November 25, 2015

US Combat System May Have Pushed Out AIP in the CEP

The US developed AN/BYG-1 combat system is on the USN's SSNs and SSGNs and on the Collins subs. A typical workstation display above. (Diagram and description courtesy General Dynamics)

The 3 contenders are currently finalising their final responses to the CEP with 5 days to go. But it is US and Australian alliance dynamics and the electrical power needs of the US provided AN/BYG-1 combat system that may be thoroughly under-rated issues. Combat systems are the networks of sensors, weapons, data bases and other electronics that submarines rely on and fight with.

In terms of alliance dynamics Submarine Matters' The US Continues to Influence Australia's Future Submarine Selection in Many Ways, September 22, 2015, pointed out that US alliance issues include:

1.  Australia's on the record preference for the US AN/BYG-1 combat system,

2.  Given the highly confidential nature of combat system it may be effectively up to the US which of the 3 countries can access the combat system technology, and 

3.  The US public endorsement of the Japanese Soryu submarine as the best large submarine may be a continuing US policy. "Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, said Oct. 24 [2014] in Tokyo that then-Australian Defence Minister David Johnston was very interested in Japan’s Soryu-class subs. “I talked to him about it four years ago and I said: ‘You want to find the finest diesel-electric submarine made on the planet - it’s made at Kobe works in Japan,’"

Now a sheer physical requirement may also be crucial. That requirement is high electical power needs of the US combat system and for the high transit speeds required of Australian submarines. Its needs are probably more like the needs of Japan's part US derived combat system and less like Germany's and France's air independent propulsions (AIP) compatible lower power combat systems. AIP only delivers a small amount of power while the US combat system is built around the power output of its largest user group - which are large, high electrical power producing, US nuclear submarines.


Along these lines the following comments on November 21, 2015 are useful to revisit:

In comments the issue of maximum submerged speed of the three contenders in the CEP came up:

Anonymous [on Nov 21, 6:37PM] commented: "...A. It is not the Max speed that matters, it is the transition [transit] speed that is critical for Australia. The batteries of the submarine are consumed by 2 factors: the propulsion load and hotel load (stuff like air conditions, lights, combat systems...etc). The propulsion load is about the square or cubic of the speed. So, if you want to double the speed, you need about 4 times (2X2) or 8 times (2X2X2) of propulsion load. 

And so, how does the Type 212/214 achieve that "superior" endurance? Sail at very slow speed (4 to 5 knots), very low crew numbers and a much less power hungry but less capable combat systems (so much less hotel load). It takes 2 weeks to cover 1500km, and [Australian] submarines have to sail nearly 7,000km to reach the operation area. If we do it in German's way, we have to return to base (with 70 days provision as in Collins) before we reach our target. 

Our Collins (and the future submarine) are transitioning at 10+ knots, have a much bigger crew, a much more power hungry combat system. So what is practical on Type 212/214 will not be true for the Type 216 (and that is a power consumption far beyond the fuel cell AIP on board Type 212/214 can practically provide). So even the Type 216 [needs to] have 4 diesel engines (twice the number on board type 214) in order to recharge the LIB fast enough. 

Soryu has a higher transitioning speed, have a much bigger crew and a more power hungry combat system than the type 214/212. Not as ["crazy" high?] as our Collins but it is more close to "reality" than the spec. of type 216 on newspapers.


Australia's Rex Patrick writing for ASPI's Strategist website reinforces the high power consumption needs of the combat system point.

"A second issue with the [AN/BYG-1 combat system that will be included in the Australian future submarine] is that of power consumption. It’s well known the BYG, of nuclear submarine origin, has large power consumption needs that increase the submarine’s ‘hotel load’. In turn, this adversely effects the submarine’s all-important indiscretion ratio. Noting the impact this will have on the submarine’s operational stealth, it’s hard to appreciate how Navy can simply ignore this issue." 
[More detailed Rex Patrick views on the AN/BYG-1 are in the Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) Vol. 41 No. 8 (subscription) October 2015, pp. 36-39. APDR has commentary on Australian future submarine issues in all of its (usually monthly) editions.]

Advocates for German and French submarines frequently mention the value of AIP systems or submarines (like the Type 212 and 214) which are specifically built around AIP systems.

AIP however never appears to have been rated as a high requirement for Australian submarines. The Collins planners could have included AIP as fitted or retrofitted. Of the Collins major faults, diesel engine reliability and diesel fuel tank problems have been mentioned. Perhaps electrical reliability is also a problem. The lack of AIP has not featured on the media fault list. 

