In what should be considered a major breakthrough, Japan has revealed details of its proposal to design and build submarines that will replace Australia’s current fleet of six Collins-class boats. Speaking at this year’s Sea Power conference in Sydney, Australia, the head of a Japanese delegation revealed that Japan is likely to completely transfer the technology that is required to build a larger version of Japan’s 4,000 ton diesel-electric Soryu-class submarine to Australia.
Japan works with Australia
The head of the delegation, Masaki Ishikawa, stated that the country is willing to transfer the complete technology to Australian navy soon. The technology transfer includes advanced welding technology, top-secret stealth technology that has so far not been revealed to anyone, combat system integration, lithium-ion batteries that are going to be the submarine’s main energy source (an air-independent propulsion mechanism will also be added later on), and a snorkel system that can withstand all kinds of weather and be very efficient even during typhoons. The combat system in the submarine will be the one that is being used by the American Navy.
The construction process of these vessels was also revealed by Ishikawa, who stated that the Japanese government has planned on calling hundreds of Australian workers to its shores where, under the supervision of senior engineers from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, they will be given training and will then construct a mock-up submarine.
Ishikawa says that the submarines will also be built in Australia but believes that it will be a good option to start the building of the first vessel in Kobe, Japan under Australian supervision. However, Ishikawa believes that both options are very feasible.
Considering that this particular Australian-Japanese cooperation is going to cost around $38.8 billion, the head of the Japanese delegation dismissed the idea that language or culture will be a barrier.
There are, however, concerns that ongoing political change in Australia might affect the partnership. But Ishikawa believes that having a new prime minister at the helm will have no bearing on the proposed strategic partnership. In May, Australia invited France, Germany and Japan to participate in a ten-month-long competitive evaluation process in which every bidder received around $6 million to prepare a proposal.
As things stand, all three bidding countries have agreed to build the submarines in Adelaide, which is home to the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC). However, in order to make its offer more competitive and give it an edge over those of the two European countries, the Japanese government announced that it will share top-secret technology with Australia. This is the first time Tokyo has been so open about its submarine program.
The Soryu-class boats which are currently in service with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force work on a Swedish-made air-independent propulsion system. However, the Australian government has a preference for lithium-ion battery options, a technology Japan has guarded with extreme pride in the past.
Germany challenges Japan
There was a time when Japanese submarine technology was at the top of maritime military technology. However, the German HDW-class 216 diesel-electric sub which was designed by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), has really given Japanese technology a run for its money. Already the German submarine giant has built more than 160 such vessels for 20 different international customers, which means Japan really has to offer Australia something unique if it stands a chance to win a contract which will definitely help it further its military technology transfer business around the globe.
The HDW 216 Submarine is a long-range multi-mission two-deck fuel cell submarine that has exceptional endurance. It features two pressure-tight compartments, high comfort levels for the crew and a very flexible payload for weapons and mission-oriented exchangeable equipment, which has been enhanced by the innovative Vertical Multi-Purpose Lock (VMPL).
The Soryu class holds the largest submarines under commission with the Japanese Navy since World War II, and unlike previous models, the subs do not have to come to the surface to charge their batteries, which increases their submerged endurance from days to weeks. Moreover, the Air-independent Propulsion System allows these vessels to enjoy a more efficient stealth mechanism which, as mentioned earlier, was supplied by Swedish company Kockums Sterling.
The fact that the Soryu class is considerably larger than the French Scorpene, Russian Kilo and German Type 214 means it has the ability to carry a much heavier weapons load. Also the size makes these vessels quieter and longer-ranged as compared to other boats on the market.
One feature that will help the Australian government in evaluating the feasibility of the partnership is that at a price of around $500 million, these boats are not as expensive as other boats but can perform even better than those that are on the market today.