January 21, 2015

Comments on What Appears to be a Soryu Sale Press Relaease

The Soryu lobby (Japan of course but to an extent the US) issued what amounts to a Soryu Press Release (see below) on January 20, 2015. This was possibly to influence any statements Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews was expected to make during his visit to the Australian Submarine Corporations (ASC) submarine facility in Adelaide on January 22, 2015. As it turns out Andrews said little memorable other than the Australian Government had made no submarine selection decision.


After some positive feedback (with pertinent information) from Japanese commenters I'm toning down the title and some of my comments in the post. The "Soryu Press Release" is a Japan Times article of January 20, 2015. The article/Press Release:

- would have been mostly written by and cleared by the Japan Ministry of Defence.
- there is the exaggerated implication that Australia is privileged to be allowed to receive such a Japanese technical achievement.
-  but nevertheless Japan may not carry out the standard industrial task of revealing to Australia key technical secrets. This withholding of secrets may include those behind the Soryu's  potentially dangerous Lithium-ion battery (LIB) see "Japan...has yet to decide which secrets to share".
- that the US is in favour of the Soryu export to Australia for the US's own strategic and financial reasons
- makes the standard claim that is Australia is happy to work in strategic alliance with Japan and the US over Japan's interest in contested islands in the East China and South China Seas. Australia has been very cautious in not being drawn into Japan-China cofrontations in those seas
- basically Japan's Soryu pitch is that Australia is strategically obligated to buy the Soryu..

There is some recognition by Japanese commentators that Australia will incur major economic costs by sacrificing much of its ship-submarine building industry. However these  commentators under-rate the opposition and rift in Prime Minister Abbott's own governing Party with increasing feeling against submarines being built in Japan. Instead there is increasing support across the` political spectrum and within Australia's Navy favouring construction of the submarines in Australia.

The risks for Australia of being Japan's first major defence customer are ignored.

An incentive for Japan is, of course, is Australia's money to offset Soryu 2 (Lithium battery) development costs.

 The article/pitch/Press Release is below - with string  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/18/national/stealth-tech-no-given-in-japanese-sub-deal/#.VL3UDUeUen8 :

"Stealth tech no given in Japanese sub deal


Retired Vice Admiral Masao Kobayashi commanded Japan’s submarine fleet from 2007 to 2009. In a recent interview in Tokyo with The Japan Times, when asked to explain one of the country’s most tightly guarded military secrets, he seemed reflective.
Kobayashi pointed to the ceiling lights in the quiet interview room and said: “Take those fluorescent lights, for example. Any fluorescent light generates sound.”
Other than our voices, there were no other sounds in the room.
“Fluorescent lights generate extremely small vibrations. We take anti-vibration measures for every single light in a submarine,” he said.
Japan’s engineers have painstakingly worked to minimize the vibrations given off by the multitude of components in submarines to prevent even those undetectable by the human ear from being picked up by the super-sensitive sonars of enemy subs and sonobuoys from anti-submarine aircraft, Kobayashi said.
Noisy components include fans, pumps, motors and fluorescent lights. Some are carefully muted with vibration-damping rubber, he said.
“The quiet submarines we have today are the result of numerous long, patient efforts,” Kobayashi said.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s submarines are not nuclear-powered but have a reputation for being ultra-quiet.
Now Australia, seeking to build a new fleet of large, long-range submarines, seems keen on acquiring Japan’s latest Soryu-class subs, or at least their technology.
If the deal goes through, the top-secret submarines will become the first major pieces of military hardware Japan has authorized for export since the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the decades-long blanket ban on arms sales last year.
Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, reportedly said Oct. 24 in Tokyo that then-Australian Defense 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,’ Thomas was quoted as saying by Bloomberg News.
The U.S., which has close but separate security pacts with Japan and Australia, probably wants Australia to buy Japanese submarines because it would greatly strengthen their strategic military ties, Kobayashi said.
Deeper Japan-Australia military cooperation would help ease the heavy burden on the U.S. fleet, which is busy decommissioning many of the nuclear-powered attack submarines it built during the Cold War, he said.
“The U.S. rapidly built many Los Angeles-class nuclear submarines during the Cold War. Many of them are being decommissioned now,” Kobayashi said.
“I think the U.S. wants to create a strategic triangle of Japan, Australia and the United States. That’s probably a factor behind” the apparent U.S. nod to Australia’s proposal to Japan, he added.
Japanese defense officials are thought to be pleased for the same reason Washington is. They want to deepen strategic military ties with Australia.
“Australia would make a good partner for cooperation. There are no major diplomatic problems between the two countries other than whaling,” a senior Defense Ministry official said on condition anonymity. Australia opposes Japan’s annual whaling expeditions.
Japan has just started receiving the submarine specifications sought by Australia but has yet to decide which secrets to share, two senior defense officials said.
Japan soon plans to use lithium-ion batteries to drive the motors in its latest Soryu sub, making them even quieter. Australia is believed to be interested in this advance, the officials said.
But advanced lithium-ion batteries are one of Japan’s top military secrets, one warned.
“(Exporting) them would be a rather sensitive issue. We’d need to study if it’s really appropriate for an outside party (to have that technology),” the Defense Ministry official said.
In Australia meanwhile, opposition lawmakers and trade unions are strongly opposed to procuring Japanese submarines because it could considerably undermine the domestic defense industry and reduce jobs in South Australia.
Joint development might be an option, the two Japanese officials said, noting that nothing concrete has been officially proposed.
Teruhiko Fukushima, a professor at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, who is an expert on Australia, said Prime Minister Tony Abbott seems eager to procure the subs to bolster Canberra’s military ties with Japan and the United States.
“Abbott should be considering a Japan-U.S.-Australian alliance as a kind of insurance” against the recent rise of China’s powerful military, Fukushima said.
“The introduction of Soryu-class submarines would be a plus to strengthen that alliance,” he added.
“If the Abbott administration survives the next election and wins a second term, there will be a greater chance that Soryu-class submarines will be introduced in Australia,” he said.
Last June, Australia and Japan conducted “two-plus-two” talks between their foreign and defense ministers.
In the joint statement that followed, Australia expressed “strong opposition to the use of force or coercion to unilaterally alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” an apparent warning to China to not aggressively press its territorial claims in those areas, which include the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China and Taiwan also claim. China calls the uninhabited islets Diaoyu and Taiwan calls them Tiaoyutai.
Fukushima also said that on Nov. 26, 2013, only three days after Beijing declared the establishment of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that included the Senkakus, the Abbott administration summoned the Chinese ambassador in Canberra to express its concerns after the ADIZ drew strong protests from Tokyo and Washington.
“There is no doubt Abbott puts great emphasis on the relationship shared by Japan, the U.S. and Australia,” Fukushima said.
But he also noted that China is Australia’s No. 1 trade partner and that the public would never approve of political actions that could seriously damage those economic ties.
“The best way for Abbott is to strengthen the Japan-U.S.-Australian relationship while maintaining good economic ties with China at the same time. Australia would never turn its back on the Chinese market,” he said." ENDS



