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Taiwan completes 1st phase of indigenous submarine project: defense minister

One of Taiwan's current Dutch-built submarines.

One of Taiwan's current Dutch-built submarines. (CNA photo)

The contract design phase of Taiwan's first indigenous submarine project has been completed and the prototype will be ready by 2024, Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said Thursday.

After a closed door legislative briefing, Yen told reporters that the military has acquired all the export permits needed from foreign contractors to complete the contract design for the first domestically built submarine.

The completion of the contract design was the first phase of the submarine project, which will now move on to the blueprint design, then construction of a prototype and mass production, he said

In the next phase, the military will need more export permits, Yen said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), who chaired the closed door briefing, confirmed that legislators were shown more than 700 export permits the military had obtained for the contracts in the design stage of the submarine project.

He said, however, that several foreign contractors that had agreed to work with Taiwan in the design phase had reneged because of pressure from China.

Nonetheless, the project is going according to plan and is on track to have a blueprint completed by 2020 and a prototype submarine by 2024, according to Yen and Wang.

Military sources had earlier told CNA that the technologies Taiwan needed to design and build its own submarines were color coded red, yellow and green, with red denoting technology such as the main diesel engine, torpedoes and missile systems, which Taiwan could not build on its own.

The yellow parts were difficult to obtain but could be made in Taiwan, while the green components were more likely to be made domestically, the sources said.

The government has allocated NT$49 billion over seven years to build an indigenous submarine, with the goal of boosting Taiwan's defense capabilities amid China's growing military prowess.

The Taiwan Navy currently has four submarines in its fleet, two of which were purchased from the United States in the 1970s, while the other two were bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s. (By Elaine Hou and Joseph Yeh)