Taiwan unveils the nation’s first submarine as a military first. Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, has made the indigenous submarine program a central component of an ambitious plan to modernize its armed forces, as Beijing conducts almost daily military exercises to assert its sovereignty.
President Tsai Ing-wen, who initiated the plan upon her 2016 inauguration, displayed the first of eight new submarines in the southern city of Kaohsiung on Thursday.
“In the past, domestic submarine development was regarded impossible. Today, however, a submarine designed and built by the people of our nation sits before us,” Tsai said, adding that it will play a crucial role in bolstering the navy’s “asymmetric warfare” capabilities.
Standing before the ship named the Narwhal, Tsai stated, “Taiwan must take this step and allow the self-reliant national defense policy to grow and flourish on our land, even if there are risks and no matter how many challenges there are.” The crimson flag of Taiwan, which featured a white sun against a blue sky, was wrapped around the submarine’s bow.
Tsai stated that the Narwhal will enter service in 2025, joining two Dutch-purchased submarines from the 1980s.
In response to a query at a monthly press briefing about the submarine and how it could prevent China from surrounding the island, China’s defense ministry stated that Taiwan was “overestimating itself and attempting the impossible.”
“Talk of preventing the People’s Liberation Army from entering the Pacific Ocean is complete nonsense,” Beijing-based spokesperson Wu Qian told reporters.
The indigenous submarine program has utilized expertise and technology from multiple nations, a breakthrough for Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation.
Cheng Wen-lon, chief executive officer of Taiwan’s CSBC Corp (2208. TW), who headed the construction of the submarine, stated that the domestic content of the vessel was approximately 40 percent. In his speech in Kaohsiung, he made no explicit mention of the participation of foreigners.
Sandra Oudkirk, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, witnessed the ceremony, underscoring the significance of the United States’ security relationship with Taiwan despite the absence of official ties. The United States is the most significant supplier of arms to Taiwan.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters in Taipei that the island’s defenses must be bolstered in the face of a growing threat posed by China’s military “grey zone” pressure tactics near to the island, which include air and naval operations.
The acquisition of a new submarine is one of these tactics. Wu stated, “For anyone who questions Taiwan’s submarine strategy, I would argue vehemently that Taiwan must acquire submarines to prevent war.”
This month, the head of the program stated that Taiwan intends to deploy at least two domestically developed submarines by 2027 and may equip later models with missiles.
The first submarine, which will cost T$49.36 billion ($1.53 billion), will be equipped with a Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) combat system and Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes manufactured in the United States. It will begin sea trials the following month before being delivered to the navy by the end of 2024.
Admiral Huang Shu-Kuang, Tsai’s security adviser in charge of the program, has characterized the submarines as a “strategic deterrent” that can also assist in maintaining Taiwan’s “lifeline” to the Pacific by keeping Taiwan’s eastern coast ports accessible.