Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR OCT 2014 Contents It is clear Canberra is seriously unimpressed by the availability
and performance of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) angst-
ridden Collins-class and its in-service supportability. It is clear also
that serious consideration is being given to the Japanese submarine
option to fulfil the Future Submarine requirement under Project
Options understood to have been canvassed by Australian and
Japanese officials include a joint submarine development project,
the importation of the Soryu-class propulsion system for integra-
tion into a Australian built submarine, building the fleet in Aus-
tralia under licence from Japan and a direct purchase of finished or
near-finished submarines based on the Soryu-class and designed
and built by the Soryu’s makers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and
Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
The Soryu’s highly reliable Kawasaki diesel generators and Fuji
Electrics electric propulsion motor are believed to be particular
attractants for Australia, as is the Stirling air independent propul-
sion (AIP) system.
With reference to the high regard in which Japanese submarine
technology is held, a Reuters news report quoted the US Navy’s
chief undersea warfare officer Admiral Stuart Munsch as saying
in August 2014 that “the Japanese have got the [technological] lead
For Japan, the sale of submarines to Australia would be a land-
mark in Tokyo’s controversial shift towards an operationally less re-
stricted military and a more forward-leaning stance on permitting
Japanese defence companies to find export markets for their kit.
In a 9 September radio interview, Minister for Defence David
Johnston made it clear that Australia was looking at a range of op-
tions and was not necessarily wedded to a Soryu-based solution to
fulfil the Future Submarine requirement.
“Australia has a 3,400 submerged tonne submarine which gives us
enough room for lots of battery space and lots of fuel. The Japanese
submarine is about 4,200 submerged tonnes, which is bigger than
the Collins ; it’s the biggest diesel electric submarine,” Johnston said.
“But the Germans also produce some very good vessels and the
French have got on offer a Barracuda which is almost 5,000 tonnes,
so we are canvassing widely across a number of countries.”
Johnston failed to make mention of another potential candidate
the A26 diesel-electric submarine from Swedish yard Kockums.
The designer of the Collins-class, Kockums is now back under the
full control of Saab.
Saab chief executive Hakan Bushke told The Australian Financial
Review last month that the group was ready to offer Australia a full
solution for the Future Submarine project. This would be based on
an enlarged version of the A26 on order for Sweden. The first of five
A26 boats will be in operation with the Royal Swedish Navy by 2023.
To perhaps add a string to Saab’s bow, the AIP onboard the So-
ryu-class boats is, in fact, a Kockums product.
Providing further food for thought came the news in late Septem-
ber that the JMSDF had opted to install lithium-ion batteries into
the next four remaining Soryu-class boats under construction, re-
placing the AIP.
For Australia, Soryu may not be so MOTS
In contrast to the RAN, which seeks a 30-year life-of-type for its sub-
marines, the JMSDF takes the approach whereby a shorter service
life is offset by the savings made in avoiding mid-life upgrades and
technology insertions over a prolonged service life. In this context,
the Soryu-class boats have a design life of around 16 years.
A shorter service life, and therefore shorter time between new
classes, enables the JMSDF to readily field new submarines which
take advantage of new propulsion, sensor, communications, weap-
ons and stealth technology. The risk of looming obsolescence is
sharply reduced as a consequence.
As in the Soryu-class, each successive class of submarine becomes
an evolution of the class before it, which is a low risk approach to
maintaining leading-edge underwater warfare capabilities.
persistent media reporting
in Australia and Japan, the
former has elevated the idea
of acquiring up to 12 diesel-
electric submarines based on the
Japanese Maritime Self-Defense
Force’s (JMSDF) Soryu-class to
that of a definite possibility.
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 03 | OCT 2014
Ten boats of the Soryu-class are planned
for the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.
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