September 26, 2014

Japan's Soryu - less promising Future Submarine (FSM) for Australia

Immediately below is a diagram of Australia's Collins submarine (launched 1993)

The rapid growth and turnover of Japan's 3 most recent submarines (shaded) over the last 25 years. At bottom the Harushio (launched 1989),  middle the Oyashio (launched 1996) and upper the Soryu (launched 2007)
Peter Briggs has written the excellent article below on the many downsides and risks of chosing Japan's Soryu "Option J" for Australia's Future Submarine (FSM). Peter Briggs is a retired Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submarine commanding officer and past President of the Submarine Institute of Australia.  He wrote this article on The Strategist the blog of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). I've put particularly interesting facts and views in red. The string for the article is :

Option J for FSM—a Japanese solution?

26Sep 2014
A Collin's submarine at sunrise transiting Gage Roads. Gage Roads is the sea channel in the Indian Ocean offshore from the Collins' main base off Rockingham, Western Australia.
[ASPI's] Andrew Davies raised some interesting issues regarding the possible acquisition of Japanese submarines for Australia in his recent post, ‘Getting the submarine we want’. I’d like to take a closer look at the suitability of the Soryu.
Comparisons with the Collins class are difficult given the scarcity of published information and the fact that the Japanese platform and combat system components have been developed in an environment isolated from competition with Western/NATO suppliers.
Still, the table below provides a comparison of the Soryu and Collins class submarines using publicly available information.
Surface Displacement (tonnes)2950*3100Regularly quoted displacement for Soryu (4200 tonnes) is submerged displacement, which means that Soryu carries 1300 tonnes of ballast water/external fuel. Useable space on-board is determined by the surfaced displacement. Note: since Soyru is a double hulled design some of the ballast tanks may be convertible to fuel tanks, improving the useable volume calculation.
Range (NM)6000 @ 6.5 knots9000 @ 10 knotsAustralian operations require long distance transit to reach patrol area within a reasonable timeframe. Soryu is not designed for such long transits.
Diesel Generators2 x 1400 kW3 x 1400 kWOne fewer similar powered diesels means longer snorting time for battery charging and higher indiscretion rate, i.e. reduced stealth.
Propulsion (electric motor)5900 kW5400 kWThe higher installed power on Soryu is required due to the extra ballast water carried when submerged.
Combat SystemC2 (Japanese)AN/BGY-1 (US/Aus)US based combat system fully integrated on Collins. Integration of US combat system into Soryu would be required.
TorpedoesType 89 – (Japanese)MK 48 (US/Aus)MK 48 torpedoes fully integrated on Collins. Integration of US combat system into Soryu required.
MissilesHarpoon (US)Harpoon (US)
Legislation and Naval RequirementsJapaneseAustralianModification of Soryu is required to meet Australian safety and technical regulatory standards.
Operational Life 16 years28 yearsChanges in design and support philosophy required for Soryu. New maintenance program required.
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.
The Coles Review highlighted the vital importance of establishing through-life logistic support arrangements in Australia during the submarine construction phase. For that to be done successfully it’s critical Australia has full access to the boat’s technologies—otherwise the effectiveness of the new submarines will always be reliant on the relationship with the overseas parent navy and its industrial base. To expect to access all relevant technologies during the course of an overseas build of such a complex vessel as a submarine for the initial collaboration with a country, which has no experience in such matters, is extraordinarily ambitious and inherently risky.
The cultural differences between European ship and submarine builders and ourselves have been sufficient to cause significant problems for the Collins and the Air Warfare Destroyer. The prospects for difficulties arising from cultural differences with Japan are all too apparent and real.
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.
Nor can continuing political support in Japan be assumed, the current positive atmosphere is highly dependent on the personal commitment of the Japanese PM—a position that has changed 14 times in the last 15 years.
The $20bn program cost being used in the media softeners lacks any details or credibility. For example, does it include the 25–30% contingency appropriate for a developmental project with the risks and issues identified above?
Finally, all this will take time; time we don’t have if a capability gap is to be avoided. We do have time to do it properly. Using Collins as an indicator, the contract was signed in 1987 and the first submarine was delivered in 1996. While there were issues to resolve, this was a nine-year design and build program for the first of class from a greenfield site.
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."
The article's preference that Australia work with a European submarine builder is in line with my own preference that Australia work with Germany's TKMS-HDW. For my concerns about the risks of an Australian choice of Japan's Soryu see my earlier articles on One Line Opinion

Our submarines to be built overseas?
International - 12/09/2014, and


September 25, 2014

Airstrikes on IS in Syria - the grim theatre

Map: U.S.-led airstrikes on the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda Khorasan Group in Syria.

