Hai Lung [Sea Dragon]-class [Zwaardvis] Submarine
Taiwan orderd two submarines, variations on the Dutch Zwaardvis (Swordfish) design, in September 1981. Application for a further four boats was turned down by the Netherlands Government in 1992 after Beijing downgraded diplomatic ties with the Dutch. The keels for both submarines were laid down by RDM (de Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij at Rotterdam in December 1982, though initial construction of the submarines was delayed due to the builder's financial instability but work resumed in 1983. Both submarines were launched in 1986, the Hai Lung on October 6 and the Hai Hu on December 20. Sea trials for the Hai Lung began in March 1987 and the Hai Hu commenced its trials in January 1988. BOth ships were transported to Taiwan on board a heavy dock vessel.
The two submarines reportedly are armed with wire-guided torpedoes, though exercises in 2003 using these torpedoes failed to score hits due to technical difficulties with the torpedoes themselves.
Based on the US Navy's teardrop-hulled Barbel class conventional submarine, the Dutch Zwaardvis and Tijgerhaai were ordered in the mid-1960s, with a requirement to use indigenous Dutch equipment wherever possible. The design was modified to include the placement of noise-producing machinery on a false deck with spring suspension for silent running. The two boats entered service with the Dutch navy in 1972. The Royal Netherlands Navy decommissioned its pair of Zwaardvis class submarines in 1995 following 23 years of service.
In December 1995 newspaper reports in Taiwan said that the Taiwan Navywas interested in acquiring the two boats. Reacting to the Taiwanese reports, the Dutch Government issued astatement saying that there would be no sale of any submarine to Taiwan, as agreed with mainland China.
In 1996 the submarines were transferred to Rotterdam Dockyard Company (RDM) for re-sale. In 1998, it was reported that Egypt, the Netherlands, and the US were trying to put together a deal for US funding for the purchase, refit, and modernization for Egyptian service of the two Zwaardvis class submarines. The submarines were to have been refit and modernized by Ingalls with combat systems supplied by Lockheed Martin. Nothing came of this proposal.
If all goes smoothly, the two Sea Dragon diesel electric submarines would be armed with UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. In September 2005 the US Navy awarded McDonnell Douglas Corp, a Boeing subsidiary, a contract to coordinate and execute an on-site survey of the submarines for this purpose. In April 2001, the Bush administration announced the approval of the largest arms sale package to the ROC in history, including Block II HARPOON submarine-launched anti-ship cruise missiles.
On 03 October 2008 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Taiwan of 32 UGM-84L Sub-Launched HARPOON Block II missiles and 2 UTM-84L HARPOON Block II Exercise missiles, as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $200 million. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States requested a possible sale of 32 UGM-84L Sub-Launched HARPOON Block II missiles, 2 UTM-84L HARPOON Block II Exercise missiles, 2 Advanced HARPOON Weapons Control System (Version 2), 36 HARPOON containers, 2 UTM-84XD Encapsulated HARPOON Certification and Training Vehicles, test equipment and services, spares and repair parts for support equipment, training, publications and technical documents, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of logistics and program support. Taiwan already had air and ship-launched Harpoons.
The Harpoon missile deal followed Russia's sale of Kh-41 anti-ship missiles to China. Submarine-launched Harpoons are pre-loaded into a capsule and launched from a torpedo tube. The capsule rises to the surface and launches the missile. Taiwan's military-run Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology had worked unsuccessfully on a submarine-launched version of its Hsiung Feng anti-ship cruise missile, which is similar to the Harpoon ASM.
In early 2016 the military proposed a NT$400 million (US$12.35 million) program to upgrade the nation’s two aging Zwaardvis-class submarines. The Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology would supervise the “life extension program” (LEP) that would be contracted out to foreign defense companies. The term “life extension program (LEP)” means a program to repair/replace components of weapon to ensure the ability to meet military requirements.
The two submarines had been in service for nearly 30 years, but were still seaworthy and capable of carrying out maritime patrol missions. Their electronics and weapons systems are obsolete in terms of operational consistency and reliability. As most parts for the vessels are no longer in production and suitable replacements cannot be found, it is difficult to maintain and repair the submarines. A large-scale upgrade program is needed to enhance their operational capabilities and to extend their service lives. The LEP should keep the Sea Dragons operating for an additional 15 years, up to 2030. Plans for upgrades were also made necessary by president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s indigenous defense submarine project, under which the first vessel would not be commissioned until 2025.
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