Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily September 23, 2004
US Navy Nuclear Advocates Sabotage Presidential Move To Aid Taiwan On Submarines
Exclusive. Analysis. By GIS (Global Information System) Staff, Washington.
Very reliable sources within the US Navy have confirmed to GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily that deliberate moves have been made, and a concerted campaign mounted, by US Navy (USN) officers committed to the concept of a US “nuclear (powered) navy”, to ensure that the US does not provide the Republic of China Navy (ROCN: Taiwanese Navy) with conventional submarines (SSKs) as promised by US Pres. George W. Bush.
The belief by these officers is that any return by the USN to support the production of conventionally-powered submarines, even for export to the ROC or Israel, would inevitably lead to the USN procuring some SSKs for its own use, thereby ending the all-nuclear submarine (SSN and SSBN) fleet which the USN now has.
The move totally subverts Pres. Bush’s commitment in 2002 to Taiwan, and while the attitude of the “nuclear navy” toward the resumption of conventional boats has been clear for many years, GIS sources report that vehemence with which the pro-nuclear officers have gone about their obstruction of the transfer of any technology or technical information to the ROCN regarding the proposed submarine project. The project was to have involved US funding and possible construction of a German SS or SSK design.
The GIS sources said that, by the time the pro-nuclear officers were through, the ROC “might be lucky to get a license to build US World War II Guppy-type submarines; they would be better off raising some of the scuttled German Type XXIs from the North Sea”. These officers had even forced protracted meetings and debates to discuss the “definition of a submarine”, among other infantile attempts at obfuscating the discussions. Other points raised included the suggestion that providing the ROC with “US technology” was tantamount to providing it to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because “Taiwan will be taken over sooner or later by the mainlanders”.
That suggestion in itself ignores US treaty obligations to help sustain Taiwan’s security in the event of a threat by the PRC, but equally ignores the fact that the conventional submarine technology would come not from the US, but from Germany, in any event. And Germany has already demonstrated that its technology is available to the PRC, given the widespread sale of German submarines to states with close relations with Beijing.
Some USN officers, angered by the deliberate sabotaging of US policy, have suggested that the “pro-nuke” officers have, in fact, strengthened the hand of the PRC in planning any confrontation of the ROC, and thereby had made US policy options more difficult, given the treaty obligations which the US has to the ROC. One officer said: “Strengthening US deployment to four SSNs in Guam is hardly going to make Beijing think twice about moving on Taiwan.”
Taiwanese officials have for some time been aware of the fact that the meetings with USN officials have been meaningless and insulting, and have, in fact, served only to delay the acquisition of new SSKs by the ROCN. As a result, Taiwan has moved ahead with plans for local submarine production, but has lacked a clear concept of how it should be tackled.
There is now the suggestion that the capacity which had been developed by Argentina to build German Type 209 boats could be available for purchase by Taiwan. Argentina had gone a considerable way down the process of developing a capacity to build the submarines, but stopped the project because of lack of funds. It may be possible for Taiwan to acquire this capacity.
Significantly, the moves by the “pro-nukes” to sabotage Pres. Bush’s commitments to the treaty obligations with Taiwan significantly affect US defense export possibilities. Apart from an initial two-boat order (with a total run of eight boats) for the ROCN, Israel was also interested in acquiring US-built — rather than German-built — follows-on to its three German-built Dolpheen (Dolphin)-class (Type 212 variant) SSKs, and Egypt had earlier expressed an interest in US-built SSKs. Israel and Egypt would be using some US funds on submarine purchases, out of US military aid funds, and acquisition of US-built vessels would have kept that funding in the US, rather than diverting it to Germany.
Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, on January 29, 2002, report, ROC Submarine Requirement Seen as Viable Way for US to Resume Diesel-Electric Boat Construction, noted:
The commitment of the US Bush Administration to provide the Republic of China (ROC: Taiwan) Navy (ROCN) with modern diesel-electric submarines, which had been viewed as meaningless by critics who pointed to the lack of a US conventional submarine construction program, is now being increasingly viewed as the means by which the US will resume conventional submarine construction. Such a capacity is expected to lead to export orders to other countries, apart from the ROC, and particularly — assuming the relationship continues — Egypt.
As well, it is becoming increasingly accepted within the US naval industry, if not yet the US Navy, that the US itself could benefit from having a mixed fleet of nuclear and conventional submarines. This has been particularly true in light of the experience of the USN with the General Dynamics Electric Boat Division Type 688 Los Angeles-class SSN hunter-killers, which have proven extremely expensive to build, and many of which lacked the diving capability of even a World War II conventional submarine (SSK). Contrasting this, Australia built a viable, world-class conventional submarine construction capacity with its Type 471 Collins-class SSKs, which are true blue water attack vessels, and achieved this with only a six-vessel construction program. Moreover, the Collins-class boats have proven vastly quieter than the US expected, routinely defeating US surface targets in exercises between the US Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
The quiet battle for conventional submarine technology is now going on between GD's Electric Boat and Northrop-Grumman, which recently defeated GD in a bid for Newport News Shipbuilding Co. Newport News was the only other builder, apart from GD, which could construct nuclear submarines for the USN.
US nuclear submarine constructors — Northrop Grumman (Newport News) and General Dynamics — have remained silent on the prospect of building conventional boats; after all, the same officers committed to stopping the Taiwanese obligation from reaching fruition are the same officers involved in the domestic US procurement of nuclear submarines. Despite this, General Dynamics had quietly and strongly pursued acquisition of a stake in Australian Submarine Corporation, which built the six Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Collins-class SSKs.