Sources: Pentagon, CENTCOM, the Institute for the Study of War, the Long War Journal, news reports. The Washington Post.
An article I published today on On Line Opinion. The thread for the article is .

Syrian airstrikes: same missiles, different targets

Tuesday September 23, 2014 was a busy day in a new phase of the War on Terror. As US missiles flew, jets launched and drones buzzed we slept soundly. There’s nothing like reports of airstrikes in the morning. Airstrikes have their own deadly theatre.

As with all wars in the Middle East countries have conflicting interests - though rarely has there been so much consensus against the rise of a new actor, the Islamic State (IS). IS threatens Sunni Monarchies and republics, Sunni al Qaeda, Shiites, Kurds, other minorities and Israelis.

Cruise missile targeting of Syria was expected, but didn’t happen, in August last year. But the targets are different. In the changeable world of geopolitics where morality is relative Tuesday’s targets were not the Syrian government even though it may have murdered 200,000. The Syrian government, after all, is not a threat to Israel, the US or the rest of the West including Australia. It is IS that is the main threat – so it is feeling the full force of Western anger and explosive technology.These maps give an idea of the US airbases, ships and targets in Syria.

Airstrikes generate their own theatre both for mainstream and amateur media as well as government departments. While the results are assumed to be deadly airstrike instruments detach the viewer. The last minute of this youtube is amateur footage of the bombing of Raqqa, believed to be IS’s main headquarters area. The US Defence Department took its own footage of cruise missiles being launched from the USS Arleigh Burke, a destroyer in the Red Sea. Meanwhile most of the strike aircraft came from the USS George H. W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. That carrier has the same functions as the USS Enterprise made available by the US Navy for Top Gun [a gaudy example of American culture].

IS headquarters, its leadership and vehicle parks were not the only targets. The BBC reports “The US says some of its air strikes in Syria aimed to disrupt an imminent attack on the West by al-Qaeda veterans from the so-called Khorasan group.”

President Obama’s decision to bomb IS within Syria is against his relatively pacifist nature, but it makes strategic sense as it removes one porous border that IS can operate across. The strategy also hits IS at its more established Syrian area. In some parts of Syria IS has the upper hand in a conventional military sense – with tanks – not just as an insurgency. Now IS may only be able to hide in Turkey, Lebanon or forcibly melt itself into Sunni populations - victims of IS “protection.”

As well as a sound military move Obama, in striking IS in Iraq and Syria, has pulled off a diplomatic coup that is widely supported. Support comes from the Sunni states of Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There is tacit approval from Shiite Iran and the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq. Having made some largely symbolic diplomatic protests even Russia and China, who have their own domestic terrorism problems, appear to have accepted America’s initiative.

Obama reported the air strikes matter-of-factly without the sound bite cowboy tone of his predecessor George Bush.As the US airstrikes are against enemies of the Syrian regime Syria appears to have acquiesced. What is admitted is that the US warned the Syrian regime several hours before the airstrikes.

Australia’s new air presence (8 Super Hornets, a Wedgetail AWACS and a refueler aircraft) in the region appears an elective alliance gesture rather than a necessity by comparison. This is given the ample air assets provided by France as well as from the US Navy, Air Force and Marines (even from the US Army and CIA when drones are added). Australia’s SAS might be a more necessary contribution whether as trainers or even “advisers” who lead.

Israel appears to support the airstrikes as it always feels more secure when its US ally returns to fight in the Middle East. Israel has an ambivalent attitude to President Assad’s Syrian regime. Relations are hostile enough that Israel shot down a Syrian jetfighter in the last few days. However Israel treats the Syrian government as the devil it knows. Israel realises that if Syria were to be dominated by an anarchy of Sunni jihadis, then IS might become dominant and find some common cause with Sunni Palestinians. Israel would consider that a huge, unpredictable terrorist threat.Israel appears heartened by a wedge between its Shiite enemies - with Iran supporting the airstrikes while the Shiite militia Hezbollah opposes the strikes

This new phase in the War on Terror is a serious business, but the high-tech theatre of airstrikes also boosts US prestige and Western morale. There may be no end to this new phase for years."


