U.S. Blocked New Subs for Taiwan
By Stephen Bryen And Rachel Ehrenfeld
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 @ 10:51AM
The Obama administration has reversed decisions made by previous administration –Republican and Democrat regarding Taiwan. The United States government has told the Taiwanese it will not help them acquire new submarines or new submarine technology with which they could build their own. Instead, the Administration has offered to help Taiwan modernize its ancient existing Dutch submarines.
The U.S. decision is a slap in the face of Taiwan, especially at the time the China is aggressively pursuing its military expansion in the South China Sea. The Chinese regime resent the new Taiwan government for its anti-China stand. Also, since China makes its living sucking up other people’s technology, and Taiwan has been a big contributor, the Chinese are now concerned that the new Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) led government, would slow the flow of investment and technology to China. And no one can predict what China’s next aggressive move might be.
Taiwan needs capable submarines that could face Chinese subs that threaten Taiwan’s freedom of navigation and, with the rest of China’s navy and air force, could threaten to choke off Taiwan from outside help. The days of U.S. aircraft carriers were ostensibly rushing to the rescue seem over. The Obama administration’s latest decision on Taiwan’s submarines leaves Taiwan exposed and in grave danger.
Today, Taiwan’s “fleet” consists only four submarines. Two of them, are World War II-era Guppy submarines, which have no value except as familiarization platforms for aspiring submariners. The other two are Dutch Zwaardvis submarines that Taiwan acquired in the 1980’s, which make them over 30 years old –an eon of time in submarine quieting and command and control electronics.
The U.S. offer to help modernize the Dutch Zwaardvis boats – updating their combat systems and perhaps their sonar, will not help making them quieter. That would require re-engineering the propulsion system and modernizing the hull.
Even as much as modernizing these platforms is urgently needed, Taiwan is at a massive disadvantage if that modernization occurs without having new submarines before the modernization begins. Modernization does not happen overnight. It will take two to three years per platform, or even more depending on what problems arise. Thus, they need to plan it would take four years. To make things worse, the U.S. has no experience whatsoever working on the Zwaardvis, therefore working on the submarines would entail a lot of guesswork. Furthermore, the U.S. knows nothing about the Zwaardvis combat characteristics, so adapting new systems to it will be a pig in a poke.
The period of modernizing Taiwan’s submarine “fleet” would completely eviscerate its defensive combat capabilities. Furthermore, with no submarines for three or four years, crews cannot be trained and be battle ready.
Therefore, before Taiwan embarks on modernizing of the Zwaardvis class subs, it must replace them by procuring used submarines. Eventually, Taiwan would have to produce its submarines, but that could take more than a decade, and Taiwan cannot wait that long.
The new Taiwan government does not seem to realize the situation. But to survive, Taiwan must rethink its position and fix the problem.