Taiwan to replace Navy with all domestic production

Clearly alarmed by China’s increasingly assertive irredentism in the South and East China Seas, the surrounding Asia-Pacific countries are beefing up their military. (See “China threatens war in South and East China Seas“)

According to naval analysts at AMI International, the Asian-Pacific region is currently the No. 2 market for naval arms sales globally. AMI estimates that Asian and Pacific nations will build upwards of 1,100 warships during the next 20 years, and spend $200 billion building them.

More interesting than the new Asian-Pacific arms race is the fact that, instead of purchasing them from the United States, some countries are seeking to build their own arms — a commentary on their perception that Washington is unreliable and undependable. (See “U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Locklear says China is eclipsing U.S. in Asia”)

As an example, Japan is considering building its own fighter jets.

Now, it is Taiwan.

Taiwan StraitMilitary experts say that the Taiwanese Navy, once the island nation’s most neglected military service, has lately come to be viewed as “the most important” arm of the Taiwanese military because the Navy holds the power to save Taiwan from an invasion by mainland China. Accordingly, the Navy is now the focus of Taiwanese military investment.

Last month, Taiwan’s government released preliminary details on a new 20-year plan to modernize its Navy. Currently composed primarily of hand-me-down U.S. and French warships (Perry-, Knox-, and La Fayette-class frigates, and Kidd-class destroyers) and domestically-built supporting Kuang Hua 6 fast-attack missile boats and Ching Chiang-class missile patrol boats.

Taiwan plans to replace this current fleet with one that’s entirely domestically built, by relying on the combined efforts of its Ocean Industries Research and Development Center for design, the Taiwanese military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) for systems and integration, and the Taiwan-based China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. for construction.

Producing them in Taiwan creates jobs and skills, reduces reliance on restrictive US government export policies, and reduces corruption, the Navy official said. US and European defense companies have a history of hiring local agents with ties to organized crime and Beijing’s intelligence apparatus.

Taiwan’s plan is to spend the next 5 to 10 years designing:

  • a new 10,000-ton destroyer
  • a 3,000-ton catamaran-like frigate
  • an amphibious transport dock (often dubbed an “LPD” or “landing platform/dock”)
  • a new 1,200-3,000-ton diesel submarine.

After that, Taiwan will spend the succeeding 10-15 years building:

  • 4 destroyers
  • 10 to 15 frigates
  • perhaps 11 LPDs
  • 4 to 8 submarines

Details of Taiwan’s naval modernization program will be released in November, but Navy officials provided some information about the scope of the massive build plan during the live-fire field training event during the annual Han Kuang exercises off the east coast of Taiwan on Sept. 17.

The fact that Taiwan wants to invest in developing its homegrown defense industry, and build these ships entirely at home, means there’s precious little opportunity for foreign defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls — America’s two biggest military shipbuilders — to participate in the project. The loss in revenues to U.S. defense contractors is estimated to be $6.9 billion — about a year’s worth of business for General Dynamics’ Marine Systems unit, or a year’s worth of revenues for all of Huntington Ingalls.

All is not lost.

While they might not get a chance to build Taiwan’s ships, they might very well be able to play a role in building the weapons and electronics systems that go into those ships.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense is still open to the idea of hiring foreign defense contractors to provide “assistance on various components and systems” that will be installed in its new navy. Taiwan has shown particular interest, for example, in acquiring RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 anti-aircraft missiles built by Raytheon, to replace the Standard Missile 2s that currently outfit its Kidd-class destroyers (now dubbed “Kee Lung-class” destroyers).

The Taiwanese navy’s modernization program will face hurdles from budget declines in coming years. The military’s finances will also be put to the test as it reduces personnel and implements an all-volunteer force. (See “Taiwan military to be downsized and all-volunteer“)

Sources: Defense News; The Motley Fool

See also:


4 responses to “Taiwan to replace Navy with all domestic production

  1. I applaud this decision by the ROC. Any nation that depends on Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton to defend them or supply them with weapons is taking a huge risk. Developing a strong armaments manufacturing base will lower their risk of attack and may open markets to other regional nations who don’t trust the Obama administration. The ROK has also established the ability to produce warships and should be able to supply smaller regional powers as well.


    • Thank you, rthurs, for your comment. Don’t you think the ROC should get together (if Taiwan hasn’t already) with Japan to cooperate on arms production?


      • Yes, and with the Republic of Korea as well. ROK has a good industrial base and is a natural ally for the ROC in the area.


  2. Many defense analysts have anticipated this development. Since the time of the diplomatic recognition by Washington of the People’s Republic of China at the expense of Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act committed the U.S. to providing sufficient defense capabilities to assure Taiwan a credible self-defense potential. Over the years that has become increasingly difficult for several reasons. Washington has sought not to “offend” Beijing by providing weapons to Taiwan whose range could threaten the mainland of China (the range of aircraft sold to Taiwan, for example, and their weapons inventory were either degraded or not offered). Because Sino-American relations have been unsteady but important, Washington’s readiness to sell spare parts for the weapons systems sold to Taipei has often been hostage to American indecision. Taiwan’s defense capabilities have been jeopardized in the course of time — hence the decision to fabricate its own air and naval platforms.

    Beijing has spent an enormous amount on its armed forces modernization. It now has a formidable air and naval inventory that could overwhelm anything available to Taiwan. Under present circumstances, It would seem that Taiwan might survive an attack from the mainland of China only as member of a defense coalition — something that might not be available. At present Taipei can only be prepared to deploy state of the art weapons systems in its own defense, or enter into some kind of relationship with Beijing that would significantly reduce the possibility of attack. Taipei apparently is attempting both strategies.

    What would be a natural recourse for Taipei — to enter into a coalition (with Japan, Indonesia or possibly India) — is currently precluded because Beijing has made clear that any nation that attempts to enter into such an alliance would be “interfering in China’s internal affairs.” The consequence could be prohibitively expensive (in terms of economic consequences). Taipei can only press forward with its modernization program — hope for a change in international willingness to consider a defensive coalition that would include Taiwan — or hope to somehow sufficiently mollify Beijing that a cross-strait attack would be precluded.


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