Taiwan Previews Major Naval Acquisition Plan
TAIPEI — Taiwan’s Navy plans to build new destroyers, frigates, corvettes and submarines in a 20-year force modernization program that will replace all the US and French-built warships in the fleet.
Details of the program will be released in November, but Navy officials provided some information about the scope of the massive build plan during the live-fire field training event during the annual Han Kuang exercises off the east coast of Taiwan on Sept. 17.
None of the new ships and submarines will be built by the US. Instead, Taiwan will rely on the combined efforts of its Ocean Industries Research and Development Center for design, the Taiwanese military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) for systems and integration, and the Taiwan-based China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. for construction.
The Navy hopes to finish the design and development stage in five to 10 years, depending on the budget and complexity of each vessel, a Navy official said.
Taiwan will seek Western assistance on various components and systems, but their determination to build the ships in Taiwan remains firm.
Producing them in Taiwan creates jobs and skills, reduces reliance on restrictive US government export policies, and reduces corruption, the Navy official said. US and European defense companies have a history of hiring local agents with ties to organized crime and Beijing’s intelligence apparatus.
Over the next 20 years, the Navy must replace these systems as they age, and there are no guarantees Taiwan’s reliance on US-made weapon systems will continue as Beijing’s influence on Washington grows. Taiwan’s three classes of frigates — Perry, Knox and La Fayette — and the Kidd-class destroyers, will need to be replaced, Navy officials said during the exercise.
The Navy will introduce the plan to the public in November for local build programs for four 10,000-ton destroyers, 10 to 15 3,000-ton catamaran frigates, amphibious transport docks to replace 11 dock landing ships and tank landing ships, and four-to-eight diesel 1,200-3,000-ton submarines to replace two Dutch-built submarines.
US companies will still be allowed to participate in the supply of many systems, Navy officials said, but reliance on local companies will be the focus. The Indigenous Defense Submarine program is the only possible exception. US and European companies can partner with Taiwan on the program, “if they come in early enough,” a Navy official said. “There will be four subs initially, perhaps eight if the budget is there.”