The Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) prototype is expected to undergo a harbor acceptance test in September, a sea acceptance test in February next year and, if it passes, be delivered to the navy in the first half of 2025 instead of November 2025, defense officials said yesterday. The goal of the IDS program is to create a fleet of nine to 11 domestic diesel-electric submarines that would defend the waters around Taiwan, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The boat would be 70m long, 8m wide and 18m high, including the conning tower, and have a displacement of 2,500 tonnes to 3,000 tonnes, the officials said. It would have a pair of stabilizing fins on the sides of the conning tower and an X-shaped tail rudder, they added. The submarine’s weapons would include 18 MK 48 Mod 6 heavyweight torpedoes and an undisclosed number of Harpoon missiles, they said.
Whether or not this Taiwanese “indigenous” submarine program began as such, it is now best understood as a subset of AUKUS+Japan. Someday someone ought to write a book using the decades of back and forth between Taiwan and the US re: submarines – as a microcosm to illustrate the self-contradictory positions the US has taken regarding the status and future of Taiwan.
For 2023, the key facts are these. Decades of observing major Taiwanese military projects, given the nature of Taiwanese domestic politics and sustained information warfare sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party, I have never witnessed a Taiwanese multinational, complex, major military project that has leaked as little, and, for now, sustained as few charges of graft and irregularities, as this submarine project. During the democratic era of Taiwanese national history, President Tsai is the first democratically elected president who managed significant control over the national security apparatus.
These Taiwanese submarines also reflect a broader change in US-Japan-led vision for the Indo-Pacific – changes in military thinking and the status of Taiwan yes – less commented upon but just as significant as the revolutionary changes in multinational industrial policy. In this perhaps the size of the China Threat coupled with the lessons from Ukraine have finally forced leaders in the global democracies to rethink decades of “neoliberal” orthodoxy – free market, invisible hand, creative destruction – fascinating theories, important forces in world history, but there are realms in public policy, pandemic abatement, public health, national security, where one must sacrifice efficiency for resilience and reliability.
And so, while the AUKUS nucular submarines are the big ticket system to illustrate changes in thinking, many many other systems weave a complex global re-think in national security supply chains. From semiconductors. To HIMARS munitions. To 155mm rounds. To AMRAAMs and Patriots and AGM-158s and Javelins and Stingers and Mk.46s and Mk 48s. Looking for a new balance between national security, and responsibility to shareholders-the market, while ensuring there is enough global manufacturing, storage capacity, and resilience to respond to the challenge China poses. And, related to this overall concept, how to stretch out the R&D and small batch production lifecycle of each weapon, across time and nations, to sustain improvement and capacity while improving global resilience.
Sometime this past week it was reported that it will take the US another five years to increase its annual production rate for its attack submarines from 1.5 per year to 2. Modern wars are industrial wars. This is the weak link among the democracies, as they navigate populism and elections, how to remain democratic yet sustain important, not particularly popular national security public policy projects over the decades. 2.4.2023 Taipei, Taiwan.
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