September 21, 2014

Benefits of SSKs for US, Soryus and Collins mentioned

USS Blueback. America's last conventional submarine (SSK), decommissioned in 1990 after appearing in the movie The Hunt for Red October.
A Chinese Type 093 Shang Class SSN. A major opponent to Japanese Soryus, US SSNs and the Collins.

Two Type 093's at Sanya Naval Base on China's island of Hainan. The 093s and follow-on 095s may form the bulk of Chinese SSNs by 2030. 

James Holmes has written another excellent article dated September 18, 2014, publised in The National Interest, concerning the usefulness of SSKs for the US and commenting on Soryus, HDW 214s and Collins.

Where James discusses "The Soryu could form the nucleus of a multinational East Asian submarine force spanning more than just the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF...from...Australia to the south." [see in red below].  This has some similarity to my "For example long range would be less important if Australia has made (is making) some strategic agreement with Japan to divide mission responsibility between a Japanese northerly submarine patrol sector and Australia in the south" in my Australia's Future Sub likely to be Japan's Soryu, outsider is Germany, of September 8, 2014 on this blog.

The string for James' article is :

US Submarines: Run Silent, Run Deep...On Diesel Engines?
"Now may be the time to break up the nuclear monopoly."
"Underway on nuclear power", radioed the skipper of USS Nautilus in 1955, after taking history's first nuclear-powered attack submarine to sea for the first time. Nautilus's maiden cruise left an indelible imprint on the navy. Her success, cheered on by the likes of Admiral Hyman Rickover, the godfather of naval nuclear propulsion, helped encode the supremacy of atomic power in the submarine force's cultural DNA.
Things were never the same after that. America built its last diesel-electric sub, once the state of the art, not long after Nautilus took to the sea. Not since 1990 has the U.S. Navy operated conventionally powered boats. It's been longer than that since they were frontline fighting ships. For a quarter-century, then, it's been all nukes, all the time. No U.S. shipbuilder even constructs diesel boats nowadays.
That was then. Now may be the time to break up the nuclear monopoly. To wit, imagine permanently forward-deploying a squadron of diesel attack boats, or SSKs, to likely hotspots. Such a force would expand America's silent service, reversing the ongoing slide in numbers of hulls. It would do so at reasonable cost in this age of budgetary stress. A standing East Asia squadron would be close to the action. Likely based in Japan and Guam, it would amplify the U.S.-Japanese fleet's prowess vis-á-vis China's navy and merchant marine. It would empower Washington and Tokyo to deny China access to offshore waters without committing the whole fleet of U.S. nuclear-powered boats to the endeavor. And in the process it would open up new vistas for building and reinforcing alliances.
Greater numbers, middling cost, a heavier punch in battle. That's a major contribution from such humble craft. U.S. submariners' diesel-propelled past could be, and should be, part of their future.
There's nothing new or especially radical about conventional U.S. subs' prowling the Western Pacific deep. They did so to devastating effect during World War II. For instance, the Philippine Islands was home to the largest concentration of U.S. submarines in the Pacific on the eve of hostilities. U.S. commanders squandered a golden opportunity to run wild against transports carrying Japanese troops to invade the Philippines. But their missed opportunity doesn't detract from subs' potential to confound opponents amid Asia's intricate nautical terrain. It's an exception that proves the rule.
And indeed, American submarines vindicated their potential in ensuing years. U.S. Pacific Fleet boats were among the first vessels to return to Asia following the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. Ordered to sea while the battle line was still ablaze at Ford Island, they helped dismember an island empire. Empires like Japan's depend on ships to ferry all manner of warmaking materiel—raw materials, foodstuffs, finished goods—hither and yon. Take away seaborne movement and you cut the lineaments binding the imperial enterprise together.
The submarine campaign grew more and more effective as the U.S. offensives undulated across the Central and South Pacific. U.S. Navy, Marine and Army amphibious forces wrested outer islands from Japan, letting the navy position, maintenance and logistics outposts closer to the foe. Submarine tenders—floating repair and supply depots for all intents and purposes—staged support operations westward of Hawaii. As the transpacific campaigns progressed, boats wasted less time transiting to and from assigned hunting grounds. They spent more time strewing the seafloor with enemy merchantmen and men-of-war.
Forward bases, then, offset the tyranny of distance—allowing the submarine force to mount a stifling presence in Asian waters. Wartime prime minister General Hideki Tōjō catalogued submarine warfare among three critical determinants of Japan's defeat—high praise from someone in a position to know.
And afterward? Ravaged by undersea combat during World War II, Japan built an impressive submarine force of its own to help prosecute the Cold War. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) diesel boats turned geography to advantage, lurking in and around the straits that pierce Asia's offshore island chains. Crews monitored and encumbered east-west movement between the China seas and the Western Pacific. Soviet skippers often balked at attempting the passage. The JMSDF, in short, forged itself into a lethal weapon for a cold war beneath the waves.
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 expensiveVirginia-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.
Forty-two sounds like a lot, doesn't it? But naval leaders are forever reminding us that seven-tenths of the earth's surface is covered by water. The seven seas adds up to an awful lot of waterspace for 42 boats to police—especially since a sizable fraction of that tally is in overhaul, routine maintenance, or workups on any given day. Many units, that is, are unavailable for combat duty no matter how sorely they're needed. Shave a third off the raw number of ships and you have a good guesstimate about the number of subs available to some degree or another.