Anonymous said...

After reading the Japanese article, I believe you are over-reacting. I could not find in that article statements to back up your claims that are printed in "bold". For example, the article does point out the negative economic impacts on Australia like fewer jobs in a potential Soryu deal. At the same time it also says that no decision has been taken as to which industrial secrets to share while your article says there is no sharing. I recommend you revise your claims if you cannot substantiate yours.

As to the statement by Admiral Thomas, it is his opinions not of the Japanese. His views could be true I do not know since the USN has experiences with other foreign submarines. The Japanese article says the Soryu is ultra quiet, it does not say is is the quietest or the best.

In my view only the German, American, British and Japanese submarines have been tested in war. Those are unique experiences that help improving future designs. The French submarines are untested. France's track records in warfare during the 20th century have been less than stellar.

In conclusion, I think the newspaper article is quite balanced, although like any articles on any newspaper, I am sure there are discrepancies.

Anonymous said...

I don’t have any kind of offensive idea against Australia. Mr Kobayashi is not arogant, he just does not want to sell sub tech, that’s all. Australian thinks that Japan wants to sell her subs like Germany, Sweden or France. But this idea is perfectly wrong and huge misunderstanding, Japan does not want at all. Soryu’s secret is more important and valuable than money which Australia will pay Japan. Please understand.

PS1 TMS 214 hull is made of EN 1.3964 (correspond to HY-80) non-magnetic steel?
PS2 Author of “History of Japanese Submarine (After WWII)” is Dr Yoichi Harama, Former Professor of National Defense Academy of Japan?

Peter Coates said...

Dear "Anonymous"

Regarding your first Comment - I'm assuming you are one of the authors of the Soryu Press Release that is attributed to the Japan Times. Are you a journalist, naval officer or Ministry of Defense official?

I see you (and/or your article) attempt to marginalise concern over economic impacts on Australia to "opposition lawmakers and trade unions."

In fact many Government politicians at the State and in Abbott's own Federal Liberal Party level are pressing for submarines to be built in Australia not Japan. Also many in the Australian Navy support Build in Australia. So there is a major and increasing rift in Australia's governing party on this issue. I will alter my bolded comment accordingly.

On sharing I've changed my bolded comment to:

"- but nevertheless Japan may not carry out the standard industrial task of revealing to Australia key technical secrets. This withholding of secrets may include those behind the Soryu's potentially dangerous Lithium-ion battery see "Japan...has yet to decide which secrets to share".

The input attributed to Admiral Thomas is a rhetorical device. It is what the US Secretary or Department of Defence thinks and says that is the key.

Yes certainly Germany has greater experience than Japan in conducting an almost successful submarine campaign. Germany's WWII submarine campaign in WWII was much more successful strategically, tactically and technologically than Japan's largely misdirected efforts. This may imply a superiority of Germany's current TKMS-HDW submarines.

If you are the same "Anonymous" in the second Comment "January 23, 2015 at 1:23 AM" I thank you for the PS1 and PS2 information.

I did not mean that Retired Vice Admiral (not as you say “Mr”) Kobayashi’s comments are arrogant. Quotes attributed to him disguise the true authorship - which is the Japanese Navy and/or the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD).

The rift in Japan that you point to, on who wants to sell the Soryu or not sell it, is most concerning. I will enlarge on that concern in my next article. It now must alarm potential buyers of the Soryu that important sections of the Japanese Navy and/or MoD would rather not sell the Soryu. Major language difference aside Australia will need the comprehensive cooperation of your Navy and MoD.

I'm confident that the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Prime Minister, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries want to sell the Soryu. This is particularly in view of the major current and future development costs of the "Lithium Battery" Soryu and more broadly in view of Japan's huge debt problems.

I will address these issues in my next article.

Thankyou for your comments.


Peter Coates

Peter Coates said...

P.S. Anonymous

Please forgive my insolent (or at least cheeky) tone.

I really appreciate your considered replies and need for Anonymity.


Peter Coates