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Old Taiwanese submarine to get new pressure hull: MND

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Navy Command Headquarters of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday responded to earlier reports on the necessity of the pressure hull replacement for an older submarine, stating that the replacement is a necessity.

An officer of the naval command stated that agencies such as the China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC, 台船) and the Ship and Ocean Industries Research and Development Center (SOIC, 船舶暨海洋產業研發中心) have been appointed as the responsible agencies.

The officer also stated that the submarine in question is extremely old, which is why the reconstruction is necessary. In reality, both the Seal Submarine and its partner the Sea Lion Submarine have been adopted as training submarines recently and there hasn't been much of an opportunity to submerge them underwater, said the officer.

Reportedly, the budget of the project has been listed at NT$450 million. Local media have viewed the reconstruction project as a test to see whether the CSBC and SOIC possesses the engineering capacity to construct a submarine that is made in Taiwan. The submarine construction program is largely based on reverse-engineering existing submarines.

Aside from the pressure hull, the navy has reportedly said that it wishes to have old pipelines replaced. However, details are still being negotiated between both parties.

Local Technical Limitations Prompt Safety Speculations

Earlier local reports stated that part of the new hull will replace the old pressure hull that was welded locally and will then be covered with the already 70-year old external hull that will also be welded locally, prompting speculation about safety concerns by local media.

Other safety concerns are related to the fact that the reconstruction of the hull is reportedly set to take place at a dry dock of the Navy Maintenance Command instead of at the CSBC dry dock due to technical limitations.

A former Navy Submarine Reservist, Colonel Wang Chih-peng (王志鵬), has stated that the problem of the pressure hull in the current Seal Submarine does not reside solely in its lower part, but in the entirety of the sub. Welding a new piece of hull onto a 70-year-old machine with metal fatigue could have safety issues, said Wang, which means that all three parts of the pressure hull should be replaced. Unfortunately, budget constraints only allow for the lower part of the hull to be replaced.

June 4, 2014    Bobbypablo@
I completely agree with Col. Wang, the Navy shouldn't just replace a portion or section of the pressure hull it is not feasible and most especially not safe. Remember a sub when submerged encounters extreme pressure all around its hull especially diving deep. Replacing a portion will have a high tendency of structural failure. It's much better to just build a new unit. Since it is a known fact that no country with sub tech would wish to deal with Taiwan due to pressure from PROC, I think it is much better to first build a new unit using the Guppy design which could easily be obtained from the US since it's an old design. nevertheless, it would still be a capable sub as original equipments could be replaced with modern ones. The only thing that would old is the design, but everything from propulsion, electrical, navigation and weaponry would be modern. This could be a stop gap measure until such time the Taiwanese sub builders obtains adequate experience in building there own design.
July 3, 2014    joe.wang@
Rather than waiting forever to buy or build the most advanced (full-size) diesel-electric submarines, Taiwan should imitate Iran by producing indigenous small subs like the Ghadir-class midget submarine and then, after gaining sufficient experience, pursue construction of larger submarines (as Iran is now doing with its Fateh-class subs). If an embargoed country like Iran can produce its own submarines, surely Taiwan can muster up the resources to do likewise.
July 3, 2014    boogurtwang@
I am reminded of the saying about painting lips on a pig...you can do it, but it's still a pig.
July 3, 2014    joe.wang@
Even better than midget subs and since its needs are of a (limited) defensive scope, Taiwan should start work immediately on the development of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). Much of the cost, complexity and risk of a submarine stems from the need to provide living spaces, oxygen generation, fire suppression, etc. (not to mention food and waste management) for human crew. Developing and manufacturing UUVs designed to patrol a limited distance (with programming logic to operate under well-defined scenarios) from the shores of Taiwan should be within the technical capabilities of Taiwan's many engineers. Just as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have revolutionized tactics of various air forces around the world, the development of combat/armed UUVs would actually make Taiwan among the leaders in this field. And UUVs offer the advantages of lower cost (and higher quantities) and no crew to risk the tragic loss of.
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