KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: In a significant milestone for its defense capabilities, Taiwan has unveiled its first domestically developed submarine.
Although it won't enter service until 2025, this development is part of Taiwan's broader strategy to enhance its defense posture, particularly in the face of increased Chinese military activities in the region.
The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, who initiated the indigenous submarine program in 2016, proudly presented the first of eight new submarines in Kaohsiung. She emphasized the importance of this achievement, stating, "In the past, a domestically developed submarine was considered an impossible task. But, today, a submarine designed and manufactured by our country's people sits before our eyes." She also highlighted its role in strengthening the navy's "asymmetric warfare" capabilities.
The submarine, named the Narwhal, is expected to enter service in 2025, joining the two existing submarines acquired from the Netherlands in the 1980s. The indigenous submarine program has been a diplomatic breakthrough for Taiwan, drawing on expertise and technology from several countries.
Cheng Wen-lon, head of Taiwan's CSBC Corp, which led the submarine's construction, noted that the domestic content of the vessel is about 40 percent. However, he did not explicitly mention foreign participation during the unveiling.
The United States, despite the absence of official diplomatic relations, reaffirmed its strong security relationship with Taiwan by sending its de facto ambassador, Sandra Oudkirk, to attend the ceremony. The U.S. is Taiwan's largest arms supplier.
Taiwan's Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, stressed the need for Taiwan to strengthen its defenses in response to increased military pressure from China's "grey zone" tactics. He asserted the importance of acquiring submarines as part of Taiwan's strategy to deter conflict.
The first submarine, with a price tag of US$1.53 billion, will undergo sea trials in October and is set to be delivered to the navy by the end of 2024. It will use a combat system provided by Lockheed Martin Corp and carry U.S.-made Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes.
Admiral Huang Shu-kuang, who leads the program, described the submarines as a "strategic deterrent" and emphasized their role in safeguarding Taiwan's access to the Pacific by keeping ports along its eastern coast open.
In response to Taiwan's submarine program and its efforts to prevent Chinese military encirclement, China's defense ministry dismissed the idea, stating that Taiwan was "over-rating itself and attempting something impossible."