Taiwan's new submarines 'can't make waves in Straits'
Published: Nov 24, 2020 08:18 PM

A KJ-500 airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft attached to a naval aviation regiment under the PLA Southern Theater Command taxies on the runway before takeoff during a round-the-clock flight training exercise on August 19, 2020. ( by Qin Qianjiang)

Chinese mainland analysts said Tuesday the Taiwan island does not have what it takes to build advanced submarines, and even with US help, the underwater vehicles could not make waves in the Taiwan Straits, and may suffer from technical difficulties that hinder combat capabilities.

The comments came after reports which suggested that the island began constructing "domestically developed" submarines with the US support which is believed to counter the mainland.   

A ceremony for the start of construction for the new submarine fleet was held in Kaohsiung, a southern port city of the island, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Taiwan's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen said at the event that "Submarines are important equipment for the development of Taiwan's navy's asymmetric warfare capabilities and to deter enemy ships from encircling Taiwan," Reuters reported. The report said that the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei office, Brent Christensen, also attended the ceremony, and the US gave a green light to US companies to participate in the program in 2018. 

Taiwan's shipbuilding industry will face huge challenges in developing an advanced conventional submarine, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

With the help of the US, which could involve technology transfer, the island could eventually make the submarines work, but due to the inexperience of the island's industry and the complexity of submarine development, the submarines could suffer technical difficulties that hinder their combat capabilities, Wei said.

While the submarines, if and when commissioned, could conduct reconnaissance and attack missions on the mainland's naval ports and warships and pose a certain threat, the mainland now possesses very strong capabilities in anti-submarine warfare, Wei said, noting that many mainland warships are equipped with towed sonar systems, anti-submarine warfare helicopters and torpedoes, plus Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

According to Taiwan's defense authority, the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft is one of the most frequent visitors to the Taiwan Straits in the past few months.

The mainland can monitor submarine movements in the Taiwan Straits, and the Taiwan submarines will not be able to make so big of an impact, Wei said.

CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the manufacturer of the submarines, said it would deliver the first of the eight planned submarines in 2025, according to the Reuters report.

The gap of military strength between the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan will become even wider by that time, observers said.

In mid-November, three Type 071 amphibious dock landing ships attached to a landing ship flotilla with the navy under the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command, namely the Wuzhishan, Kunlunshan and Changbaishan, conducted a four-day maritime training exercise, which featured comprehensive defense and the transfer of landing craft air cushions,, an English-language news website sponsored by the PLA, reported on Monday.

The exercise again demonstrated the mainland military's capability to reunify the Taiwan island, and Taiwan secessionists should understand that resisting reunification by force is bound to meet a dead end, mainland observers said.