January 25, 2015

Japanese Concerns Over Any Soryu Sale to Australia

Prime Ministers Abbott and Abe, on April 7, 2014, when they concluded a framework agreement for co-operation on defence equipment and technology (including submarine hydrodynamics). This is/was a preliminary to any Soryu sale. Abbott's political position is now threatened. 
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As Prime Minister Abbott - the main Australian advocate for a Soryu deal  steadily weakens politically it is valuable to consider possible Japanese concerns and misgivings over a Soryu sale.

Several days ago an Anonymous commenter said [retired Admiral]"Kobayashi is not arrogant, 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." 

Enlarging on possible Japanese concerns yields the following possibilities.

Unlike other western countries involved in Australia's submarine selection - Japan is the only country actually in danger of conflict - with North Korea and to a lesser extent with Russia and China. Other contenders - Germany, France and Sweden - are not at risk. For these latter three countries the submarine selection is only a commercial-trade matter - while for Japan it is most importantly a strategic alliance, national security matter.

A sale of Soryus to Australia may weaken Japan's national security:

Selling to Australia would involve a major diversion of Japanese industrial and submarine corps resources to plan, train and generally liase with Australian industry and Australian submariners. Japan's limited resources might be better focussed monitoring or more active measures against Japan's potential enemies.

Sales to Australia might disrupt Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) submarine production lines to supply the Japanese submarine corps. This particularly in view of Japan's goal of expanding its submarine corps from the current 16 operational submarine to the goal of 22 submarines. More specifically there may be strategic pressure for a Soryu earmarked (by contract) for Australia on a production line to be diverted to thJapan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) instead. Such a diversion might raise political and contractual difficulties for Japan.

The prospect of sales to Australia may encourage the Soryu's submarine builders (MHI and KHI) to modify the Soryus to a standard configuration that does not suit JMSDF requirements. For example it is possible that two reasons for Japan's decision to delete Stirling air independent propulsion (AIP)  from the future batch of Soryus were:
- Australia's assessment, since the 1980s, that AIP is problematic, involving negative trade-offs, that  do not meet Australia's needs, and
- for legal property right reasons Japan could not sell Swedish Stirling engine AIP technology to third countries, including Australia.

It is also possible the future batch of Soryu will have much longer range, to suit Australia's operational requirements but this longer range might not be ideal for the JMSDF's needs.

Due to China's trade value to Australia Japan cannot rely on Australia to support Japan in any confrontation or outright conflict with China (eg. arising from East China or South China Sea matters). Australains see the islands in the East China and South China Seas as more to do with current opportunistic economic claims than national historical claims. This means that in any conflict in those seas Australia may support the claims of its major trade partner - which is China.

Australia's security laws and rules may be detrimental to Japan's security overall. Part of the weakness would stem from Chinese government and corporate  influence over Australia. For example Australia's China situation may result in Australian steel-making companies inadvertently sharing newly acquired Japanese steel secrets with Chinese steelmaking business partners.

Australia's laws overall make racial discrimination illegal in employment - particularly for government jobs, including the submarine corps. A main area of Japanese concern might be Australian tolerance of former Chinese citizens, or ethnic Chinese generally, being inducted as Australian submariners or into broader Australian government or submarine-shipbuilding industry positions. China has a reputation for pressuring ethnic Chinese in the West - even if they have only distant cousins or elderly grandparents still living in China. The Chinese government can deny Chinese citizens careers, lose jobs, lose pensions or worse if their Australia based relatives are not cooperative. Australia cannot match Japan's ability to control the ethnic security of submarine crews or such security in the broader submarine industry.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now you understand one of our major concerns, that is technology transfer to China through Australia, which will bring serious security risks to Japan.

Michael Raska said...

Notwithstanding the importance of these many military-technical factors, the ultimate decision will be political. The way I see it, both Abe and Abott share the same vision of getting the Soryus down under, and have basically brought the decision to the operational level saying - "You guys figure it out..." On the Japanese side, there are many issues of concern, most importantly - how to export a power projecting platform without regional anti-Japanese military bashing - particularly from Korea and China. On the Australian side, the key concern is not to repeat the mistakes of the Collins class experiences. On the issue of China - the PLAN has already calculated the Soruys in their ASW "counter-intervention" concept planning - just look at the number of undersea platforms and weapons technologies that cause major headaches not only for the Japanese but also the US Navy - i.e. high-tech directional rocket rising deep sea mines with accurate control and guidance capacity.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete
I'm enjoying your article as a Japanese.


Some of Australian media says the range of Soryu class is just as half of the Collins class.
But, as far as I know,the range of Soryu isn't exposed publicly.
Please don't conclude its capacity .

One more thing.
What you point out about "Japanese concerns"seems to be a little bit off the point.
For example, the shift from AIP to LIB has been decided for a long time ago,not because of Australian requests.

The biggest concern for Japan is whether to expose submarine technologies to foreign country,as the submarine is the last resort for Japan.
As you know,the relationship of Japan and China is by no means good.
For our country,it's nearly impossible to countervail Chinese navy in terms of number,and may be in terms of quality in the future.
So we are obliged to rely on stealthy submarine power.
Exporting its technology follows certain risks, thats the biggest concern for Japan.

Anonymous said...

Any time an R&D program involves more than 1 country, it is going to be more complex, it will take longer, etc.

Just take the man/machine interface that now needs to be both in Japanese and in English, assuming Japanese and Australia operations are the same (but they are not). I do not see this development being done strictly in Japan (just look at the language barrier) and any modifications in software is going to raise security risks given there is a need to access the source code.

