July 18, 2018

Taiwan's New Submarine Project Wildly Underfunded and Optimistic

It is interesting that countries-companies have been variously reported as submitting submarine designs for Taiwan’s (once again) US endorsed submarine building project. These may be:

-  1 or 2 Indian firms. Though India has never built a conventional submarine other than assembling
   foreign designed submarines. Even the strikingly Russian Delta SSBN-like INS Arihant owes much
   to Russian design assistance especially due to the need to integrate a basically Russian designed
   reactor into it.

-  1 or 2 Japanese firms (MHI and KHI). Though Japan has not built an export submarine since the 
   Matchanu class, for Thailand, in the 1930s. Japan also scrupulously protects its submarine design
   secrets. Notoriously PRC intelligence penetrated Taiwan may not be a secure customer. Matthias
   Halblaub has drawn my attention to this link that indicates even US companies are not secure
   against Chinese intelligence hacking.

-  2 US firms. Though the US has not built conventional submarines since the Barbel class of the
   1950s, and

-  2 unnamed European companies (perhaps from Sweden, France, Germany, Spain or the

As The Diplomat’s (paysite’s) reminded on July 12, 2018 Taiwan allocated a paltry US$65.66 million to complete design work on its future submarines. Then Taiwan is over-optimistic in compressing milestonesto build a fleet of eight domestically designed SSKs, each displacing around 1,500 tons, with the first boat entering sea-trials by 2024 followed by its first operational deployment in 2026."


I argued in April 2018 "BACKGROUND-COMMENTS" that Taiwan is likely relying on updating existing teardrop designs (from Netherlands, Japanese or US companies) which all draw on the US’s sixty year old Barbel design. See Wiki

"The Zwaardvis-class submarine of the Netherlands and [Taiwan's] Hai Lung-class...(built and sold by the Netherlands) were developments of the Barbel class design. The Japanese Uzushio class and its successors were also influenced by the Barbel class."

Taiwan would need fundamental updates to be competitive against China. Major upgrades needed include up to date quiet diesels, new electric motors and broader electrical fitout, new snorkel, new quieting technologies all over the sub, new sonars, photonic masts, computers and other electronics, anechoic tiles, new pressure hull steel and the vast number of other new submarine innovations since the 1950s. The US$65.66 million Taiwan is talking about wouldn’t even cover new sonar integration.

Perhaps Taiwan intends to rely financially and time-wise on a sympathetic US interpretation of America's Taiwan Relations Act (effective 1979). This ambiguously states that "the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capabilities". Time and Trump's changeable nature will tell.

A PRC-Hong Kong South China Morning Post article of July 19, 2018 subsequently carried many of the arguments stated above.


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