AIP has also not been a major item in the future submarine debate. So 

1.  Maybe the US combat system's high electrical power needs effectively cancels out the AIP option.

Another assumption may be the high electrical needs of motors during the standard fast and long transit legs of (likely) most Australian sub missions. So:

2.  Fast transit speeds preference large engine capacity and high (LIB) battery capacity which further pushes AIP down the requirements list.

The French response made on Submarine Matters that AIP may be retrofitted if it is thought necessary, may not be a weakness at all.


November 24, 2015

US told 2 Days After - that Port of Darwin sold to Chinese Company

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) tied up at Fort Hill Wharf, Port of Darwin, northern Australia. The wharf and port where future US Navy ships tie up is now owned (well leased for only 99 years!) by a Chinese company called Landbridge Group. See September 17, 2013, We finally made it to Darwin! But Australia's leaders ignorant?

An increasing US presence in Port of Darwin and Marine barracks in Darwin. Fleet Base West, south of Perth, already hosting US carriers and submarines (SSNs and SSGNs) for visits.

Darwin. See Fort Hill Wharf (just to the left of this map of Port of Darwin) where US ships tie up. (Map courtesy ABC)

It would appear that the sudden changeover in Australia's Prime Ministers in mid September 2015 frustrated any careful Ministerial, Cabinet or Prime Ministerial consideration of a major alliance matter. This was the national security implications of the sale of strategic Port of Darwin to a Chinese owned company called Landbridge Group

The Chinese company won't need to be told what type warship or submarine is visiting. It will just need to note the preparation patterns over 99 years to draw an accurate picture.

Over 1,000 US Marines and an amphibious assault ship are rotated through Darwin each year as part of the US pivot/rebalance. Other US and allied warships visit the port more frequently. 

Basically in September-October 2015 Australia gained a new Prime Minister and new Defence Minister. Much was in disarray. So a sale of a strategic port to Chinese company Landbridge slipped through the cracks and we told the US about it two days after the sale. 

So we told you after we did it. What's your problem allies!!

   Then, two days after the sale:

15 October 2015 - Australian bureaucrat Defence Secretary Richardson [first?] discussed the matter face-to-face with US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Robert Work, in Washington DC. This is according to Defence Minister Marise Payne

So it appears the US was told after the sale - and then as a courtesy.

A month later Australia’s ABC, reported on the seeming ignorance of new Prime Minister Turnbull regarding the major defence significance of Port of Darwin, of US sensitivities and perhaps even Japanese naval security sensitivities.

"PM Malcolm Turnbull gets it wrong on whether Darwin port is used by military"

By political reporter Anna Henderson
Updated Sat Nov 21, 2015 at 1:02am

"Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made a significant error in trying to justify the decision to lease Australia's crucial northern port to Chinese interests, by claiming it is not used by the military.

Key points: 
  • Malcolm Turnbull's statements on Darwin port questioned
  • PM previously claimed port was not used by military, but facility is advertised as catering to "frequent naval visits"
  • NT Government has leased port to Chinese-owned company
  • The Northern Territory Government sparked international controversy last month when it decided to lease the Port of Darwin facilities to a Chinese-owned company.

Some defence analysts have warned the company, Landbridge, has strong links to the Chinese Communist Party. They have also warned China will use the lease strategically to secure a presence in the north of Australia.

The ABC has also been told US president Barack Obama raised the sale directly with Mr Turnbull in a face-to-face meeting this week.

On [November 20, 2015] Mr Turnbull was questioned by Darwin radio station MIX 104.9 about the sale of the port.

"The port that is being leased is not being used by the military, it is a commercial port," he said.

But according to an announcement by the Darwin Port Corporation on November 16, the lease includes East Arm Wharf commercial port outside Darwin and the Fort Hill Wharf close to the city's CBD.

Fort Hill Wharf is advertised as a "cruise ship and Defence vessel facility"..."catering to "frequent naval ship visits" and domestic....

A spokesman for the Prime Minister has since issued a media statement, which said Mr Turnbull was making the point that the Darwin facility "is a commercial port not a military port".

The Prime Minister has repeatedly defended the lease arrangements.

The Prime Minister also stressed Defence could step in and take over management of the port for national security reasons. [during a war or something?]

"...Fort Hill Wharf that are used not only by the Australian Navy but also the militaries of other countries as well, so it would be good if the Prime Minister, when coming to the north, knew what he was talking about," Mr Gosling said.

