The State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of 18 Lockheed Martin MK 48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology (AT) heavyweight torpedoes (HWTs) and related equipment for an estimated cost of $180 million, according to a 20 May announcement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
DSCA stated that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) – Taiwan’s primary office in the country – had requested to buy 18 HWTs. Also included in the request are spare parts, support and test equipment, shipping and shipping containers, operator manuals, technical documentation, training, US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and related logistics support.
According to Lockheed Martin, the MK 48 is a 21in/533mm torpedo with a weight of 1,676kg, including a 292.5kg high explosive warhead. It can operate at depths below 1,200 feet and travel at speeds of over 28 knots. The torpedo has been regularly updated since it was first introduced in the early 1970s, with the Mod 6 variant believed to include an upgraded guidance and control system, as well as improved propulsion performance.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was swift to condemn the proposed sale, with spokesperson Zhao Lijian stating on 21 May that China “firmly opposes” US arms sales to Taiwan.
Earlier in June 2017, Taiwan requested via TECRO the sale of 46 MK 48 AT HWTs and associated equipment, training, and logistics support worth up to $250 million. Torpedoes sold under this request would have been drawn from US Navy stocks without contractor involvement.
The Republic of China Navy (RoCN) operates an ageing underwater combat fleet comprising two Dutch-built Hai Lung (Sea Dragon)-class diesel-electric submarines, which have been upgraded with Boeing UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (ASMs).
Taiwan also aims to develop its own submarine under an ambitious $1.6 billion programme led by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) and local shipbuilder CSBC Corporation. A prototype is expected to be completed by 2024.
by Jr Ng