Taiwan launches first indigenous Hai Kun-class diesel-electric attack submarine

The lead ship of the Hai Lun-class submarine. Photo c/o ROCN.

Taiwan launched its first indigenously designed and built diesel-electric attack submarine, which is aimed to improve the country’s naval warfare capabilities amidst lingering threats of a forceful reunification by China.

The first of class submarine, named Hai Kun (SS-711) or Narwhal in the Chinese language, was launched by its shipbuilder CBSC Corporation in its shipyard in Kaohsiung on 28 September 2023, with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen personally leading the unveiling.

According to local estimates, the Hai Kun-class is around 70 meters long, and will displace at around 2,500 tonnes. It was also noted during the launch that the submarine has a X-rudder configuration, and additional small horizontal fins which is suitable for shallow-water operations.

Pres. Tsai is said to have initiated the plan to start an indigenous submarine program back in 2016 as part of strengthening Taiwan’s asymmetric warfare capabilities, and to replace the four ageing submarines operated by the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) composed of two World War 2-era Hai Shih-class (former USN Tench-class) and two 1980s-era Dutch-made Hai Lung-class (Improved Zwaardvis-class).

Taiwan did not have prior experience nor technology to build submarines, and has failed to acquire submarines from foreign countries in fear of Chinese response. But a breakthrough was made, with the country gaining assistance from friendly countries.

This includes submarine combat management system, digital sonar systems, combat systems, periscope, Mast Raising Equipment, integrated communications system, and auxiliary equipment from the United States, technology and submarine parts from the United Kingdom, as well as technical assistance from retired Japanese naval and submarine engineers and technicians previously working with Japanese submarine builders Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

It will also be armed with US-made Mark 48 Mod.6  heavyweight torpedoes, with Taiwan reported to have procured 18 torpedoes in 2020.

Taiwan was also reported to have recruited different submarine technicians and submariners from several countries including the US, UK, South Korea, Australia, and some European countries to provide technical assistance to the ROCN and CSBC Corporation.

The Hai Kun is still expected to undergo harbour trials starting October 2023. It was reported that the Mast Raising Equipment made by L3 Harris will only be delivered and installed by early 2024 due to production issues, and that sea trials are scheduled by April 2024. It is expected to be delivered to the ROCN by the end of 2024, but may only be commissioned and become fully operational by 2025.

[1] Reuters
[2] Defense News
[3] Naval News

Taiwan launches first indigenous Hai Kun-class diesel-electric attack submarine  Taiwan launches first indigenous Hai Kun-class diesel-electric attack submarine Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on October 02, 2023 Rating: 5

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