Sure, 60 percent of the SSN contingent now calls the Pacific home. But though the percentage sounds impressive, that's only 33 vessels, a number that could shrink as low as 25 by 2030. And allied fleets? The JMSDF is expanding its own subsurface contingent from 16 to 22 SSKs, mainly by extending the service lives of boats already in the inventory. Thus a combined U.S.-Japanese fleet of 47 subs would be arrayed against some 70 PLA Navy attack boats within the foreseeable future. But even that figure probably exaggerates. It relies on the doubtful assumption that Washington concentrates the entire Pacific Fleet submarine force in the Western Pacific—letting commitments elsewhere go.
That's a 50 percent advantage numerical advantage for China—at a minimum. Again, allied submarines remain superior, boat for boat, but at some point brute numbers begin to tell. So the challenge before Washington is to add capable boats to its fleet on the cheap. (Tokyo could do its part by scrapping its self-imposed cap on defense spending and investing more generously in undersea warfare.) Here the figures are striking. The unit cost for the Soryu is estimated at $500 million, whereas each copy of the Virginia class comes in at a cool $2.8 billion. Do the math. It appears the U.S. Navy could afford five Soryus for the price of one Virginia, with change left over. That's bang for the buck.
Admittedly, the barriers to reentry into conventional submarine warfare would be formidable. For one, the ghost of Hyman Rickover would haunt any such debate. SSKs, unlike SSNs, command little obvious constituency within the submarine force, the navy, or Congress. Overcoming the all-nuclear mystique would demand concerted effort on the part of diesel proponents, perhaps with help from some truly dire budgetary pain. Such pain is more likely than not. In the 2020s, for instance, the navy will commence replacing its Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines. Top navy leaders have warned that this project alone could drain shipbuilding coffers. Inexpensive non-nuclear alternatives may come to look palatable—if not downright appealing—under such fiscal circumstances.
Next, cultural proclivities aside, the nuclear navy would likely construe any move to acquire diesel boats as a threat to current SSN procurement plans. They might see an SSK program as a substitute for new Virginias, not as a complement to the nuclear-powered fleet. It would look like an attempt by cost-cutters to save money on the sly, at the expense of operational effectiveness. Defense manufacturers—particularly those specializing in naval nuclear propulsion—would add their voices to the din. And the outcry would be universal and twice as loud should Washington contemplate buying foreign—witness the uproar among Australian firms over Canberra's apparent decision to buy Soryus rather than replace its Collins-class SSKs with an indigenous make.
In short, the pushback from guardians of the status quo would be frightful to behold. This is a debate worth having nonetheless. Think about the upsides to diesel subs, even apart from their modest cost:
-     If indeed the Australian government proceeds with a purchase of ten Soryu-class boats to replace its underperforming Collins class, the Soryu could form the nucleus of a multinational East Asian submarine force spanning more than just the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF. Other partners could join in. Basing, maintaining, and employing a standardized fleet would be far easier than it is with the usual hodgepodge of ships built by many designers from many countries.
-     Multinational detachments could operate not just from Japan or Guam to the north but from the Philippines or Australia to the south. A standing allied presence along the first island chain would constitute a potent deterrent to Chinese mischief. So would an exterior position in Australia. Such a strategic position would grant diesel boats access to the South China Sea at many points along that expanse's permeable rim.
-     As World War II and the Cold War proved, proximity to patrol grounds magnifies the operational and strategic efficacy of undersea combat. Short transit times equates to more time on station and less wear-and-tear on people and hardware. Mounting patrols from homeports in the region thus boosts the number of hulls ready for sea when the balloon goes up.
-     Embracing a time-tested common platform would ease the interoperability problems that plague multinational ventures. Dissimilar gadgetry, tactics, techniques, and procedures, and national and service cultures throw sand in the gears of coalition operations, generating the "friction" that Carl von Clausewitz bewailed two centuries ago. The lubricant Clausewitz recommended was combat experience. Yes; and combat experience lubricates best when the warriors all carry the same arms. Never underestimate the power of standardized equipment—especially when a corps of experts, namely JMSDF submariners, already exists that can pass down knowledge and expertise to newcomers. U.S. submariners could ascend the diesel-boat learning curve swiftly, making themselves proficient in this new, old technology.
-     And lastly, a return to conventionally powered subs would confer side benefits within the U.S. Navy. Since the inception of atomic power, with its technical rigor and time-consuming training, it has become rare indeed for surface-ship sailors to cross over to serve in submarines, or vice versa. It's almost unheard of to do what, say, a guy named Chester Nimitz did: start off life as a submariner before going on to serve in cruisers. Reintroducing conventional subs could reintroduce the professional mobility of times gone by. Each community would profit from knowing the other's operating element firsthand. The navy as a whole would profit from collapsing some of the stovepipes—a.k.a. "cylinders of excellence"—that separate communities from one another to such baneful effect.
So let's open a new conversation within the naval community. And let's not accept "because...Rickover!!!" or kindred excuses for staying with current methods and hardware. If not diesel submarines, why not?
James Holmes is Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and coauthor of  Red Star over the Pacific. The views voiced here are his alone."

