Taiwan’s programme to build its own submarine fleet has received a boost after the US approved the sale of three key pieces of equipment.
Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed on Tuesday that Washington had approved export permits – including the first arms sales to the island under the Biden administration.
“On the delivery period, we need to follow the procedures in due course and I can’t say when exactly they will arrive. After all, there are operational procedures,” Chiu said ahead of a legislative session, adding that the authorities would ensure the work was completed on schedule.
Chiu did not identify the items to be fitted, but ministry officials had said there were three major types of equipment – digital sonar systems, integrated combat systems and auxiliary equipment system (periscopes) – that the island could not produce and must rely on US technology.
The indigenous submarine project was initiated by the government in 2016 to bolster the island’s ageing fleet of four submarines with eight new diesel-electric models. The first prototype is budgeted to cost NT$49.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) and scheduled to be launched in July 2024 before entering service the following year.
Work on a prototype vessel started at the CSBC Corporation’s shipyard in Kaohsiung, in November.
The approval came just ahead of a meeting this week by senior officials from Washington and Beijing.