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Australian navy's hunt for new sub to replace Collins class


Army.ca Fixture
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Considering how we've seen (in past threads here) the need for the ADF to recruit laterally for foreign military personnel in many trades, will we even see sufficient manning levels in the RAN for future subs like these envisioned in the article below? Don't they have trouble keeping all of their 6 Collins class subs manned as it is?

May 28, 2014
Submarine Deal Could Rattle China

Maritime Executive.com

Japan will get the chance to pursue an unprecedented military export deal when its defence and foreign ministers meet their Australian counterparts in Tokyo next month.

Japan is considering selling submarine technology to Australia - perhaps even a fleet of fully engineered, stealthy vessels, according to Japanese officials. Sources on both sides say the discussions so far have encouraged a willingness to speed up talks.


"There's a clear danger that aligning ourselves closely with Japan on a technology as sensitive as submarine technology would be read in China as a significant tightening in what they fear is a drift towards a Japan-Australia alliance," said Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. "It would be a gamble by Australia on where Japan is going to be 30 years from now."


Australian officials have expressed an interest in the silent-running diesel-electric propulsion systems used in Japan's Soryu diesel submarines, built by Mitsubishi Heavy and Kawasaki Heavy. Those vessels would give Australia a naval force that could reach deep into the Indian Ocean.

- mod edit to better reflect latest developments -
As I understand it, this proposal is for the Collins-class replacement. So it should be fairly "PY-neutral" -- as the Collins-class decommission, the crews will transition to the new boats.
Excerpts here from a well-sourced article by Claire Corbett, in Sydney, apropos the state of play in replacing the RAN Collins boats.

Worth noting that Claire hails from Vancouver.  :D

Australia's $60 billion submarine dilemma

Claire Corbett
August, 2014

If Australians felt blindsided in April when the federal government announced its purchase of an additional 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets for $12 billion, they’ll want to sit down with a strong cup of tea to contemplate the cost of our future submarine fleet. The new vessels will need to enter service by the early-to-mid 2030s in order to replace the ageing Collins Class submarines. It will be one of the biggest and most expensive infrastructure projects in Australian history, as ambitious as the Snowy Mountain Hydro-electric Scheme or the National Broadband Network.

To discuss the project, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) hosted a conference, The Submarine Choice, over two days in April. It was “the most knowledgeable gathering ever held in Australia to do with submarines”, said ASPI’s executive director, Peter Jennings, and there was not an empty seat to be found in the Federation Ballroom of the Canberra Hyatt.

The defence minister, David Johnston, opened the conference and stated clearly the difficulty Australia faces in considering its future submarine options. What we want, the minister admitted, is a conventional submarine (one powered by diesel-electric motors), with the power, speed and range of a nuclear submarine. Such a boat doesn’t exist. Nor, as the then chief of navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, pointed out in his speech, has Australia even begun to acquire the infrastructure or invest in the training needed to support nuclear-powered submarines.

..............the media has breathlessly suggested the possibility of off-the-shelf purchase of Japanese submarines. The Australian submariner community is highly sceptical, as Japanese subs do not meet Australia’s unique requirements, and their much-touted air-independent propulsion is actually Swedish technology that would have to be bought directly from Sweden. The supposedly silent propulsion system, according to these submariners, also includes a modified French engine that is already out of date.

Read the whole thing in The Monthly (magazine) site via the following Tiny URL: the original link is over 200 characters long - http://tinyurl.com/mmauozc
"Australia has the only navy in the world that flogs its diesel submarines thousands of kilometres across the ocean – and then goes on patrol."

Canada really should put its head together with the Aussies and Japs.  Same problems - same solutions?

Soryu class SSKs in RAN service?

Yahoo News

Australia leans toward buying Japan subs to upgrade fleet: sources

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and Australia are leaning towards a multibillion-dollar sale by Tokyo of a fleet of stealth submarines to Canberra's military in a move that could rile an increasingly assertive China, people familiar with the talks said.

An agreement is still some months away, three people said, but the unprecedented sale of off-the-shelf vessels based on the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force's Soryu class sub is emerging as the likeliest option.

The wiki posts say the Soryu class is bigger than the Upholder, but the range appears to be less, but not sure if that includes only AIP and not conventional motors.

It would be good for Canada to take part in the talks at the very least. The armament appears to be almost the same as the Upholders.
RAN will be very, very, very unhappy if this happens.

It doesn't say if a formal offer has been made:

Japan Enters Global Submarine Market With Soryu Offering
By Robert Farley
September 03, 2014

It now appears likely that Japan will sell advanced Soryu-class submarines to Australia. In addition to strengthening the relationship between Australia and Japan, and making Australia’s submarine force considerably more lethal, this represents a major move by Japan into the global submarine market.

