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Taiwan Begins Indigenous Submarine Construction

The Taiwanese navy held a keel-laying ceremony for its first indigenous submarine on Tuesday, a year after the eight-vessel project was launched at a new facility in Kaohsiung.

The $16 billion Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) Program seeks over a decade to double Taiwan’s existing fleet of four aging conventional diesel-electric submarines, two each of Dutch and US origin. The first IDS submarine is scheduled to be built by 2024 and delivered to the navy the following year.

Taiwanese shipbuilder China Shipbuilding Corporation is constructing the submarine at an approximate cost of $1.8 billion.

Indigenous Defense Submarine Program

The Taiwanese government initiated the project in 2016 after struggling for years to acquire foreign-made underwater vessels. The US had ceased building conventional submarines, and European suppliers reportedly didn’t want to anger Beijing.

The project was launched to bolster the territory’s defense against the growing presence and size of the Chinese navy, which has now eclipsed the US Navy as the world’s largest. China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has repeatedly vowed to reunify it with the mainland by force if necessary.

US-Taiwan Relations

Washington, meanwhile, had long been ambivalent towards the One-China policy until last year when it began voicing its support for Taiwan. In his final days as president, Donald Trump approved an $18 billion arms sale to the territory. The deal included sophisticated weapons technology, which Washington had been reluctant to share with Taipei, fearing it might anger Beijing.

The Trump administration also approved an export permit in December and January for two critical components of the IDS project: a digital sonar system and integrated combat systems. The Biden administration later approved the export of auxiliary equipment systems (periscopes), another critical component.

Taiwan, meanwhile, is upgrading its entire fleet of 141 F-16A/B/C/D fighter jets to the standard of the latest F-16V. The $3.7 billion upgrades will be complete by 2023. Additionally, the territory signed a $1.75 billion contract this year to buy Lockheed Martin M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers and Boeing Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems.

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