June 8, 2015

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Contenders for Australia's Submarine Replacement Programme

Xavier Vavasseur of  NavyRecognition has provided this interesting comparison of the three contenders for the future submarine (SEA 1000) process. Original link http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2777 .

I would be most grateful for your comments on it. 

Pete
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Strengths & Weaknesses of the Contenders for Australia's Submarine Replacement Programme
By Xavier Vavasseur

Plans to replace the existing Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) Collins-class submarines began in 2007 with the launch of "SEA 1000" also known as the Future Submarine Programme. In February this year, the Australian Government announced the acquisition strategy for the Future Submarine Program and invited three countries: France, Germany and Japan to participate in a competitive evaluation process. Here is our analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each contender:
» The Japanese Soryu class
» The German Type 216
» The French evolution of SSN Barracuda 
Plans to replace the existing Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) Collins-class submarines began in 2007 with the launch of "SEA 1000" also known as the Future Submarine Programme. In February this year, the Australian Government announced the acquisition strategy for the Future Submarine Program and invited three countries: France, Germany and Japan to participate in a competitive evaluation process. Here is our analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each contender:The Royal Australian Navy aims at replacing its Collins-class submarines (HMAS Rankin pictured)
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman James R. Evans)

Before we start focusing on each of the three contenders, it is important to understand the fairly new and unique requirements of the RAN. So far and to this day, the majority of export submarines (such as the Kilo, Type 212 and 214, Scorpene, Agosta, A17…) displace around 2000 tons. They answer the needs of navies looking to patrol their coastal area, maritime approaches. Deployment on farther operational theatres requires long weeks of transit and probably port call for refueling and other logistic needs. The RAN needs are fairly unique (even though both TKMS and DCNS somewhat anticipated these needs) as it is looking for a multi-role, long endurance, long range submarine able to take part in joint operations with its allies. The combination of these factors translates into a well above 3000 tons submarines design. In addition, Navy Recognition understands the general consensus is that no matter which design gets selected, the RAN requires it to be fitted with US made combat management system (CMS) and weapons.
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Soryu class submarine Hakuryu (SS-503)Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Soryu class sub Hakuryu (SS-503)
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Christy Hagen/Released)

Soryu class submarineThroughout 2014, several news outlets (all of them US based such as Reuters) tried to infer that the Soryu class was favored by Australia and the procurement of Japanese submarines was almost a “done deal”. Today’s situation however appears to be more complicated for the Soryu as the Australian government decided to study proposals from two extra competitors.
The strengths of the Soryu class are:
- it appears as the only sea-proven design of the three contenders
- it is favored by the United States for political reasons (driven by the "Shift to Asia-Pacific region")
- because of the aforementioned political reasons, the aspects of US CMS and weapons are non-issues.

But will the Soryu really answer Australia’s needs? Looking closely at its reported performance it must be noted that these performance are actually quite similar to existing small or medium modern SSK such as the Kilo, Scorpene or Type 214. The reason may simply be the needs and doctrine of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF): Looking at a map of Japan, one may realize that as soon as it leaves its base, a Soryu class SSK is already in patrol in proximity to North Korean or Chinese waters.



To match the Australian needs for long range and endurance, the Soryu will have to be modified with a new Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system and new Lithium Ion batteries among other things. In other words the end result would almost be a new submarine because of the major modifications required: For example, fitting new Lithium Ion batteries means a completely new electrical architecture, new ventilation schematics, newly designed engines to optimize the use of the batteries…

Another issue with the Soryu is Japan’s lack of experience in the fields of transfer of technology and industrial cooperation related to complex defense programmes.
The Type 216 is TKMS' long-range submarine project. Picture: ThyssenKrupp Marine SystemsThe Type 216 is TKMS' long-range submarine project. Picture: ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems

Type 216 submarine
Revealed at Euronaval 2012, the Type 216 is German Shipbuilder TKMS' view of what a conventional propulsion long-range submarine should be.

The strengths of the Type 216 is that it is fully compliant (on paper) with the needs of "ocean going" navies (such as the RAN) looking for long-range submarines. In addition TKMS' past and present order book speaks for itself: TKMS submarines of all types (209,210,212A,214) are in service with the navies of 17 countries in addition to the German Navy. Finally, unlike the Japanese offer, TKMS is used to complex defense programmes cooperation with local partners.

