By Aaron Tu, Huang Hsin-po and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

The Ministry of National Defense is to allocate an estimated NT$10.6 billion (US$341.33 million) for a domestic submarine program, its budget report for next year said.

The navy has asked for NT$9.75 billion to continue building a prototype submarine, the construction of which began this year, the report said, adding that the navy intends to complete the vessel before the end of 2025.

Another NT$819.1 million was requested by the navy to to finalize the design contract of the submarine, which is to pay for the development of combat systems and the platform, and for laying the groundwork of the design details, it said.

The navy is to send a delegation of six people to the US and six more to Europe, where they are to inspect contractors’ ability to manufacture articles to specification and deliver them on time, the report said.

The US-bound team has eight days for their task and the Europe-bound team 11 days, with a total budget of NT$1.8 million, it said.

The military has been tight-lipped about the companies that were awarded contracts for the submarine program. Last year, then-navy chief of staff Vice Admiral Lee Tsung-hsiao (李宗孝) told lawmakers that 15 companies in the US and Europe had expressed an interest in bidding.

In March, the military furnished technology transfer licensing documents to be reviewed by the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee and lawmakers were reportedly satisfied, sources said.

With Washington having approved a slew of arms sales to the nation, the armed forces are to send officers to the US to learn about the weapon systems Taiwan is to procure, the report said.

Military officers are to attend technical conferences with their counterparts and weapons manufacturers, including makers of Stinger portable air defense systems, AIM-X air-to-air missiles, TOW-2B anti-tank guided missiles, F-16V jets and M1A2 Abrams tanks, it said.

Liaison teams are to be established in the US to provide fiscal and technical oversight, and to coordinate systems integration and logistical organization, it said.

Navy and air force representatives are to attend a leadership seminar at the US Naval Academy and next year’s Mobility Guardian exercise held by the US Air Force at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord respectively, it said.

The command sergeant of the General Staff is expected to meet their US counterpart, while the Reserve Command plans to observe the training of army reservists by the US Indo-Pacific Command in September next year, it said.