Taiwan Navy Seeks New Torpedoes
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — Taiwan could seek to buy torpedoes worth as much as $860 million over the next 10 years if proposals to replace aging weapons are approved.
Defense officials said the plan would include buying 600 Mark 54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedoes for $300 million to replace Mark 46 antisubmarine torpedoes, and 40 Mark 48 Advanced Capability torpedoes for $160 million to replace Germanmade wire-guided Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedoes.
Defense officials said an additional 100 Mark 48 torpedoes would be ordered for $400 million if the U.S. releases eight diesel attack submarines that were promised in 2001 by the administration of President George W. Bush.
However, a U.S. defense industry source said there has been no movement on the 2001 offer by the U.S. government due to a combination of manufacturing and political hurdles.
The torpedo effort is in response to the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) modernization efforts and new submarine and warship construction, including China’s first aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet Varyag, set to begin sea trials this year.
The Mark 46 is carried by four classes of warships, and the SUT is on two Dutch-built Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) attack submarines.
A Taiwan defense industry source said the Hai Lung submarines would have to be refitted to handle the Mark 48s, but a refurbishment program for the submarines has been delayed due to budgetary problems.
Over the past five years, Taiwan dropped two indigenous programs to develop a multipurpose torpedo and a sea mine (Wan Hsien) after the Navy failed to show interest in procuring them.
The torpedo program was compromised during a 2003 Chinese spy scandal, when three Taiwanese stole the plans from the militaryrun Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology.
Taiwan’s Navy has struggled to maintain its aging torpedoes.
During the annual Han Kuang military exercises in 2003, the Navy experienced serious malfunctions with an armed SUT fired from the 793 Hai Lung submarine and an unarmed Mark 46 fired from a Perry-class frigate.
Taiwan’s overall strategy during a war with China is to hobble the PLAN in the Taiwan Strait using torpedoes and anti-ship missiles (ASMs). Taiwan is beginning to outfit eight Perry-class frigates with a new Hsiung Feng 3 (Brave Wind) ASM, which has a range of 3,000 kilometers at Mach 2.
The Taiwan Navy also plans to outfit the Hsun Hai (Sea Swift), a stealthy catamaran corvette set to begin production in 2012, with the Hsiung Feng 3. The island country already has begun outfitting 30 new 170-ton Hai Chiao (Sea Shark) guided-missile patrol boats with the Hsiung Feng 2 ASM.
The military also has land-based coastal batteries of Hsiung Feng 2 missiles, and there are plans to field a land-based variant of the Hsiung Feng 3.