The first locally made submarine was unveiled in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on Thursday, marking a significant milestone in the effort to enhance the country’s defense and deterrence against the Chinese navy. However, it will not be ready for service for another two years.
The country of Taiwan is claimed by China as its own, and it has prioritized its indigenous submarine program as a crucial aspect of a larger effort to update its military capabilities. This comes as Beijing conducts frequent military drills to demonstrate its control over the region.
In 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen launched the plan and on Thursday, she unveiled the first of eight new submarines in Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan.
“Previously, creating a submarine within our own country was deemed unachievable. However, we now have a domestically designed and produced submarine right in front of us,” stated Ms. Tsai. She also emphasized its significance in enhancing the navy’s capabilities for “asymmetric warfare.”
“Despite potential risks and numerous challenges, Taiwan must proceed with this decision and foster the growth and success of our self-sufficient national defense policy within our borders,” stated Ms. Tsai, while standing beside the Narwhal ship. The red Taiwanese flag, displaying a white sun against a blue sky, was draped around the submarine’s bow.
Ms. Tsai announced that the Narwhal is expected to be commissioned in 2025, along with two previously acquired submarines from the Netherlands in the 1980s.
Taiwan’s indigenous submarine program has utilized knowledge and advancements from multiple nations, marking a significant achievement for the country’s diplomatic isolation.
In a press conference held in Taipei, Taiwan, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu stated that Taiwan must enhance its defenses in response to heightened threats and pressure tactics from China’s military in the “grey zone” near the island, including air and naval operations.
“Obtaining a new submarine is a key tactic in our strategy. As a strong proponent of deterring war, I firmly support Taiwan’s decision to acquire submarines despite any doubts or criticisms.” – Statement by Mr. Wu on Taiwan’s submarine strategy.
The head of the program stated this month that Taiwan aims to have at least two domestically built submarines in operation by 2027, and may potentially add missiles to later versions.
The initial submarine, costing T$49.36 billion ($1.53 billion), will be equipped with a Lockheed Martin Corp. combat system and will be armed with US-produced Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes. It is set to begin sea trials in the upcoming month and is expected to be delivered to the navy by the end of 2024.
Admiral Huang Shu-kuang, the security adviser for Tsai’s program, has referred to the submarines as a “strategic deterrent” that also serves to protect Taiwan’s access to the Pacific by ensuring the ports along its eastern coast remain operational.