Skip to comments.Taiwan giving up on US subs, eyeing local plan: analyst
Posted on 12/15/2011 4:27:13 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Taiwan giving up on US subs, eyeing local plan: analyst
By J. Michael Cole / Staff Reporter
Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - Page 1
Taiwan has all but given up on acquiring diesel-electric submarines from the US and is expected to embark on a domestic program with assistance from abroad, a leading defense analyst told the Taipei Times.
Longstanding plans to augment Taiwans small and aging submarine fleet gained momentum in 2001, when the administration of US president George W. Bush offered to provide eight diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan for about US$12 billion.
With efforts going nowhere, in 2003 the Pentagon suggested that Taiwan consider buying refurbished submarines from Italy, and Rome reportedly agreed to sell four Nazario Sauro-class boats and an additional four following their decommissioning by the Italian Navy. However, Taipei rejected the offer, saying it wanted new submarines.
As a result of political wrangling in Taiwans legislature, moves by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the US to appease Beijing amid efforts at cross-strait reconciliation, and pressure from China on Washington, Bushs deal never materialized.
During a meeting with American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt in January, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated Taiwans desire to acquire submarines from the US, which some analysts interpreted as a sign of renewed commitment. Despite this, the arms package announced to the US Congress by US President Barack Obama in October did not include submarines or even a feasibility study.
Another problem that has haunted the sale is the fact that the US has not produced diesel submarines since the 1950s.
This could be about to change, with a US defense analyst familiar with the Taiwanese military saying he feels positive the navy will move ahead on the submarine program in the not-so-distant future.
Mark Stokes, executive director at the US-based Project 2049 Institute and a vocal proponent of a submarine program for Taiwan, said the Ministry of National Defense had given up on acquiring submarines from the US and had decided to launch an indigenous program with foreign assistance.
Military sources claim that research on submarine building has been launched and that the navy is trying to acquire production know-how from abroad.
The ministry has reportedly commissioned a local shipbuilder to contract a country other than the US capable of building submarines for cooperation in building non-nuclear-powered boats.
The Naval Shipbuilding Development Center under Navy Command has been very busy studying the blueprints of the navys two Hai Lung-class submarines Taiwans only combat-ready subs which were acquired from the Netherlands in the late 1980s.
Naval authorities are also reportedly readying to send personnel abroad to study production technology or negotiate technology transfers for building pressure-resistant hulls, which sources say is the most challenging aspect in building submarines.
Stokes said a good number of countries have the capabilities sought by Taiwan.
In the initial stage, the navy could limit its domestic program to small subs in the hundreds of deadweight tonnage, the report said.
Weighing in, James Holmes, an associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College, told the Taipei Times that Taipei was right to give up on the US as a supplier of submarines, as this was never going to happen.
Anti-submarine warfare is a Peoples Liberation Army Navy Achilles heel, he said, adding that in the abstract a Taiwanese submarine force would be ideal.
However, this would be a very long-term project whose outcome remains uncertain, Holmes said.
The general concepts are well known, but there are countless intricacies to converting a design on paper to a real fighting implement, he said. There is no substitute for actually going through the learning process of designing, building and operating complex platforms.
Holmes nevertheless believes Taiwan should focus instead on small craft analogous to Chinas Type 022 Houbei fast attack missile boat, which in his view would be a better investment, and come without the delay and uncertainty involved in fielding a proven submarine design.
If I were advising President Ma or his successor, I would advise them to put the islands finite resources into platforms that Taiwanese shipwrights know how to build, that can be at sea in the relatively near future and that Taiwan navy crews have some experience operating, he said.
Taiwan, which has been shamefully abandoned by the West out of expediency and fear (think Munich 1938), needs to find a country to laundry its arms purchases. Someone with no use or fear of the Mainland Chinese.
The Indians seem like a natural choice.
I know the US doesn’t make diesel subs anymore, didn’t realize it was that long, but don’t the Brits have fairly recent experience with making diesel subs? India does seem like a fallback.
Taiwan also needs to focus on advanced mine warfare. These are inexpensive weapons that would have to be cleared before any landing could be achieved. Minesweeping operations would be very vulnerable to air & surface attack.
Both the US and UK are not into D/E subs-the Brits last built their conventional subs early in the 90s which were later sold off to Canada. France, Germany and a host of smaller European nations are the only builders now.
India’s submarine programme still needs extensive foreign assistance and it’s foreign policy remains risk-averse other than the occasional armed exercise with Japan or Vietnam. Taiwan is a different ballgame given Chinese sensitivities. Japan would have been a good bet but their foreign policy is about the same as India’s. The Taiwanese lost an opportunity of lifetime when they signed big arms deals with France in the 90s for fighters and frigates; they could easily gotten submarine tech.
The Indians don't need to build the submarines, just purchase Russian subs and resell them to the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese should be able to reverse engineer parts. Ditto for other weapon systems.
They then have a good argument to answer Chinese protests with demands of their own concerning the Indian Ocean.