Taiwan reveals first domestically made submarine in defense milestone

Taiwan’s first submarine, developed domestically, was unveiled on Thursday. It is a significant step in the project to strengthen the island’s deterrence and defense against the Chinese Navy, but it will not enter service for two more years.

Taiwan, a territory that China claims, has made its indigenous submarine program an important part of its ambitious project to modernize their armed forces, as Beijing conducts military exercises almost every day to assert their sovereignty.

The first of eight new subs was unveiled by President Tsai, Ing-wen on Thursday at Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

In the past, it was thought that a submarine developed in-house would be impossible. Today, we have a submarine that was designed and built by the people of our country,” Tsai added, adding that this would be a major step in improving the navy’s capability to conduct “asymmetrical warfare”.

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Tsai, who was standing in front the Narwhal, said: “Even though there may be risks and challenges, Taiwan must make this step to allow our self-reliant policy of national defence to flourish and grow on our land.” The red flag of Taiwan, with a white sun and blue sky against it, was draped around the bow of the submarine.

Tsai stated that the Narwhal would enter service in 2025. It will join two other submarines already in service, which were purchased in the Netherlands during the 1980s.

China’s Defence Ministry, in response to a question asked at a monthly press briefing on the submarine, and how it might prevent China from surrounding the island said Taiwan “overrated itself and was attempting something impossible”.

Wu Qian, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army in Beijing, told reporters that the idea of preventing the People’s Liberation Army entering the Pacific Ocean was “idiotic nonsense”.

DIPLOMATIC BREAKTHROUGH

Taiwan, which is diplomatically isolated, has made a major breakthrough with its indigenous submarine programme. It has drawn upon the expertise and technology of several countries.

Cheng Wenlon, the head of Taiwanese CSBC Corp. (2208.TW), the company that led the construction of the sub, stated the boat had a domestic content of about 40%. In his Kaohsiung speech, he did not mention the foreign involvement.

Sandra Oudkirk attended the ceremony to highlight the importance of the United States security relationship with Taiwan despite the lack of formal ties. The United States is Taiwan’s largest arms provider.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters in Taipei that Taiwan must strengthen its defenses to counter the threat of China’s “grey zone”, which is a military pressure tactic close to the island, with air and maritime activities.

“Having a brand new submarine is a part of these strategies.” Wu said that if anyone questions Taiwan’s sub-marine strategy, I will be the most forceful advocate to have Taiwan acquire submarines to prevent war.

The head of the program stated this month that Taiwan hopes to deploy two submarines developed domestically by 2027 and may equip future models with missiles.

The first submarine will cost T$49.36billion ($1.53billion) and use a Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT.N). It will also carry heavyweight Mark 48 torpedoes made in the United States. The submarine will begin sea trials in the next month, before being delivered to the navy at the end of 2024.

Admiral Huang Shu Kuang, Tsai’s adviser on security who is leading the program, described the subs as a “strategic threat” that can help maintain Taiwan’s “lifeline” to the Pacific, by keeping the ports along Taiwan’s east coast open.