However, what may limit the Type 216 chances in the SEA 1000 programme is uncertainty on two aspects:
The first uncertainty aspect is TKMS' lack of experience in building large submarines. The design of submarines requires a pre-sizing capability: For example, the basic requirements in terms of speed and endurance drive the electrical and engine power requirement of the submarine which themselves impact the volumes and compartments of the submarines. This pre-sizing capability is based on both experience and empirical knowledge.The design rules (which may even be considered "empirical laws") when building submarines are not linear. In other words, TKMS will not be able to use all of its extensive experience in building under 2,000 tons submarines if it ever starts constructing the 4,000 tons Type 216 one day. Again, the pre-sizing phase is critical. Navantia's (which is another reputable shipbuilder based in Spain) issues with the S80 class SSK is a recent example. The first unit of this new type of submarine needs to be redesigned because a "weight imbalance" was detected. In a large submarine, all of the equipment needs to be "over sized" and this impacts everything on board: Larger or more machinery implies larger or more sea water circuit which requires more weight and room...
A submarine designed for long range and endurance needs to be designed with more reliability, more redundancy and even a workshop for maintenance on the go (as is found on board most nuclear submarines [SSN]). Last but not least, other important parameters need to be considered such as human factors (possibly more space for the crew, better atmosphere, more fresh water...).

The second uncertainty aspect is the issue of US made CMS and weapons. Nothing guarantees that the US government will agree to share sensitive CMS data and weapons blueprints with TKMS for integration. While some TKMS built submarines are fitted with UGM-84 Harpoon (with the Portuguese Navy Type 214), it remains to be seen whether the US will agree to share its Tomahawk cruise missile data with Germany.
A Barracuda type (Suffren class) SSN. Picture: French Navy A Barracuda type (Suffren class) SSN. Picture: French Navy

Evolution of SSN Barracuda into a conventional submarine
DCNS proposes an evolution of the Barracuda type SSN - currently in production for the French Navy- into a conventional submarine fully compliant with the needs of “ocean going” navies.

The main strength of this submarine is that it exceeds the capabilities of its competitors in terms of speed, endurance and weapons. According to DCNS, a number of key innovations give the submarine a truly outstanding performance.

* NB: These performances are those of the nuclear version.


The transit speed is at least 40% higher than those of its competitors which is significant. It is important to understand that the faster a submarine can deploy, the more operational it becomes because it can spend more time in the mission area.

Like TKMS, DCNS is used to complex defense programmes cooperation with local partners so the industrial aspect is definitely not a problem. There may even be some historical commonality if Australia selects the DCNS solution: The Collins class submarines currently deployed by the RAN are fitted with French Jeumont-Schneider engines, a manufacturer present in all DCNS submarines. Likewise, many systems on board the Collins class such as the sonar systems are Thales products, and so is the case for all DCNS submarines.

Last but not least, DCNS has extensive experience in designing and building large submarine since the company was in charge of designing and building the (former) Redoutable and (current) Triomphant class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), the backbone of French nuclear deterrence.

The main factor that is not in favor of DCNS is again the issue of US made CMS and weapons. The issue is definitely not technical: Since the Agosta 90B, DCNS submarines are "open architecture" to facilitate the integration of new systems and weapons (therefore the installation of a CMS and weapons of American origin are not a technical problem). Regarding that (political) aspect, DCNS is in the same situation as TKMS: nothing guarantees that the US government will agree to sharing information for weapons and systems integration.
The Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and Australia's Defense Minister, the Honorable Kevin Andrews (pictured here with France's Defense Minister) visited TKMS shipyard in Germany and DCNS submarine shipyard in France. In April 2015, the Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and Australia's Defense Minister, the Honorable Kevin Andrews (pictured here with France's Defense Minister) visited TKMS in Germany and DCNS submarine shipyard in France.

The formal RAN requirements for the Collins submarines replacement have not been made public yet, but like in many international procurement contracts, it is likely that political aspects will be given priority with the technical aspects coming a distant second. It appears also that no matter which platform Australia selects, their American allies will give the ultimate "green light"... or not.

That being said, despite many US media picturing the Japanese Soryu as a "done deal" last year, Australia is giving full consideration to the three contenders invited to participate in a competitive evaluation process earlier this year. A simple illustration of this fact: The visit last April by the Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and Australia's Defense Minister, the Honorable Kevin Andrews, of TKMS shipyard in Germany and then of DCNS shipyard in Cherbourg (where the Barracuda type SSNs are being assembled for the French Navy).

