Taiwan unveiled its first domestically built submarine as a significant achievement in bolstering its military capabilities amid growing tensions with Beijing.
Narwhal: The diesel-electric submarine, named “Narwhal” in English and “Hai Kun” in Mandarin, marked a personal milestone for President Tsai Ing-wen, who initiated the submarine project shortly after taking office in 2016.
Importance of the submarine: At the Kaohsiung ceremony on Thursday, Tsai emphasized the importance of the submarine, costing $1.5 billion, in defending Taiwan and developing asymmetric warfare strategies as China claims Taiwan as its territory. The new submarine will reportedly undergo sea trials next month before being deployed with the Taiwanese navy in 2024.
“The submarine is an important realization of our concrete commitment in defending our country,” Tsai said, according to CNN. “It is also important equipment for our naval forces in developing asymmetric warfare strategies. In the past, many people thought building an indigenous submarine would be an impossible task. But we have made it.”
Taiwan’s plans: Although specific details about the submarine’s size and capabilities were not disclosed during the ceremony, Taiwan plans to have a total of three submarines by 2025 in addition to the two Dutch-made submarines it already possesses. The self-governed island’s goal is to ultimately build eight submarines, with plans to deploy at least two domestically developed submarines by 2027.
About the submarines: Along with support from the U.S., the “Narwhal” submarine will be equipped with U.S.-made Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes and a combat system manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The submarines are expected to play a strategic role in preventing potential naval blockades by China, particularly in key areas like the Bashi channel and the waters between Taiwan and Japan’s westernmost islands. These locations could limit China’s naval access to the Pacific Ocean.