The construction of Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine reached a new phase Tuesday (Nov. 16) with an official “keel-laying” ceremony. Taiwanese shipyard CSBC Corporation has held a keel-laying ceremony for the first of a planned fleet of up to eight locally-designed and developed SSKs for the Republic of China Navy (RoCN). SSK was the United States Navy hull classification symbol for a diesel-electric submarine specialized for anti-submarine duties. SS indicated that the vessel was a submarine, and the K suffix that it was a hunter-killer. Taiwan is determined to expand its submarine warfare capabilities
The ceremony was presided over by Navy Commander Admiral Liu Chih-pin and Cheng Wen-lon chairman of Taiwan shipbuilder CSBC Shipbuilding Corp., which is responsible for the project. While submarines do not have a keel, the term, which is common in shipbuilding, was used to refer to the completion of a connection between the tower-like structure at the top of the submarine and the hull. Pressure tests were also included in the current phase of the construction. The RoCN currently operates an ageing submarine fleet, including two WW2-vintage GUPPY II/HAI SHICH-class boats and two Dutch-built HAI LUNG-class submarines.
The Taiwanese government has allocated NT$49 billion (1.7billion USD) over seven years to build an indigenous submarine, with the goal of boosting Taiwan’s defense capabilities amid China’s growing military prowess. The prototype is scheduled to be completed in 2024 and delivered to the Navy in 2025. Local media have reported the submarine will have an overall length of 70m, a beam of 8m, and will displace about 2,500t when submerged. The project forms a key part of the government’s plan to have Taiwan produce as many of its own weapons systems as possible, from submarines and armored vehicles to missiles and airplanes.
On October 26, 2020, the U.S. approved the sale of Taiwan 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems (HCDS), 400 RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Surface Launched Missiles, four RTM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Exercise Missiles, 100 HCDS launcher transporter units, 25 radar trucks, and additional logistical and other related equipment. With a range of 125 kilometers, the missiles can be used to strike Chinese warships at sea as well as the nearby ports they disembark from. The HCDS allows Taiwan to employ a highly reliable to counter or deter maritime aggressions and amphibious assaults.
The new submarine will be equipped with MK-48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology heavyweight torpedoes, UGM-84L sub-launched Harpoon Block II missiles, and other combat and digital sonar systems provided by US suppliers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The Harpoon missiles which will be integrated with the indigenous submarines will be supplied by the US in a deal worth over $2 billion. The Harpoon is a subsonic, highly versatile, all-weather anti-ship missile manufactured by Boeing. The missile carries a 220 kg conventional warhead having a range of around 300 kilometers, and can be launched by air, surface, or by submarine-based platforms.