Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, oversaw an historic moment on Thursday (September 27) as the island nation launched its inaugural domestically manufactured submarine for testing.
The ceremony took place at the port in Kaohsiung, marking a significant stride in Taiwan’s shipbuilding and design capabilities.
The new submarine, poised for a series of critical tests, holds the potential to be a game-changer for Taiwan’s naval capabilities.
President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her pride during the launch ceremony. She said: “In the past, a domestically made submarine was considered impossible, but today a submarine designed and built by our countrymen is in front of you.
“Building submarines is the concrete realisation of our resolution to protect our country. Submarines are an essential component of the Taiwan navy’s strategy and tactics, allowing us to develop asymmetric combat power.”
The development aligns with the United States’ ongoing support for Taiwan’s efforts to bolster its military capabilities with a focus on asymmetric warfare strategies. The reduced-size submarine holds particular significance in this strategy, allowing Taiwan to enhance its defence while adapting to evolving regional dynamics.
Cheng Wen-lon, the head of Taiwan’s CSBC Corp., which spearheaded the submarine’s construction, described the process as “torturous.”
He said: “Although we have worked quietly during the past several years, it doesn’t mean the process was very smooth.” Cheng Wen-lon shared his insights during the ceremony held at CSBC’s shipyard, where the submarine was unveiled.
After seven years of design and construction, the prototype is set to undergo extensive testing in the harbour before embarking on ocean-faring trials. The submarine, christened “Hai Kun” after a fish from Chinese mythology known for its legendary proportions, must successfully pass both harbour and ocean tests before being handed over to the military.
Taiwan’s ambitious plans do not end here. If the initial submarine proves its mettle, the island nation intends to build another, with both submarines expected to be operational by 2027, according to the semi-official Central News Agency.
This significant leap in submarine development is a direct response to Beijing’s efforts to hinder Taiwan’s ability to acquire submarines from abroad by leveraging economic and diplomatic pressures. China’s increasing military activities in proximity to Taiwan, including the deployment of fighter jets and naval vessels, have underscored the importance of Taiwan’s self-sufficiency in defence.
The launch ceremony also witnessed the presence of key international dignitaries, including Sandra Oudkirk, the head of the US de facto embassy in Taiwan, as well as representatives from Japanese and South Korean trade delegations based on the island.