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Pete,

I can not see any reason why the US would have to share information with TKMS? Israel did integrate something inside their Dolphin's 650 mm tubes and Israel did the fix for the weapons system themselves. Therefore I can not see any reasonable cause why the US should withhold information to Australia.

Canada switched from a British system to an US system by Lockheed and lost the capability to launch Harpoon missiles. So an US system is no guaranty anything will work. Quite the contrary Collins-class did have shown.

Can the US trust Japan more than Germany or France?

Why not a "fly-off"? First submarine build in the country of origin with inherited system and the next is build in Australia with an US system.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

The diesel version of the Barracuda is NOT going to have a high transit speed since no one can cheat the laws of physics of diesel, AIP and batteries. Although DCNS have built larger submarines, they are all SSBN. Building a large diesel submarine will impose different challenges than an SSBN. In my view, DCNS have yet to build a large diesel submarine and it remains to be seen how much of their previous experiences can be leveraged. After all, even the Barracuda which is an SSN is several years late already.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

The official speak by DCNS is "transit speed is up to 14 knots." - 500 nm or 5,000 nm, we just don't know ;-)
DCNS also announced somewhere that the SMX Ocean would need 6 - six - diesel engines. Maybe combined with a full Lithium Ion Battery and "new fuel cells" such a speed may be possible.
http://gentleseas.blogspot.de/2014/10/revised-frances-dcns-announces-smx.html

The point is for every ton of a submarine a price. In case of a submarine being 25 % heavier the price will without doubt about 25 % higher. Soryu is not cheaper because a Soryu according to Australian specs will be much heavier.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

Pete,

thanks for this article. If you consider that Xavier is French, his writing about Japanes and German submarine builders is not too bad. Still, his views are French nevertheless.

One of the biggest disadvantages of the Japanese offer is the fact that contrary to France and Germany, they have never before exported a single defence item. Exporting a submarine is a risk-heavy undertaking in itself, not mentioning the fact that what kind of risk might be involved when the exporting nation has never done anything like that before?

Regards,
BK

Kumar said...

Ideally Australia should be looking at nuclear powered submarines. PLAN's posturing in the South China Sea and the Pacific does not augur well for the nations of the Pacific, especially Australia.

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at June 8, 11:31 PM]

Looks like Australia will continue to use the http://www.gd-ais.com/Capabilities/Mission-Integration-Systems/ANBYG-1-Submarine-Tactical-Control-System-%28TCS%29 in the future subs because

- this is already an established project, intention and policy of the Australian Government
- the US wants Australia to continue to buy the ANBYG-1 combat system and weapons with the addition of the Tomahawk missile
- purchase of the ANBYG-1 provides a more complete set of software and hardware "keys" and purchase price to use the mainly US provided SEAWEB system
: SEAWEB may well include expensively laid undersea arrays in many places, huge processing power and vast data records

Bottom line seems to be buying a mainly French or German combat system wouldn't amount to the high purchase price the US wants for continuing Australian access to SEAWEB.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [June 9, 12:43 AM]

Yes DCNS has a long way to go to fully operate the Barracuda SSN (maybe 2020 to full commissioning) and fully develop and test a conventional Barracuda (SSK). Several system have not been operated - including the second generation AIP France plans to develop, Lithium-ion batteries for submarine, VLS on an SSK or even on an SSN, engines, fuel tanks, balance and bouyancy for a very large conventional submarine.

The 14kn fast transit should at least cover the 2 x 3,000 nm to/from Australia's Fleet Based West at Rockingham.

Note this refence http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/smx-ocean-conventionally-powered-attack-submarine/ :

"maximum range of 18,000nmi (29,000km) at a speed of 10kt. Ideal range will be achieved by a mix transit at an average speed of 14kt during one week, one month on patrol with no snorting, and a mix transit back to initial harbour at 14kt during one week."

At least France with the Barracuda SSN being built is ahead of the TKMS 216 though.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [June 9, at 3:33 AM]

I've located a more detailed Barracuda SSK transit speed estimate at http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/smx-ocean-conventionally-powered-attack-submarine/ :

"maximum range of 18,000nmi (29,000km) at a speed of 10kt. Ideal range will be achieved by a mix transit at an average speed of 14kt during one week, one month on patrol with no snorting, and a mix transit back to initial harbour at 14kt during one week."

The future sub contenders would probably be required to cruise 12kn for 2 x 3,000 nm to/from Australia's Fleet Based West at Rockingham.

