Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics Likely to Bid on New Subs for Taiwan

(c) K.B. Sherman, 2002

The Taipei Central News Agency recently quoted an anonymous report that the US Navy was to meet with ROC officials to discuss options for Taiwan’s purchase of up to seven latest generation diesel-electric submarines. According to the News Agency, already discussed are proposals received from Northrop Grumman and six other potential builders. Northrop Grumman has reportedly confirmed that it would provide to Taiwan the same Dutch-designed Moray class submarine it plans to build for Egypt's navy. The timeframe for delivery of these new subs is presently estimated for 2010 - 2012, according to the News Agency. General Dynamics Electric Boat was believed likely to obtain a 40% share in the Australian Submarine Corp. (ASC) (Adelaide, Australia) in preparation for such a bid. ASC is the builder of Australia's Collins-class submarines. Taiwan currently has two 2,650-ton, 1970s vintage Zwaardvis-class Dutch submarines, plus two decrepit ex-US Guppy class subs. European shipyards have already noisily assured Beijing that they would not provide any new submarines to Taiwan. According to earlier reports in the Far Eastern Economic Review, officials in Taipei suggest that Taiwan would want at least half the submarines built in a local shipyard.

The Moray class is a 2,230-ton sub with 6,800 nautical mile range at 6 knots, and if equipped with the optional hybrid propulsion system, that range is extended to almost 11,000 NM. This highly capable attack boat carries the Thales (formerly Pilkington Optronics) CK038 and CH088 electronic periscopes, as well as the Spectrum II combat/defense system, which has the capability of maintaining 35 simultaneous target tracks while controlling four Harpoon missiles and four wire-guided torpedoes simultaneously. It also has a threat library that can simultaneously hold and track up to 300 signatures. The 3,000-ton Collins class (Type 471) has been in successful service for years with the Royal Australian Navy. It can travel up to 11,500 NM at 10 knots and can carry torpedoes, mines, or the Sub-Harpoon missile. The Collins class carries two Strachan and Henshaw submerged signal and decoy ejectors and an Argo AR-740 electronic support measures unit which operates in the 2-18GHz radar band for detection, identification, and DF. The Collins is also equipped with the Thales CK043 search periscope and CK093 attack periscope, which incorporate a suite of thermal imagers, image intensifiers and low light television sensors. Beijing's 70+ submarine fleet is a mixed bag, ranging from leaky old ex-Soviet Foxtrot and Romeo subs to world-class Han nuclear attack and Xia ballistic missile boats.

Ever paranoid about "foreign devils," Beijing continues to express extreme displeasure with any plan to improve Taiwan's armed forces. However, the combination of the Bush administration's inflexibility on the issue of protecting Taiwan, an ever-growing pool of shipbuilders hungry for work during a global recession, and the realization since September 11 that only strength deters attack, may tip the balance of this issue in favor of Taipei.

The Dutch export Moray-class submarine is said to be in the running for Taiwan's navy.