Submarines: June 18, 2003


China and Germany are fighting a quiet economic and diplomatic war over a United States plan to have a German shipyard build eight Type 214 submarines for Taiwan. These 1700 ton boats are the most capable non-nuclear subs in existence. Greece and South Korea have already ordered them. The Type 214 is an improvement over the Type 212s, an earlier model that will equip the navies of many industrialized nations. The Type 214s are highly automated, with a crew of only 27, and use an AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system that allows the boat to travel underwater for up to two weeks. The boats six torpedo tubes can fire cruise missiles, lay mines or use wire guided torpedoes. These subs cost $750 million each, and the Chinese, for obvious reasons, don't want Taiwan to have them. The German ship yard, and its unionized workers, are applying pressure to land the contract, and the thousands of jobs. Germany has a recession going on, with high unemployment. But Germany exports lots of other manufactured goods to China, a nation not reluctant to use economic pressure to get its way. The current U.S. plan is to have the subs assembled in Spain (which has higher unemployment than Germany) from parts manufactured in Germany. Spain is less vulnerable to economic and political pressure from China, and would love to give its shipyards the experience of building state of the art subs. 


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