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Taiwan unveils first domestic submarine “Hai Kun”

The first Taiwan-made submarine was launched in Kaohsiung port. If the trials are successful, this submarine will be a major breakthrough in shipbuilding and design for Taiwan.

In attendance at the ceremony were the heads of the US de facto embassy, Sandra Oudkirk, and the Japanese and South Korean trade delegations based in Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen, who opened the launch ceremony, said:

In the past, a domestic-made submarine was considered impossible, but today a submarine designed and built by our countrymen is in front of you. Building submarine is the concrete realisation of our resolution to protect our country. Submarines are an important piece of equipment for the Taiwan navy to develop asymmetric combat power in terms of strategy and tactics.

US policy is pushing Taiwan to develop strategies for asymmetric warfare by investing in smaller and lighter weapons such as a scaled-down submarine. The process of building the boat was “arduous”, said Cheng Wen-lung, head of Taiwan’s CSBC Corp, which oversaw the submarine’s construction. He noted:

Although we have worked quietly during the past several years, it doesn’t mean the process was very smooth.

After seven years of development and construction, the prototype will begin harbour trials before heading out to the ocean. It will be handed over to the military only after it has passed harbour and ocean trials. The submarine is named Hai Kun in honour of the Kun fish from Chinese mythology, which has legendary size.

Taiwan is expected to build another submarine and deliver it to the Ministry of Defence by 2027. Taiwan began building its own submarines after Beijing used economic and diplomatic threats to prevent it from acquiring such vessels abroad.

Taiwan’s efforts to build a submarine have drawn on a coalition of expertise and parts around the world. In addition to sourcing technology from countries including the US and the UK, Taiwan also hired engineers, technicians and former naval officers from Australia, South Korea, India, Spain and Canada.

China has recently stepped up military exercises targeting the island, sending fighter jets and naval ships to patrol and conduct drills in the waters and skies near Taiwan.

The first submarine, with a price tag of T$49.36 billion ($1.53 billion), will use a combat system by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and carry U.S.-made Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes. It will enter sea trials next month before delivery to the navy by the end of 2024.

Admiral Huang Shu-kuang, Tsai’s security adviser leading the programme, has described the submarines as a “strategic deterrent” that can also help maintain the island’s “lifeline” to the Pacific by keeping ports along Taiwan’s eastern coast open.

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