Has to be said the Barracuda SSK (IF carefully developed) looks promising IF reduced in size acheiving a reduced cost similar to the 216 estimates...

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi BK

Yes Xavier has produced a thoughtful paper that we are avidly discussing.

Japan's inexperience is indeed a worry - for defence its first major export, full intellectual property transfer, training and creation of an indigenous maintenance base for defence customers. Long way to go.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Kumar

Yes looks like Australia will have to rely on US SSNs to face all the Chinese SSNs and SSBNs under construction.

Check out http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/australian-nuclear-sub-option-afr-feb.html wherein I propose Australia's overall sub buying grandplan:

- 6 medium size SSKs within next 10-15 years (each less than $1Billion). With crews of around 30 so at least 4 could be crewed at any one time.

- 4 Virginia SSNs (or the US follow-on SSN at that time) at some point in future, and based on strategic need,

All this would cost around $22 Billion Upfront with extra maintenance-base costs something considerable. Australia's DoD would have read it but haven't gotten back to me (yet).

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Modifications or issues of next Suryu and 216 are over emphasized but issues in conversion of nuclear system to diesel-electric system are neglected. In the case of next Soryu, AIP system is not adopted. Complete new electrical architecture is not needed, etc. If such a modification means a new submarine building, how about conversion of nuclear system into diesel-electric system? In the case of 216, the balance issue in 214 enlargement is mentioned, but the same issue in DCN conversion of nuclear system into diesel-electric system is not mentioned.

Also, it is suggested that future conventional DCN will be superior to Soryu or 216 by using current-nuclear DCN data.

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [of June 10, 2015 at 6:04 AM]

Unfortunately the translation into English is unclear.

I do not know what you are trying to say.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

First of all, I apologize you and other people for wasting precious time by my bad English. I am sorry.

Three contenders must be modified to satisfy Australia’s next submarine requirement. Soryu must be transformed into 28SS with improved power. Type 214 must be transformed into Type 216 with larger size. Nuclear version Barracuda must be transformed into conventional version Baracude. In these transfomations, the last one is biggest, because it causes serious balance shift, propulsion change and huge power reduction by exchange of diesel-electric system and nuclear system.

Xavier Vavasseur emphasized the impacts caused by transformation of Soryu and Type 214, but neglected the impacts caused by transformation of Barracuda.

He also indicated that conventional version Barracude had transit speed which was at least 40% higher than the competitor (Soryu, Type 216). But this speed is for the nuclear version, not for the conventional version.

Rigards

Anonymous said...

All these non existent complex hardware sound like a repeat of "a bridge too far". I am sure Australian DOD knows it, you know it, the only sensible proven, zero modifications, zero language issues solution is called 4 Virgina SSNs. Delay all the SSKs. Spend $10B and that's it.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [June 10, 10:14 PM]

Thankyou for clarifying your comment.

Yes it is true all the contenders must design and heavily modify the submarines they offer to Australia. The Soryu 28SS needs a more powerful diesel (via the motor) to charge the proposed Lithium-ion Batteries. To meet Australias longer range and vertical launch system needs the Soryu might need to be expanded to around 3,600+ tons (surfaced).

I'm hoping TKMS would draw from the 214 but also Dolphin 2 to develop a larger 216.

Yes the Barracuda SSN will need to be heavily modified to make it a viable conventional sub (SSK) for balance, bouyancy, maybe a second generation AIP, new diesels - with DCNS' proposed SIX diesels being too many as a solution. Also DCNS would need to offer Lithium-ion batteries.

Yes I agree that quoting a 14 knot transit speed for a Barracuda SSN cannot be assumed to be transit speed for a Barracuda SSK.

Australia will be nowhere near selecting an off the shelf submarine. Instead Australia's SEA 1000 specifications involve major modifications of Japanese and French entries and an even newer 216.

So we are very much in agreement.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

it seems that the decision will not be a technological one. Economically, it seems that the TKMS offer that we know from the newspapers looks to be a good one for Australia as a seagoing nation. Strategically, the Japanese offer looks really good - although I am convinced that a deeper Japanese - Australian alliance does not rely on the outcome of SEA1000. It definitely should not, because the risk to go with Japan seems bigger than with any of the other two competitors. The French offer is still a bit in the dark, but we know from other French Armament deals that they can rely on huge governmental support.
More interesting is the US influence through Prof Winter. Until a few days ago, everybody said that it is Australia's decision, but with the former Secretary of the Navy as the Head of the Expert Panel, the US will have a huge say in the whole project.