Port of Darwin is in good hands with China's Landbridge Group. (Photo of operations in China  courtesy Landbridge website)

USS America (LHA-6) coming to Darwin in 2016 "...and conduct on-load and off-load,”
Perhaps the company leasing Port of Darwin for 99 years will get a hint before ships visit? Diesel tankers or US preparatory teams on Fort Hill Wharf anybody? (see NT News)


November 23, 2015

UK Chooses the P-8 Poseidon as its New Maritime Patrol Aircraft

P-8 Poseidon. 440+ knots, 1,200+ nm (4 hours on station). Lack of a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) for some or most, is controversial. US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) deleted the requirement for the P-8 to be equipped with magnetic anomaly detection equipment as part of an effort that reduced weight by 1,600 kg to improve endurance and range. (Diagram and specifications courtesy

P-8 inside, out and attacking a Kilo class sub.

Submarine Matters reported on Two of the Possible Choices for the UK's Next Maritime Patrol Aircraft, on July 23, 2015. That article discussed two alternatives to the P-8 Poseidon likely choice. The alternatives were the Airbus A319 MPA and Japan's Kawasaki P-1 MPA, both in development.

UK Guardian, November 23, 2016 now reports:

[UK Prime Minister] Cameron will also announce on [November 23, 2015] the purchase of nine new Boeing P8 maritime patrol aircraft [MPA] for surveillance, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare. They will replace the Nimrod aircraft scrapped in 2010 that left a glaring hole in the ability to detect enemy submarines in UK waters, such as at the entry point to the submarine base in Faslane.

They will be designed to protect Trident submarines and the two new aircraft carriers. The maritime aircraft has been a specific request of the Royal Navy after the loss of Nimrod. These roles require an aircraft that can carry torpedoes as well as being fitted with a broad range of sensors, including radar and sonobuoys that are operated from the rear of the cabin by a team of specialists. These aircraft will also provide maritime search and rescue and surveillance capabilities over land.”

See additional details concerning the P-8 decision and implications on bases in Britain at


Hence the Japanese P-1 and Airbus competitors have been eliminated. One reason would be the US's long experience of designing and operating large long range MPAs, including the early P-2 Neptune (1947 - 1984) and P-3 Orion (1962 - present). Also the P-8 is already operational, in full production - so the UK will probably receive them more quickly than the, in development, P-1 and Airbus aircraft could have become available.

On concerns of the higher altitude P-8s operate at. There is a tradeoff in that higher altitude aircraft are faster and longer range, using fuel more economically. Such aircraft can patrol wider areas than lower altitude aircraft. Hence fewer higher altitude aircraft needed. The P-8s can drop sonobuoys that are so low altitude they are on the surface or act as “dipping sonars” as they float and/or sink:

Underlining the UK's desperate need for its own maritime patrol aircraft capability is a BBC report of November 23, 2015:

 "An RAF plane is "conducting activity" off the Scottish coast, the Ministry of Defence says, amid reports of a Russian submarine being spotted in the area. A Royal Navy Frigate and submarine are also thought to be involved in the search, along with Canadian and French maritime patrol aircraft…"We can confirm that allied maritime patrol aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth for a limited period are conducting activity with the Royal Navy," a statement said.”

A further advantage of high and fast operation - it should not be forgotten that P-8s used by the US, India , by 2017 Australia and soon the UK also have a major ground surveillance mission. In this mission low, slow flight mode would be inefficient and leave them vulnerable to surface to air missiles. 

The P-8s also have a hydrocarbon sensor which detects fuel vapors from diesel-powered submarines and ships. (Diagram courtesy Gulf News)


November 22, 2015

Japan - Australia "2 + 2" Talks, November 22, 2015, Going Well

On the night of 31 May 1942 three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney harbour. One became entangled in the boom net across the harbour, and her occupants blew her up. A second entered the harbour and fired torpedoes at the heavy cruiser USS Chicago. They missed the Chicago but one hit the barracks boat HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 naval ratings. (Photo and description courtesy AWM) The submarines were modified versions of the Pearl Harbour midget submarines. They were Type ‘A Kai 1’ (improved version 1) 24 metres long, 47 tons and carried two 18 inch Type 97 torpedoes, 2 crewman.

Japan's Minister of Defense Nakatani (closest to camera) and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kishida (civilian clothes) pay their respects and lay wreaths at a World War 2 Japanese midget submarine display during a visit to the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre on November 22, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.

