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Hai Lung II [Sea Dragon]-class Submarine

Taiwan is hoping to build its first home-grown submarines within eight years and commission them into service within a decade. A Taiwan shipbuilder and a ship designer signed a memorandum of understanding with the country's Navy on 21 March 2017 to jointly build submarines for the military as part of a government effort to develop an independent national defense industry. The MOU was signed by Navy Commander Huang Shu-kuang, CSBC Corp., Taiwan Chairman Cheng Wen-lon and Chang Guan-chung, president of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), at a ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.

The Taiwanese navy's memorandum of understanding with two local companies was to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against China, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price was not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.

The signing was witnessed by President Tsai Ing-wen, who said the construction of submarines was the most challenging aspect of Taiwan's policy to create an independent national defense industry. The government will exhaust all means and pool its resources to solve any problems associated with building indigenous submarines, she said. The initiative involves the efforts of not only the Navy, CSBC, and NCSIST, but also the government, the military and relevant industries, Tsai said.

CSBC Corp. Taiwan Chairman Cheng Wen-lon acknowledged there were problems to be worked out because Taiwan lacks any experience in building submarines, but he said the difficulties were being addressed. He also noted that CSBC Corp. had built more than 100 ships for the Navy and said the company would use that experience in developing the local submarine program. the project will have two main phases. The first will be to complete the design for the subs and have a budget of approximately NT$2 billion (US$65.64 million), Cheng said. The second stage will involve building the submarines, he said, without giving any cost projections for the vessels or estimates of how many submarines might be built.

NCSIST Vice President Gao Chung-hsing said the most important part of the program is a system to integrate all of the equipment and ensure the safety of ships operating underwater. The NCSIST will cooperate with CSBC Corp. in these areas, Gao said.

Taiwan has long tried to acquire submarines from other countries with little success because of their reluctance to upset China. US President George W. Bush authorized the sale of eight diesel electric submarines to Taiwan in 2001, but the deal never came to fruition because of political wrangling in Taiwan and questions over whether the U.S., which did not produce conventional submarines at the time, could actually supply the vessels.

Taiwan's navy currently had four submarines, two of which are too outdated for operations and are used only as training vessels. Taiwan has long been in the market for additional diesel submarines to counter China's growing naval might. Taiwan could deploy submarines defensively at the entrances of its main ports -- at Kaohsiung in the south and Keeling in the north -- to stop Chinese submariness from mining them. Or Taiwan could use submarines to sink Chinese shipping, or blockade Chinese ports. Beijing has strongly opposed the sale of submarines to Taiwan, which it has characterized as offensive weapons.

China maintains an overwhelming numerical advantage in submarines over Taiwan and this quantitative advantage will continue through the decade. While the number of boats in service in China was expected to decline, their qualitative capabilities will increase. China was producing more modern submarines and was using submarine-related technology from Russia. Although the force was oriented principally toward interdicting surface ships using torpedoes and mines, China shortly will begin arming some of its submarines with a submerged-launch cruise missile. The capability of Chinese submarines to conduct ASW operations was expected to improve in light of the acquisition of Russian-built KILO-class submarines and the greater emphasis being placed on ASW training. As a result, China's submarine fleet will constitute a substantial force capable of controlling sea lanes and mining approaches around Taiwan, as well as a growing threat to submarines in the East and South China Seas.

Under its submarine program, Taiwan's navy plans to increase its submarine fleet and to decommission old submarines, bringing the total number of submarines to about a dozen. But Taiwan's desires to add six to ten new submarines to the Navy have long remained at the paperwork stage. The United States had not endorsed Taiwan's proposal because of fears it could upset the balance between the mainland and Taiwan. Indeed, the United States rejected Taiwan's request for subs in the 1990s.

The newly-designed diesel-electric submarine will use high-strength steel plating and sound absorption material for the hull resulting in lower noise than the nuclear submarines. It will be equipped with advanced U.S. combat systems, submarine-launched Harpoon missiles and advanced torpedoes, which will greatly increase survivability and firepower. After the navy acquires the submarines, its early warning and monitoring range will increase five-fold and mobile strike capabilities will increase by over 100 times. When complemented by Kidd-class destroyers and P-3C ASW patrol aircrafts, they will impose visible deterring effects against PRC's intents of naval blockades.

A proposed model of Taiwans first domestically manufactured submarine was displayed at Kaohsiung International Maritime and Defense Industry Exposition Sept. 15-18, 2016 in the southern port city. The inaugural Kaohsiung International Maritime and Defense Industry Exposition kicked off Sept. 15, providing a world-class platform for showcasing the leading-edge capabilities of Taiwans shipbuilding industry and promoting the development of indigenous warship and submarine manufacturing.

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