If the program goes forward, I do not see how it can remain strictly a sale given all the modifications and integration efforts.

Besides, with China navy rising fast, Japan is going to need to speed up its tempo as well, including production. It is probably best to produce these submarines in both Japan and Australia. Then the start up efforts will get much more complex as well.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Yes unintended technology transfer to China is something Japan will need to consider when it exports any major weapon system or even dual-use technology.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Michael Raska

The political obligation of Australia purchasing the Soryu (known in Australia as "Option J") has caused unease in the wider Australian submarine community. There is a feeling that meeting the US and Japan's political agenda might compromise capability requirement for a new submarine. Whether an Australian Soryu will have sufficient range or a VLS remain mysteries.

A countervailing benefit is that greater compatibility between Australian and Japanese Soryus will represent a broadening of the undersea network. A counter-counter argument is that Australian and Japanese submarines can ALREADY talk to each other as part of their combat systems and also through the medium of the largely US built Seaweb network.

The installation of a Chinese Seaweb network is a worry - with the smart undersea mines you refer to being just a part. On mines see http://www.andrewerickson.com/2014/05/ihs-janes-highlights-cmsi-chinese-mine-warfare-study/ .

What countries in Southeast Asia and South Korea might feel about a perceived Japan-Australia alliance appears to have been ignored here.

Regards

Pete

Vigilis said...

Hi Pete

"There is a feeling that meeting the US and Japan's political agenda might compromise capability requirement for a new submarine - Pete Coates

This is a very interesting attitude, and only time may tell if it is prevailing or relatively isolated.

As expressed earlier: 1) I will not comment on Australia's ultimate submarine sourcing decision beyond wishing beforehand that it is the best one for the Australian nation, and; 2) outsourcing construction to any foreign country ties timely availability of spare parts to that nation's siesmic and geopolititical welfare.

If you would, since you have alluded to it at least twice now, please reference your source for the U.S. "political agenda", which many U.S. citizens now question and which must NOT remain unknown to us U.S. citizens.

Regards

Vigilis

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Re your comment at January 26, 2015 at 1:50 AM.

The estimate that the Soryus may have half the range of the Collins may come the from an estimate for the Uzushio Class of the 1970s-90s. See "5,500nm" at
Righthand sidebar of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzushio-class_submarine. But there are of course many Soryu-Uzushio differences.

Yes I accept the LIB idea predated any export to Australia considerations. Both France and Germany are developing LIB for their newest submarines.

The possible security risk of exporting Soryus to Australia is probably being balanced by Abe with the need for foreign exchange for Japan as well as revenue for Mitsubishi and Kawasaki.

For Japan to truely have parity with Chinese submarines Japan should have plans for nuclear propulsion.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Re your comments of January 26, 2015 at 6:51 AM

Added to all the likely language and cultural difference between Japan and Australia there is also the question of the US sharing/translating/integrating a common US-Australia-Japanese combat system.

The Collins is using the "Modified Raytheon CCS Mk2 (AN/BYG-1)" combat system. Australia is expecting its future submarine will use a development of that combat system. So I agree a 3 nation process is going to be very complex.

China, India and even Brazil are now developing nuclear propelled attack submarines (SSN). I'm wondering why Japan and Australia are limiting their future submarine plans only to conventionally propelled (SSK)?

The US offered Virginia SSNs to Australia three years ago - see http://web.archive.org/web/20120328061405/http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/feb2012/asub-f29.shtml. Perhaps the US should also offer them to Japan - thereby making Virginias a superior Japan-US-Australia submarine? The Soryu could remain the SSK for Australia and Japan in mixed SSN-SSK submarine corps?

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Vigilis

"Political agenda" is better expressed as a strategic obligation or expectation placed on Australia that it will adjust its submarine buying behavior. The US-Japan expectation is that Australia will commit itself to backing up Japanese strategic concerns vis a vis China, North Korea and increasingly Russia. Australia should do this by buying the Soryu.

The overall US concern is that the US cannot meet its largely East Asia region Pivot Promise. US commitments in the Middle East (Syria-Iraq) and sequestration are the main reasons reason for the US shortfall - particularly in surface units. The US hopes Japan and Australia can work in alliance and increase their military forces overall to make up any US shortfall.

In terms of proof there are many articles, many fragmentary, but one drawing many things together is http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/is-japans-soryu-sales-pitch-too.html which particularly commented on http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/18/national/stealth-tech-no-given-in-japanese-sub-deal/#.VMXl3v6Uen9 dated January 18, 2015.

That Japan Times article quotes: "Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, reportedly said Oct. 24 [2014] 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, [retired Japanese Admiral] Kobayashi said." and much else.

Regards

Pete

Vigilis said...

Thank you, Pete. I had not questionned a U.S. preference in guiding Australia toward a particular sourcing (option 'J' or otherwise). My inquiry was aimed only at identifying the highest ranking individual providing such guidance.

My implicit respect for the Soryu relative to its competitors has suddenly risen a bit due to Admiral Thomas rather than some unidentified administration spokeperson.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Vigilis

I don't know how a Defence Minister should feel when a foreign Admirial decides to represent that Defence Minister's views.

Then that foreign Admiral endorses a weapons system of a type that that Admiral's Navy has not operated for decades.

I wonder how it would look if an Australian Admiral represented the views of a US Secretary of Defense? Then that Australian Admiral deigned to suggest what weapon system the US should buy from a third country?

Regards

Pete