Minister for Defence – Joint Communique – Sixth Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations, November 22, 2015. 20 items discussed. Key items included:

2.  special strategic partnership between Australia and Japan

7.  Japanese Ministers explained Japan’s commitment to fulfilling all the requirements in the Competitive Evaluation Process underway to select an international partner to assist in the delivery of “Australia’s Future Submarine.” Australian Ministers welcomed Japan’s participation in the Process and noted Japan’s commitment to it.

12.   expressed their strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo in the East China Sea.

13 and 14 South China Sea

19 and 20 Japan and Australia’s key alliances with the US and Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD).


Andrew Greene Australian ABC News Defence and National Security Reporter has provided a useful article November 22, 2015 that :

"South China Sea: Japan urges Australia to send clear message against 'self-righteous' Chinese military activity

[Sydney] High level talks between the Australian and Japanese governments have opened with a plea for both nations to come together to send a "clear message" against Beijing's military build up in the South China Sea.

Japan's Defence and Foreign ministers are being hosted by their Australian counterparts for bilateral meetings in Sydney.

In his opening remarks Japanese defence minister Gen Nakatani accused China of "attempting to change the status quo by force" in the South China Sea.

He said the attempts were "based on self-righteous assertions which are incompatible with international law and order".

One of China's controversial activities is building artificial islands in disputed regions. See how reefs are being converted intomilitary facilities.

"I believe that it is important that our two nations and our region come together and send a clear message that such attempts will not be condoned," Mr Nakatani added.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told her guests the two countries enjoyed "a special strategic relationship" and one that Australia "valued greatly".

"We share common values and interests. Our relationship is also based on a commitment to supporting peace and security in the region," Ms Bishop added.

Defence Minister Marise Payne [weighed in with similar sentiments] describing the Australia Japan relationship as "one of Australia's highest priorities for defence engagement".

"Japan is our key partner in the region for Australia. We have very valuable shared interests in both regional and international peace, in stability and in prosperity," Senator Payne said.

"Clearly a strong Japan both economically and strategically is fundamental to the stability of North Asia."

Earlier Ms Bishop and Senator Payne accompanied Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida and Gen Nakatani at wreath-laying ceremonies at the HMAS Kuttabul memorial and midget submarine at Garden Island.

This morning the four ministers also toured the Royal Australian Navy's new flagship HMAS Canberra.

Today's discussions will focus on options to strengthen the defence and security relationship, including countering the threat of terrorism.

Japan will also press its case for building Australia's next generation of submarines to replace the ageing Collins class fleet." Ends

[On November 22, just after the talks Nakatani said "This is not just about a chance for defence equipment and technologies, this will lead to co-operation between Japan and Australia, and amongst Japan, Australia and the United States, which I believe will contribute in ensuring freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific."

Mr Nakatani said because the subs would also have US-Australia-developed combat systems, if Japan was chosen then Australian future submarines would be "a model for strategic cooperation between Australia, the United States and Japan"]


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November 20, 2015

"Final" Responses for CEP Due in Ten Days - Japan has last word

The Table may be the most accurate published comparison of the three Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) contenders.  (Table courtesy of News Corp Australia, 2015) Still, there are many inaccuracies for the picky:
-  the Table is a mix of current capabilities (which is wrong) and estimated future capabilities (more correct). Clear current mistakes are:
-  conventional Barracuda's surfaced Displacement is likely to be 4,200-4,765 tonnes. Submerged displacement is unknown.
-  216's website give a surfaced displacement of around 4,000 tonnes, so the "Submerged Displacement" in above Table will likely be considerably more than 4,000 tonnes.
-   Soryu's Weapon Stowage believed to be equivalent of 20 heavyweight torpedos (HWT)/Harpoon missiles OR 10 torpedos/Harpoon + 20 (smaller) mines = 20 HWT equivalent.
-  216 likely has at least 1 vertical launch system = about 6-7 more missiles or other uses.
-  Soryu's current range is believed to be 6,100 nm but the "Super SoryuAU" (name first christened here) estimated range in 2025 may be more like 11,000 nm.
-  The TKMS Type 216 website gives normal crew of 33 - 33 may be short mission but 216AU may vary up to 60 for long mission.
-  Cruise missile capability (Tomahawk or other AN/BYG-1 compatible) are very likely required.
-  The Australian government has already set the combat system to be the US AN/BYG-1. If the US refuses a contender access to this combat system that contender will be eliminated.


Artist's conception of what an expanded Civmec, Henderson, WA, facility would look like if the future submarines were assembled there. Notice (left of center) 3 subs being built between the yellow supports. (Image courtesy communitynews)


This Submarine Matters article has three parts – with just 10 days to go before final responses are due for Australia’s future submarine CEP

1.  Perhaps Greater Australian Competition

November 18, 2015 news report that that two shipbuilding companies Forgacs (NSW) and Civmec (WA) may unite to compete more fully against large shipbuilders in SA and Victoria. This will hopefully boost competition in the submarine, frigate and offshore patrol boat builds.