Germany, France, and Russia have long dominated the existing market for diesel-electric submarines. The German Type 209 submarine serves in over a dozen navies, the Type 214, is scheduled for export to Greece and South Korea, but has suffered some setbacks.  France has exported the Scorpene-class to Malaysia, Brazil, and India, and Russia continues to export its Kilo-class subs and Improved Kilos to a handful of countries, at least until Russian industry can work through the problems with the Lada-class.

The Japanese Soryus are extremely competitive with these boats. At 4,200 tons submerged, the Soryu-class is considerably larger than either the Type 214, Scorpene, or Improved Kilo, and can carry a much heavier weapons load. This size also makes them quieter and longer-ranged than the other boats on the market. At current price expectations of around $500 million, the Soryus are not wildly more expensive than the other boats.

There’s no doubt that Germany, Russia, and France should worry about the position they currently hold in the global submarine market. Many of the Latin American navies have Type 209 boats that will require replacement sooner rather than later. The Soryu could also give Vietnam an alternative to the Improved Kilos Hanoi is buying from Russia. It doesn’t hurt that some of these large, long-ranged boats may go to countries that have problems with China. This solidifies Japan’s security relationship with these countries, while also improving the economic prospects of Japan’s defense industry.

If Japan can reliably produce the Soryu at a cost that is competitive with the latest German and French boats, it can capture a big part of that market, while also making the Western Pacific more dangerous for the PLAN. For Tokyo, this is a win-win.

Source: The Diplomat
Apparently representatives of the Japanese sub maker are already in Australia. OTR1, so why wouldn't the RAN want 12 Soryu class submarines?

Source: Reuters

Australia leans toward buying Japan subs to upgrade fleet: sources

TOKYO Mon Sep 1, 2014


Discussions have since moved rapidly from engine-technology transfer to a full build in Japan, with the goal of replacing by the 2030s Australia's six outdated Collins-class boats with 12 scaled-down versions of the 4,000-ton Soryu, the world's biggest non-nuclear subs. ...

Options under discussion run from working jointly to develop the technology, to Australia importing the engines and building the rest, to building the fleet in South Australia under license from Japan, to - most controversially - Canberra buying finished subs designed and built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd, the sources said.

A visit last week by representatives of the two Japanese companies to the Adelaide shipyards of government-owned ASC Pty Ltd - formerly Australian Submarine Corp - sparked fierce media speculation in Australia.


Twelve top-of-the-line Soryu subs at $500 million each, plus maintenance and overhaul, would work out cheaper for Australia as it grapples with austerity.
The govt may well go in that direction. Please bear in mind that this current and recent activity comes from the minister's office, not the RAN sub community.

Right now the RAN has no preferred option, as there isn't one. Many of the specs in the previous govt's plan can only bet met by a  Virginia-class nuke, and there is zero chance of bipartisan accord on going that way. That said, the current PM recently sought briefing papers from nuke boat builders in UK and USA, and the minister visited the yard in Scotland for a close-up lookie lookie. We'll see....

Equally, the RAN has never - repeat, never  - sought 12 boats, and the minister has intimated a few times in recent months that the end number will be somewhat south of that. That number was dreamed up in the office of former PM Kevin Rudd, not the uniformed or bureaucratic arms the defence establishment. Despite the minister's comments the media keep running the '12 subs' meme as fact: the journos in Oz aren't too clued-up re defence (just last week they said RAAF Rhinos were going to deploy in Iraq from USN CVNs.........) and everything they report needs t be taken with a huge sack of salt. If the govt really does commit to a dozen boats, then they have a very great deal of explaining ahead of them at Fleet Base West.

The Soryo boats, in particular, are not preferred by anyone at sub HQ in Perth because in rather more than one respect they're not as good as the Collins boats, and the much bally-hoo'd AIP kit (for example) isn't even Japanese, and was looked at and discarded by the RAN in the 90s. 

For what it's worth, I know who the RAN sub bigwig was who spoke to Claire Corbett in the above article, and I assure you that both he and his serving and former colleagues aren't too thrilled with this. On the strength of that article Claire has been invited to present a long, formal speech in Sydney (very soon, but I forget the exact date) and more input will be evident then. Some of that will help answer questions here.

BTW I agree with Colin that Canada should lean into this programme at some level. It's long struck me as something beyond absurd that Oz and Canada don't line up and share asset acquisitions when time frames match. Ho hum.

Hope at least some of this helps?
This, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright ACT, is from Defence Industry Daily:


Australia’s Next-Generation Submarines
It’s all about the risks we choose to accept. So, which risks are tied to a Japanese choice?

