If Putin is waiting for a “Royalty Check” from the PRC. Hell’s going freeze over before that happens. And what about the “Royalty Check’s”, the PRC owes us (the USA) for all the copy right violations and counterfeiting they’ve been doing, at our expense…

    • Secundius

      If you want to get out of the “cowardice” wagon, the United States should recognize the Republic of China as a fully independent nation and open Embassies between our two countries…

    • Shan

      Do you have any idea on the geopolitical background of these issues?? All countries are cowards when it comes to their economic interests. They’re ruled by the industy and lobbies, after all… All od them trade a lot with China, usually with huge trade deficits but still, their industry ia building a lot for the Chinese. Omly one comment on issues like Taiwan, Tibet, human rights etc, amd China simply chooses another country to build that power plant or whatever ,,, and industry would go berserk on their bought politicians… Its said but very true, we see the same right now when dealing with Russia, industry wants our politicians to go easier even,,, damn hypocrisy but thats capitalism!

      As for German subs,,, they dont just sell them, the first ones were even paid for and actual ones are still heavily subsidized by german govt,,, might have sth to do with that thing that happened over 70y ago and for which german gvt will make today’s taxpayers still assume responsibility,,, as well as reasons we will never know, such as compensation for ambiguous german gvt policies,,, being friends with arabs too much for Israel’s taste, selling arms to arabs, and so on,,,

    • frphx

      It shows how deeply the Israel’s have their hooks into the Germans. Who is going to pay for these subs.

  • Hugh

    The original inhabitants of Taiwan were taken over at various times by the Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Nationalist Chinese. Why couldn’t the UN have kept recognition of this island as its own sovereign state once it recognised mainland China? If China is claiming Taiwan, then what about all the other small countries that are not being claimed by other past masters? Britain has granted independence to previous dependencies – why should China take the opposite approach?

  • RobM1981

    Taiwan is indefensible unless other nations are willing to come to its aid, period. Who really believes that a country as large as China can’t cross the Straits and take Taiwan?

    Given the fact that nobody even wants to sell them an SSK, does anyone believe that any nation – including our own – wants to turn Taiwan into the next flashpoint?

    It’s a matter of timing, not OOB.

    • twphision

      China has most number submarines in Asia, now. And they are going to build more submarines. China would controlled Taiwan Strait and Bashi Channel if they took over Taiwan. China would get advantage from all of shipments which pass the location. Of cause this will be strategic value for their navy combat. US navy have to detour south sea of Philippines.

      In 1996, the crisis between Taiwan and China, US carrier is around there, but the sonar not work there because the sea thermocline (sea cliff). The is difference depth to west side and east side. China submarines will hide around there, and they will be difficultly to be found.

      Taiwan will build their own submarines. they will need submarine and high-performance sonar technology to defence by themselve and to prevent a war.

  • twphision

    Will it is possible that Taiwan buy submarine from Russia since RUB devaluation?

    • Secundius

      The ROC has the Taiwan Strait between them and the PRC, Russia border is far more “pores” and largely unprotected. Russia has far more to fear from the PRC than the ROC does.

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