"Newcastle [NSW] shipbuilder Forgacs expects selling its defence engineering division will lead to significant investment and more jobs. Western Australian firm Civmec, which employs 1,500 workers at its base in Henderson near Perth, wants to buy Forgacs.

It plans on making the Tomago shipyard Civmec's east coast headquarters, with the acquisition expected to create a leading national firm.

Forgacs chairman Peter Burgess said the deal is dependent on the approval of Civmec's shareholders..."

See Submarine Matter’s Australia’s $90 Billion Naval Shipbuilding More Complex Under New Government, September 21, 2015.which mentions all of these shipbuilding industry competitors, including there locations. 


2.  Rising scholar Mina Pollmann, has written an outstanding article of November 19, 2015, for The Diplomat . The following are excerpts. I have bolded some parts for emphasis.

“How Will Australia Choose Its Next Submarine Builder?

As France, Germany, and Japan promote their bids, a look at Australia’s wishlist for its next submarine class.

Mina Pollmann (Photo courtesy Alexander Brown/ The Hoya)

This week, the three companies competing to build Australia’s next generation of submarines publicly discussed their proposals at the Submarine Institute of Australia’s ..Conference held in Adelaide, South Australia. The November 30 deadline for the JapaneseGerman, and French bidders to submit their proposals for a modified Soryu, the Type 216, and the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A, respectively, is rapidly approaching, and the competition for the $20 billion prize intensifying.

…Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has offered to transform Australia into the shipbuilding hub of the Asia-Pacific, a proposal recently echoed by France’s state-controlled DCNS.

....Of course, there are also strategic considerations – former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was known to favour Japan in order to cement the “special relationship” between the two democratic U.S. allies. Even though Abbott’s ousting by Malcolm Turnbull has helped ameliorate the perception of favoritism towards Japan, the underlying logic of a U.S.-Australia-Japan alignment remains sound.

Turnbull replacing Abbott might even end up being a win for Japan – now, if the Japanese option is recommended and chosen, no one can accuse the decision makers of bias and the Japanese bid can be recognized as objectively in the best interest of Australia.

…Finally, cooperation with the United States is a key factor. Conventional submarines, which are better at operating in Asia’s shallow coastal waters, can complement and augment the United States’ all-nuclear undersea fleet. Australia’s allergy to nuclear submarines may have started as a liability, by hindering technology cooperation with their patron-ally, but now may be the best guarantor for continued integration between U.S. and Australian forces – and more importantly, their interests.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne provided some insight …: “The selection balances key considerations, including high levels of interoperability with our key ally, the U.S., opportunities to de-risk the combat systems, and synergies arising from commonality between Collins and future submarines.”

The Australian government is expected to decide which international partner Australia will work with early next year – but don’t be surprised if the decision keeps getting pushed off. In Payne’s words, “The Government does not intend to be rushed. This is too important a decision for that.” But a non-decision will have important consequences, as Australia’s neighbors are also modernizing their undersea fleets. Even after a winner is chosen, it will take another three years to finalize the processes and details of the deal.

…After all, it’s not just the submarines contract that shipbuilders must be prepared to deal with. Even though the three-way competitive evaluation process for building eight or 12 submarines has been getting the most attention, the Australian government is also preparing to award contracts for a fleet of frigates to replace the eight ANZAC Class frigates and a new fleet of up to 21 offshore patrol boats in the coming months.”


Recent photo, after Nakatani entered politics. Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani throws himself from a parachute training simulator. Note that Gen (his first name not a previous rank) used to be a Captain in the Japanese Army's Ranger-parachute corps. Clearly he can do things that no other Defence Minister would dare attempt.
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

3.  Japan to get last major sales opportunity with Australia on Sunday, November 22, 2015.

The Japan Times reported November 17, 2015 that:

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani will meet Sunday in Sydney with their Australian counterparts [Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Defence Minister Marise Payne], officials said [November 17, 2015], with Tokyo aiming to pitch the advantages of teaming up to build Australia’s new fleet of submarines.

During the so-called two-plus-two [or "2 + 2"] security meeting, Kishida and Nakatani are expected to seek an edge over the German and French bids for what Canberra calls its “largest defense procurement program in history....” 

So much is happening as the November 30, 2015 CEP deadline approaches.