September 17, 2014

Australia in Iraq Boosting Revenge Terrorism?

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott - making a major error by leading Australia into Iraq?

The government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's contention that Australia returning to Iraq will not increase the terrorism risk at home is dangerously contrived. The risk from Australia’s return to Iraq can be termed revenge terrorism. A country’s response to that increased risk may include the installation of a higher terrorism alert . The Abbott Government obviously does not wish to admit that Australia’s involvement in Iraq puts Australia at greater risk .

But mission creep towards “boots on the ground” is increasing the risk to Australia. Abbott will likely deny “boots on the ground” is occurring but as 200 Australian SAS troops will be in the Iraqi war zone carrying guns (be they Steyrs or pistols) it means our troops are engaged in military operations in Iraq. Advising the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces is one function while calling in airstrikes of the 8 Australian Super Hornets is likely. General Dempsey, the American equivalent of our Chief of the Defence Force, has just left the way open for American boots on the ground in Iraq . It is a given that Australia, due to alliance loyalty, will adhere to American military approaches - just as Australia earlier did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now that Australia is again involved in a counter-terrorism war in Iraq indicators of revenge terrorism include: the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO’s) own formal published assessments; the assessment of the head of the Australian Federal Police when Australia was last involved in Iraq; and evidence intercepted in the counter-terrorist Operation Pendennis in Sydney and Melbourne.

ASIO's Formal Published Assessments

As Kellie Tranter indicated in an excellent recent article on OLO the Abbott Government’s public denial that Australia’s participation Iraq will increase the risk of terrorism in Australia is unconvincing. ASIO’s most formal public advice that such a link exists should be acknowledged. Page 2 of the ASIO Report to Parliament 2012-2013 (PDF file 2.84Mb) assesses “In Australia, there are individuals and small groups who believe an attack here is justified. Issues such as Australia’s military deployments over the last decade, the Syrian conflict, or a belief that the ideals of Australia are in direct conflict with their extreme interpretation of Islam, fuel the radical views of this cohort.”

This assessment was even more definitely put when Australia was last in Iraq where our provision of two Hercules transports (like now) was again a preliminary to “boots” . Page 17 of ASIO’s Report to Parliament 2004-2005 makes the assessment "Most extremists are influenced by foreign events - some in Australia view the Coalition action in Iraq as an attack on all Muslims."

This long standing ASIO advice of a linkage may be inconvenient for Australia’s leaders because it clearly states that our actions overseas can boost risks at home and dangerously alienate some groups.