Sep 16, 2014

Defense Industry Daily staff

Sept 15/14: Japan risks. As it becomes clear that Japan is the odds-on favorite, discussion of that choice’s particular risks is coming up. If Australia picks the Soryus, the risks it will accept include some level of opacity with respect to key technologies, like special steels for hull strength. Time will tell, but Japan is also said to be reluctant to transfer all of the boat’s key technologies to Australia. Noise reduction designs in particular transfer naturally, as part of giving Australia full local maintenance capability, but are highly sensitive.

These issues, and the complex nature of these technologies, have industrial implications. The ability to actually build the submarines at ASC would leave no middle ground regarding technology transfer. Worse, experts like Kazuhisa Ogawa and ex-submariner Toshihide Yamauchi estimate that an ASC build could double the cost to the full planned A$ 40 million. This compares rather unfavorably with TKMS’ reported bid submission, but that design promises serious performance and timeliness risks, along with the potential for unexpected costs. Pick your poisons.

Other risks are geopolitical. Hugh White is not a fan of local construction, but his questions go to the heart of the strategic risks:

    “How sure can we be that within that time [of the submarines' delivery and entire service life] Japan will… be a US ally? That it will not have restored its long-standing ban on defence exports? That it will
      not have become a compliant neighbour of a predominant China, or on the other hand have become China’s bitter enemy? What would happen to our new submarine capability in any of these contingencies?”

Fair questions. Does Australian participation in a project of this magnitude make some of these outcomes less likely? How much less likely, and what role will other macro trends play? Someone needs to be doing this kind of analysis, and Australia’s DoD hasn’t shown great proficiency in the past. Sources: Australia’s ABC, “Soryu submarine deal: Japanese insiders warn sub program will cost more, hurt Australian jobs”

Canberra Times, “Japanese submarine option odds-on favourite”.
Japan's Soryu class is also being seriously looked at by the US Navy:

National Interest

U.S. Submarines: Run Silent, Run Deep...On Diesel Engines?


And so it remains. JMSDF Soryu-class diesel attack boats are the biggest boats of their type, and they're acclaimed among the best—for good reason. Their size lets them carry large amounts of fuel, weaponry and stores, making long patrols feasible. The depths offer a sub its best concealment. Accordingly, Japanese SSKs are outfitted with air-independent propulsion, obviating their need to surface and snorkel frequently. That's an Achilles' heel of older diesel subs. Soryus, then, can remain underwater for long stretches, evading detection from the surface or aloft. And their acoustic properties are excellent while submerged—helping them elude enemy passive sonar. What adversary sonar men can't hear can hurt them.

In short, Soryus are optimized for plying the China seas and Western Pacific. Those are precisely the waters the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard singled out as crucial in the 2007 Maritime Strategy, the sea services' most authoritative statement of how they see the strategic environment and intend to manage it. Soryu SSKs are proven platforms manned by experienced mariners who can bequeath their knowledge to their U.S. comrades. That makes these boats a logical common platform around which to build a combined SSK squadron.

Let's evaluate the Soryus' candidacy while remaining mindful that many other capable diesel subs—for instance, the German Type 214—are also on the market and worth considering. In operational terms, what would a U.S.-Japanese force do? Its strategic rationale would be straightforward: it would turn access denial against China, its foremost contemporary practitioner. Reciprocity is a fine thing. Or, if you prefer your strategic wisdom colloquial, paybacks are a b*tch.

In other words, if Beijing wants to deny U.S. forces access to the theater, U.S. and Japanese commanders should reply in kind. They can deploy submarines along the first island chain to fight in concert with surface forces, detachments of missile-armed land troops, and shore-based tactical aircraft. Combined-arms forces could:

-    Keep the People's Liberation Army (PLA) from wresting away beachheads in the island chain
. Bursting through the island chain would turn Japan's southern flank (and Taiwan's northern flank), compromising Japanese territory while making it far harder to cordon off the China seas. Defending the islands should be Job One for allied forces.

Expel China's flag from crucial seaways. Plugging, say, Miyako Strait (south of Okinawa) with submarines while erecting overlapping fields of anti-ship-missile fire overhead would give the most determined PLA Navy skipper pause. He would think twice before trying to exit the East China Sea for the Western Pacific (or to return to home waters if caught outside).

-    Make transiting north-south along the Asian seaboard perilous in the extreme. SSKs venturing within the island chain could target merchantmen and PLA Navy units with impunity, imposing unbearable costs on Beijing for making trouble.

In short, staging a combined fleet near likely scenes of action would give rise to a kind of mutual assured sea denial. Properly executed, allied anti-access preparations would yield a measure of deterrence vis-á-vis China—enhancing prospects for uneasy peace in the Far East.

