The government in Taiwan introduced its first domestically-made submarine on Thursday, the newest part of its effort to grow its naval forces amid its preparations for what it claims is a coming attack by the Chinese mainland.
The new submarine, dubbed the Narwhal, was unveiled in a ceremony in the southern port of Kaohsiung, with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in attendance as well as Sandra Oudkirk, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves as the de facto US embassy on the island.
“Building indigenous submarines, starting from scratch, is a long and complicated journey,” Tsai said. “But today, we did it.”
Narwhal is the first sub in Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Submarine program, weighing in at nearly 3,000 tons of displacement and 230 feet in length. Eight submarines are planned in the class, which can carry anti-ship torpedoes and sea mines. The subs are powered by diesel-electric motors and built in part using technology sold by the US and UK.
In the 1990s, Taipei attempted to buy eight submarines from the United States, which rejected the request over fears it would inflame tensions with the Chinese mainland.
However, by 2014, Washington had agreed to help Taiwanese designers create an indigenously-made sub, and in 2018, then-US President Donald Trump approved the necessary technology transfers, which included MK-48 Mod6 torpedoes and reportedly also a version of the AN/BYG-1 submarine combat management system used in US nuclear-powered attack subs.
Taiwan currently has four submarines in active service: two Tench-class submarines built by the United States in the late 1940s and two Zwaardvis-class subs built by the Netherlands in the 1980s.
Ret. Taiwanese Navy Adm. Huang Shu-kuang, the director of Taiwan’s submarine program and a former chief of staff of the Taiwanese military, told media that the Narwhal was “a defensive submarine that safeguards our crucial sea space and protects our shipping lanes in the ocean.”
The government on Taiwan is all that remains of the Republic of China, which once ruled all of China between the abdication of the last Chinese emperor in 1912 and the victory of communist forces in the civil war in 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was established in Beijing. US forces stopped the Chinese Red Army from invading Taiwan and reuniting it with the mainland, and even after Washington switched its recognition of the legitimate Chinese government from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, it has continued to funnel weapons to the Taipei government.
The Chinese government has strongly denounced the US’ actions, which it says are interference in internal Chinese affairs and exacerbate the risk of military conflict.
After then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August 2022, Chinese forces staged massive military drills in the waters surrounding Taiwan, including firing ballistic missiles over the island.
Beijing has outlined its own peaceful plan for reunification with Taiwan that includes a “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement similar to that used to reintegrate Hong Kong and Macau into the PRC. The two islands in the Pearl River Delta were formerly European colonies seized from China centuries ago.
Source: Sputnik news agency