Then Head of the Australian Federal Police’s Assessment

One of Australia’s most influential Australian Federal Police Commissioners, Mick Keelty, also delivered advice on revenge terrorism that Tony Abbott’s mentor, John Howard, found inconvenient. On March 11, 2004 Islamic terrorists set off bombs in Madrid which killed 191 people and wounded 1,800. The bombings were generally considered revenge for Spain’s participation in the US Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. In 2004 several days after the Madrid bombings Mick Keelty made the observation that Australia might be at greater risk of terrorism due to Australia’s own role in Iraq. Keelty’s comments created a political storm. Like today with Abbott it is not what Prime Minister Howard wanted to hear. It was not a conclusion that the Australian public could be permitted to draw .

Keelty was quickly forced to recant. Nevertheless Keelty’s view on revenge terrorism was supported by the recently retired peak counter-terrorism advisers of the US (White House) in 2004 and of Britain (MI5) in 2010 .

Operation Pendennis

An official report on Operation Pendennis indicates that in November 2005-March 2006 thirteen men were arrested and charged in Melbourne and Sydney with terrorism offences. Significantly it is stated “One of the objectives discussed [in intercepts] by the members of the organisation was to engage in an act of terrorism in Australia, in an effort to influence the Australian government to withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

With Australia ramping up its involvement in Iraq: what ASIO has assessed in the recent past; what the then head of the AFP said; and, what those found guilty of terrorism said - should be debated rather than denied. Why is the Abbott Government denying that its new policies in Iraq are boosting the risk of revenge terrorism at home? Why is Abbott also denying the increasing signs of the term “boots on the ground” ?

In the end do we seriously think that after a decade of the US fighting then advising and arming the failed Iraqi Army our participation in Iraq will make a difference?


September 8, 2014

Australia's Future Sub likely to be Japan's Soryu, outsider is Germany

Australia's Collins class submarine compared with the prospect of Australia buying the Soryu. Disregard the range figures above for the Collins as they are for highly unlikely surfaced operation. (Diagram Courtesy of Fairfax Media). 


On September 8, 2014 Australian Prime Minister Abbott reignited jobs-industry concerns by raising doubts that Australia's long anticipated future submarines will be built locally. Instead these submarines might be built more quickly and cheaply in Japan. If built in Japan they would almost certainly be Soryu class submarines. Jay Weatherill, the Labor Premier of South Australia, is adamant that submarines should again be built in his state - following the Collins build there. The prospect of assigning the project to Japan brings up many issues including: fewer job opportunities for Australians; no cash injection for South Australia's economy; and (dealt with below) Australia being Japan's first major defence customer as well as Soryu range limitations. 

I raised many Australian submarine procurement issues in an article Future submarines: Australia's $40 billion risk of July 21, 2014 on On Line Opinion. As I indicated in that earlier OLO piece I support building the future submarines overseas rather than much more slowly and expensively re-inventing a submarine building industry in Australia. 

It is possible that Abbott has intentionally made the submarine issue a contentious diversion from other issues bedevilling the Abbott Government. Abbott appears to be successfully refocusing public attention away from his weaknesses (the Budget and Palmer's power) to issues advantageous to his new image, the national security Prime Minister who has been addressing Iraq-terrorism and Ukraine-MH17. Abbott appears to be now igniting a new public issue - Japanese built submarines saving taxpayer money versus the federal Labor, a Labor Premier and unions in South Australia.

The expectation of journalists that Japan will be chosen is also partially due to a visit of 16 Japanese submarine technicians to the Australian Submarine Corporation's (ASC) submarine and shipbuilding facility at Osborne (Adelaide, South Australia) on August 26, 2014. The reason for the visit was not explained, but may be the beginning of a study regarding ASC's ability to maintain the future submarines and/or ASC's ability to provide some components for the Soryu production line in Japan.

If the Japanese Government finalises the submarine deal this will be the first ever major arms export program for Japan. The export would be a major departure from the intent of Japan's peace constitution and a change in Japan's post-WWII ban on defence exports. As Japan has never built an immensely complex weapons system for a foreign navy the principle Soryu builders (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries) will need to develop new regulatory, political and cultural processes. Kym Bergmann, wrote in ASPI "How would [the Australian crew training for the Soryu] be managed - not a trivial matter - especially as Japan has never before exported a submarine? Even providing manuals in English for the tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of individual pieces of equipment that make up a submarine would be a hellish job."