It is clear, as well, that Germany is prepared to work directly with Taiwan on SSK production. As early as July 22, 2002, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily carried a report entitled Germany, Israel, US Agree on SSK Sales to ROCN, which noted:
It now seems certain that Germany will work with the US to provide eight Israeli-designed, Germany-built Dolpheen-class conventional submarines (SSKs) to the Republic of China Navy (ROCN: Taiwan Navy). In addition, as exclusively reported by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily on September 7, 2001, Israel would, as part of the deal, sell its existing three Gal-class SSKs — precursors to the Dolpheen-class — to the ROCN.
The German Government has, according to very senior sources in the German Government, agreed that Germany would build the eight new boats, despite the anticipated diplomatic pressure certain to be exercised against it by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The reports contradict a report published in the UK-based newspaper, The Financial Times, of July 16, 2002, which said that the Taiwanese-based China Ship-Building Corporation (CSBC) would possible take a production rôle in the new SSKs being sought by the ROCN, although CSBC had, indeed, been pushing for a place in the program, as had US-based nuclear submarine builders General Dynamics and Northrop-Grumman.
Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, on September 7, 2001, in a report entitled ROCN Seen Likely as Ultimate Recipient of Israeli Gal-class SSKs, had said that Israel had been considering ways to transfer its old Gal-class boats to the ROCN. Significantly, open discussion of this prospect subsequently disappeared.
By mid-2004, the ROC had begun exploring moves which recognized not only the feasibility of building submarines in Taiwan, but also the reality that this might offer the only solution to its problems. Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, in a report of July 19, 2004, entitled ROC, Sensing US Failure to Supply SSKs, Looks to Local Production, noted:
Taiwan now appears prepared to accept the fact that the US would not, as initially promised by the US Bush Administration, be able to supply the ROC Navy (ROCN) with conventional attack submarines (SSKs). As a result, although Taipei was now moving strongly to ensure future defense matériel supplies from the US, it was also moving to build submarines at its world-class shipyard in Kaohsiung, in the south of Taiwan.
It has not, however, yet raised the question of what designs would be used for any locally-built submarines, although it was believed that US help was being sought in this regard.
The former Chairman of China Shipbuilding Corp. (CSBC), Hsu Chiang, said on July 14, 2004, that CSBC was fully capable of building submarines, but the government needed a clear-cut policy of helping the company with the undertaking. Hsu retired from the CSBC chairmanship on July 1, 2004. He said that CSBC's ability to build submarines had been recognized US and other world experts. CSBC, during his chairmanship, had invested some NT$20-million ($595,415) as well as enormous manpower into a trial construction of a hull and sections of a submarine, including the most sophisticated section to store the engine and the pressurized cabin.
Mr Hsu said the test-built sections were proved to be capable of Being seaworthy down to 300 meters. He said that the only problem was the lack of availability in the country of locally-made high-tensile steel plates of the appropriate quality, and the uncertainty surrounding the Government policy of whether to encourage the CSBC to develop submarine-building skills.
CSBC was reportedly keen to get a share of the contract with an estimated price of about NT$400-billion ($11.9-billion), and has lobbied ROC politicians to support their bid. US officials had reportedly rejected the idea on the basis that the learning process, and investment cost, to build submarines in the ROC would be too great. However, Australia has already built one of the world’s most successful conventional submarines, the Collins-class, at the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), a company created especially for the purpose, and US corporations — most notably General Dynamics — has been attempting to buy into ASC to acquire the company’s skills.
Discussions about whether CSBC should build submarines were heightened in late June 2004, when ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whip at the legislature, Ker Chien-ming, made the remarks after a delegation of legislators completed an 11-day fact-finding trip to the United States, and ROCN Commander-in-Chief Adm. Miao Yung-ching called on the Legislative Yuan to communicate on the review of the arms procurement budget of which the submarine deal is a part.
The Executive Yuan had, earlier in June 2004, submitted a NT$610.8-billion ($18.23-billion) special budget to buy 388 Patriot PAC-III missiles, eight conventional submarines and 12 P-3C Orion long-range maritime patrol aircraft (LRMPA) from the United States. The budget was now pending approval by the Legislative Yuan.
According to Adm. Miao, it was not feasible for CSBC to build the submarines, noting that there was no export market for them — for political reasons — beyond the ROCN requirement.
Significantly, Adm. Miao’s view that there was no export market for ROC-built submarines ignores the fact that the Australian acquisition of six Collins-class submarines from a specially-developed shipyard, Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), had not resulted in any export orders for the Australian yard, but was nonetheless an extremely successful program, resulting in possibly the best all-round blue-water conventional submarine fleet in the world. Arguably, an eight-boat commitment for a Taiwanese-built vessel would be even more efficient than the six-boat order for ASC.
US Congressional sources told GIS that once the US elections were completed, on November 2, 2004, and when Congress resumes in early 2005, that Congressional officials would start to “bring the Navy back into line” on the question of fulfilling the US commitment to Taiwan on the provision of conventional submarines.
We should be building conventional attack subs. It would be nice to have a 'brown water' capability organic to the USN. A set of 4-6 Deisel subs in the 2000 ton range would give us a capability to operate closer inshore than we currently are capable of doing with the 688's.
We need diesel subs.
I kind of expected the navy to go back to some conventionals for some time. Over and over again, it has been proven the electric is quiter than a nuke. Imagine the gains they could make now with what they know about keeping a boat quite. It would be undetectable without active sonar.
As a bonus you could make it like a glider. Imagine working in tandom with a nuke till you get in close. The could tow the conventional to reduce its need to surface, and then when they got close enough, cut it loose on its own power.
Maybe we should just sell SSNs to the ROC.
If were to build non nuke subs, fuel cells are likely to replace the diesels as the power source.