But why diesel boats? Isn't the all-nuclear U.S. silent service the world's finest, a silver bullet in the navy's chamber? Yes and no. A U.S. Navy boat remains the odds-on favorite in a duel against any single antagonist. Mass is a severe and worsening problem, however. If the fleet disperses itself all over the map, as global navies are wont to do, it's apt to find itself outmatched at some trouble spot or another. Never mind how capable an individual platform may be. If commanders concentrate assets in one trouble spot, on the other hand, other priorities may go uncovered. Now as ever, quantity has a quality all its own. And quantity is precisely where trouble lies.

The reason for dwindling fleet totals should astound no one
. It's dollars and cents. As Cold War-era Los Angeles-class nuclear attack subs (SSNs) retire, they're being replaced not on a one-for-one basis but by fewer, more expensive Virginia-class SSNs. As costs rise and shipbuilding budgets stagnate—if that—downward pressure on numbers mounts inexorably. The fleet is projected to sag from 55 SSNs today to as low as 42 around 2030.

Although the US eventually purchasing some SSK may not be completely impossible -- the US sailing in Japanese built Soryus is a really, really farfetched idea. One of the principal functions of the US Navy is to convert dollars into jobs at shipyards. American shipyards.

Has the US Navy ever even commisioned a foreign built vessel since the 30's? The Yangtze River Patrol used Spanish and Chinese built gunboats, but as far as I know, since World War Two, the US Navy has been 100% American made.
Colin P said:
Fastcats?. the USCG Island class cutters were Vosper designs, not sure where they were built.

The USCG Island Class were built in Lockport, Louisiana.
Also, the trimaran Littoral Combat Ships are being built in Alabama, but are an Australian design and being built by an Australian parent company (Austal) with a US partner. They had to jump through a staggering amount of 'Made in USA' hoops to appease DC. Going back, the Harrier purchase was a nightmare for the Marines: more than one congressman was an anglophobic bigot......

On the Soryu front, vide the RAN, sorry, but, again, no, the RAN doesn't want them.

At last a former boat boss has taken up the pen. This time for ASPI, as good and heavyweight a think-tank as you'll find in Oz.

Excerpts here.

Option J for FSM—a Japanese solution?

By Peter Briggs
26 September 2014

It’s apparent that Soryu would need to be heavily modified to meet Australian requirements, particularly for long ocean transits and patrols. This would carry cost, performance and schedule risks, and will effectively amount to a new design—it won’t be a MOTS acquisition.

Careful, measured consideration of risks is required, and any proposal for a Japanese solution for the Future Submarine must address those issues. Based on the assessment possible from the limited amount of information available that doesn’t seem to have been done.

Despite the apparent political attraction of this solution, it seems most unlikely that Soryu is as capable as Collins, and it almost certainly can’t offer the sort of improvements required in FSM. Considerable development would be required before a Soryu or its successor could achieve that.

Option J is a distraction. An Australian-led project definition study, utilising reputable European designers, is the way ahead to provide Government with the information and maximum options for the key decisions necessary to avoid a capability gap.

*** Peter Briggs is a retired RAN submarine commanding officer and past President of the Submarine Institute of Australia.

Read the whole thing via this link - http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/option-j-for-fsm-a-japanese-solution/

BTW I'll happily buy a beer for someone who can find a single serving or former RAN submariner or sub-specialist bureaucrat who wants Soryu boats. Two beers, in fact.
I know both boats have had their issues, but how does the Upholder and the Collins hull designs work? My question is that are we both going to be looking for a new design or looking for an improved version of what we have?
The influence of the shipbuilding unions...

The Australia-Japan Submarine Deal Gets Complicated
By Clint Richards
November 13, 2014

There has been quite a bit of defense related news coming out of Japan over the last week, but the biggest stories have to do with Tokyo's security relationship with Australia.

However, Reuters reported last Friday that Australian labor unions and politicians are pressuring the government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to open the deal to an international tender, as other countries'  submarine manufacturers have said they would be willing to undergo production in Australia, potentially saving thousands of naval industry jobs. The government is set to spend $34.3 billion on its new submarine program, and sending the production of these vessels abroad roughly 18 months before federal elections could prove politically disastrous for Abbott.

Japanese defense officials indicated that should Australia open up the bidding process, Tokyo would have to wait and see before deciding to participate, and that the kind of vessel Canberra chose would be the deciding factor, as Japan's diesel-electric submarine is substantially larger than any European or Turkish variant.

On the other hand, Australia's government is in a very difficult position, essentially deciding between the revival of its domestic shipping industry and further integration with its two most powerful military allies, combined with the transfer of the world's quietest diesel submarine technology.

The Diplomat