To give an idea of how and where Australian submarines may operate it is useful to mention places and ranges the government is unprepared to detail and that most journalists cannot get a handle on. There are major difference in the submerged range on diesel-snorkel between the Collins and the Soryu. For the Collins (figures are not on the diagram) submerged range is 17,000 km at 19 km/h. For the Soryu range it is 11,297 km at 12 km/h. Disregard the range figures in the diagram for the Collins as they are for surfaced operation, which is increasingly hazardous and unlikely given advances in the many types of anti-submarine sensors particularly Chinese satellites and UAVs. The contribution of Soryu's Stirling engine (air independent propulsion (AIP)) to range is unknown. Stirling engine range is classified and also depends on speed and amount of time (two weeks?) that a Soryu uses the Stirling. The Collins has no Stirling engine or other type of AIP.

It is assumed that an Australian Soryu would rely on its Stirling engine in areas of operation eg. loitering in/around littorals-closed waters. which amounts to a major mission capability that the Collins does not have. The Collins was built around the need for long range at comparatively high speed to transit the 3,000 km northward from the main submarine bases of HMAS Stirling, Garden Island, Rockingham, Western Australia and Sydney. The Collins would then have sufficient range to reach the presumably main operating areas up to 3,000-5,000 km to the north of Australia and then return all the way to Rockingham or Sydney. 

For an Australian Soryu - after the 3,000 km transit it could only continue north about 2,000 km without a refuelling stage. 

With its reduced range there is an increase in the likelihood that an Australian Soryu would need to be refuelled with diesel oil at:

- a northern Australian port (eg. Broome or Darwin (a port with many adverse water conditions);

- or from a submarine support ship/tender; or

- a foreign mid-point (Singapore? Guam? Diego Garcia) to perform longer range missions.

The act of such mid-point refuelling would increase an Australian Soryu's operational vulnerability to attack or disclosure of its position and intentions. Refuelling could be observed by an (especially Chinese) satellite or human agents in and around the refuelling port or on a refuelling tender. Refuelling port facilities may be very expensive to construct and maintain and strategically risky if there is reliance on foreign ports. Darwin and Broome also have a track record (in World War Two) of being much more vulnerable to air attack than ports in southern Australia (like HMAS Stirling).  

An Australian Soryu may be a poor choice if it is anticipated that it should travel similar distances to the Collins. The Soryu's range limitation may be less of a problem if Australia is altering its submarine use doctrine. For example long range would be less important if Australia has made (is making) some strategic agreement with Japan to divide mission responsibility between a Japanese northerly submarine patrol sector and Australia in the south (eg. with no Australian submarines needing to travel as far north as Taiwan). 

More comment on Australia's future submarine program:

My estimate for the number of future submarines specified is probably be 6 to 8 (6 first, then an option of 2 more - the number earlier set down for the Collins project) and less likely the 12 (set down in Australia's 2009 Defence White Paper section 8.39, page 64 (PDF 1.8 MB). Australia has had manpower problems in crewing even two Collins so crewing more than 8 Soryus seems unlikely.

Germany (TKMS-HDW) is probably a secondary choice. Australia may be hedging with the German alternative if the Japanese deal cannot be concluded or if a Japanese deal collapses mid project for political reasons. Germany has by far the most export experience in submarines but Germany's, like all European submarines, are much smaller than what Australia wants. Australia wants longer endurance (effectively a larger crew) and higher warload (many torpedos, missiles and mines) than can be fitted into a small design.  Germany has built the largest conventional submarine, at the nuclear missile carrying Israeli Dolphin class at 2,400 tonnes submerged, of any Western Eurpean country but the Dolphin meets far different mission requirements than the 4,200 tonne Soryu. Australia has bitter experience of the problems involved in attempting to scale up the Collins from a much smaller European submarine design. The Soryu also has a highly developed propulsion system (the Collins' main weakness) which is reputedly suited to such a large submarine. A major defence purchase from Germany also brings none of the regional strategic alliance benefits that purchase from Japan brings.

The Australian Government is expected to signal (in some way before the end of 2014) that Japan will build the submarines. Oddly the Government has not to date referred to any formal selection process e.g. a tender. Perhaps the government will announce a concrete decision in the next Defence White Paper due in 2015.