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September 28, 2023 9:30 PM IST

Taiwan unveils its first homegrown submarine in defence milestone

Tsai Ing-wen | China | Taiwan | submarine

Taiwan unveiled its first domestically developed submarine on September 28, a major step in a project aimed at strengthening the island’s defence and deterrence against the Chinese navy, though it won’t enter service for another two years.

Taiwan has made the indigenous submarine program a key part of an ambitious project to modernise its armed forces as Beijing stages almost daily military exercises to assert its sovereignty.

President Tsai Ing-wen, who initiated the plan when she took office in 2016, showed off the first of eight new submarines on Thursday in the southern city of Kaohsiung, praising the new submarine, named the “Narwhal”, as a milestone for Taiwan’s defence capabilities. Tsai said the Narwhal will enter service in 2025, joining two existing submarines purchased from the Netherlands in the 1980s. The indigenous submarine program has drawn on expertise and technology from several countries – a breakthrough for diplomatically isolated Taiwan.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that faced with an increased threat from China’s military “grey zone” pressure tactics close to the island with air and naval activities, Taiwan had to strengthen its defences.

Taiwan hopes to deploy at least two such domestically developed submarines by 2027, and possibly equip later models with missiles, the head of the program said this month. The first submarine, with a price tag of T$49.36 billion ($1.53 billion), will use a combat system by Lockheed Martin Corp and carry U.S.-made Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes. It will enter sea trials next month before delivery to the navy by the end of 2024.

(Inputs from Reuters)

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