Scale model of the Indigenous Defense Submarine

Taiwan To Launch First Domestic Submarine Next September

According to the Central News Agency of Taiwan, the Republic of China (Taiwan) Navy’s first indigenous attack submarine is scheduled to be launched next September and is “eight to ten years more advanced” than the current Chien Lung class submarine purchased for the Netherlands. With dock and sea trials expected to last between 12 and 24 months before the submarine enters service.

Details are scarce due to the secretive nature of submarine design, but a previously released scale model shows an X-shaped rudder resembling the design on the Japanese Sōryū-class attack submarines. Besides the widely publicized United States transfer of key technologies approved by President Donald Trump, Reuters has also previously reported engineers from Korea, India, Canada and other nations assisting China Shipbuilding Corporation, Taiwan’s national shipbuilder, in the construction of the eight submarines of the class. The diesel-electric submarine is expected to use MK-48 Mod-6 1700 kilogram torpedoes and UGM-84L Harpoon missiles after a request of 18 such torpedoes from the United States in 2020.

ROCS Hai Shih, nearly 80 years after production.
ROCS Hai Shih, nearly 80 years after production (Taiwan MoD)

Taiwan’s current submarine force consists of four submarines, the more modern Chien Lung-class purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980s, ROCS Hai Lung and ROCS Hai Hu, and the World War Two vintage Tench-class submarines ROCS Hai Shih and ROCS Hai Pao obtained from the U.S. in the 1970s, modernized to the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) standard and painstakingly maintained by the Taiwanese Navy, the two boats are reportedly still combat capable.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed the presidency, she has massively pushed for development of Taiwan’s indigenous defense industry in response to rising tensions with the People’s Republic of China. With the submarine program’s schedule pushed forward several times to establish the capability as soon as possible. Besides the indigenous submarine program, projects to domestically produce fighter jets, surface warships, and armoured vehicles have also seen significant development in the last few years.

Small, "Carrier Killer" Tuo Chiang class corvettes are a key part of Taiwanese deterrence
Small, “Carrier Killer” Tuo Chiang class corvettes are a key part of Taiwanese deterrence (Lee Chang Wei)

This modernization push has also brought more focus to the development of Taiwan’s asymmetric combat equipment, creating an armed forces less focused on meeting the outsized Chinese adversary head-on, and more focused on fending off Chinese attacks by preventing landfall with minelayers and striking Chinese transports with shore batteries and a modern submarine force.