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September 22, 2017

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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.

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