Taiwan unveils first locally built submarine

ROCS Hai Kun submarine
ROCS Hai Kun submarine

Taiwan has unveiled its first indigenously developed submarine, which has been built by local shipbuilder CSBC Corporation and will eventually enter service with the Republic of China Navy (RoCN).

The diesel-electric submarine (SSK) was unveiled by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on 28 September at CSBC’s facilities in the southern port city of Kaohsiung with the ceremony broadcast live by Taiwanese news outlets.

In her address at the ceremony, President Tsai revealed that the new boat will be christened ROCS Hai Kun – after a mythical sea creature – once it has completed its developmental and trial phases and commissioned into service.

According to past reports, Hai Kun has an overall length and beam of about 70 and 8 metres, and will likely displace about 2,700 tonnes at full load. The boat is expected to be completed in 2024 and delivered to the RoCN in 2025.

Although detailed performance specifications remain unconfirmed, the RoCN is reportedly expecting an operational range of up to 6,000 nautical miles as well as surface and submerged speeds of around 8 kt and 17 kt, respectively.

It is also expected to be armed with US-made Mk 48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology heavyweight torpedoes and UGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles, with combat management and sonar systems supplied by US companies such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Other equipment approved for transfer by the US include optronic masts, torpedo tubes, propulsion equipment, and other critical engineering and mission equipment.

CSBC Corporation was awarded a design and construction contract for a prototype SSK in May 2019. The company had earlier declared that the first production-standard boat is expected to be completed at its purpose-built submarine construction facility in the third quarter of 2024, followed by sea trials and commissioning in 2025.

It is understood that Taiwan is seeking to build up to eight Hai Kun-class SSKs worth up to US$16 billion.

The RoCN presently operates an ageing submarine force comprising two refurbished Dutch-built Zwaardvis/Hai Lung (Sea Dragon)-class SSKs subs acquired in the late 1980s.

It also maintains two Second World War-vintage former US Navy Guppy II/Hai Shih (Sea Lion)-class boats, which are the oldest submarines in naval service anywhere in the world today, and are understood to be only used for training purposes.

by Jr Ng