Kind regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous (June 11, 2015 at 4:38 PM),

I do not think Prof Winter is there to push US interests through. I have the bad feeling he is may locking for a job at Lockmart. On the other side Mr. Winter worked for Northrop Grumman.

Like the Japanese - Australian relations are not linked to a submarine project the US - Australian relations are not linked to an US combat system.

Regards,
MHalblaub

C.c.: Australia does not need SSNs. With the smaller SSKs Australia did intelligence gathering the big US SSNs could not do. Australia can hardly man 1 SSN. So what's the use of 4 of them?

NavyRecognition said...

Hi All,

Thank you for the mostly positive feedback about my piece and for the interesting points some of you are raising...

I would just like to add that I very recently attended a press meeting with DCNS CEO.
Here are the things of interest (in my book) he mentioned:
- Australia is studying 3 options: 1)Building all the hulls in Australia 2)Building some in Australia and some in the supplier's country 3) Building all the hulls abroad and conduct final outfitting in Australia
- ASC people were that week in Paris to meet with DCNS
- There are currently a couple of RAN Officers embedded on-board French SSN(s) to see how things work in French subs and with French Navy crews.
- The main adviser to the former defense minister is now at the head of DCNS Australia.

Cheers,

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at June 11, 2015 at 4:38 PM]

I think there will be a wide variety of factors involved in the decision-making:

- technological (Japan already successfully builds very large conventional subs)
- Economically Japan being a more important trade partner than Germany and France (new free trade agreement with Japan)
- all the contenders are very sea-going
- yes Australia's closer future alliance with Japan holds strategic and economic risks for Australia
- yes it is unclear how successfully France can modify the Barracuda. The hardest task my be REDUCING the weight-size so as to be competitive with the Germany and Japan.
- yes Professor-exSecNavy-businessman Winter's involvement may be key. It is still unclear what the Panel will do in practice http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/advisory-panel-for-future-australian.html

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [June 11, 2015 at 6:29 PM]

Very true about difficulty of Australia's very small Submariner numbers crewing even one Virginia SSN. For economical utilisation each Virginia has two x 134 man ("Gold" and "Blue") crews = 268 crew for one Virginia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine#Specifications

One advantage of the Barracuda - if Australia wanted to buy Barracuda SSNs one day - is that Barracuda SSNs will only have one 60 man crew. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Barracuda-class_submarine Which is very similar to the Collins 58 crew http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collins-class_submarine

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Xavier at NavyRecognition [June 12, 2015 at 12:17 AM]

Thanks for running your piece on my blog.

Interesting that a "couple of RAN Officers embedded on-board French SSN(s) to see how things work in French subs and with French Navy crews."

I'm assuming these Aussies are on Améthyste-Rubis SSNs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubis-class_submarine .

One of the strengths of the DCNS offer to Australia is the opportunity that Australia could progress from the Barracuda SSK to the Barracuda SSN. This SSN is small enough, compared to huge US and UK SSNs, to be a viable size for Australian manpower and financial resources. I intend to write about French SSN issues following my most recent post about Defence Minister Kevin Andrews visit to DCNS-Cherbourg http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/defence-minister-kevin-andrews-apr-24.html .

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Dear MHalblaub [at June 12, 2015 at 9:24 PM]

One hopes Japanese subs can operate for 30 years but it needs to be proven to Australia the customer. Japan’s own industrial concerns shouldn’t deliver an inadequate sea-time sub.

I agree welding and related hull cutting problem “is linked to the Japanese inexperience of how to supervise a license production properly”.

Agree that “VLS is unnecessary [given] Tomahawk and SLBMs can be horizontal tube launched. "horizontal multi purpose lock (HMPL)” is probably being part met by the Dolphin 2s (650mm tubes) for diver ops and LDUUVs. The on hull, behind sale, pod on the Virginia’s are also highly capable for wet-dry cell, diver delivery vehicles and LDUUVs.

So perhaps Australia may eventually have the sense to buy an Australian TKMS Dolphin 2.

The unknowns about the SEAWEB system and how closely integrated it is with the GENERAL DYNAMICS AN/BYG-1 http://www.gd-ais.com/Capabilities/Mission-Integration-Systems/ANBYG-1-Submarine-Tactical-Control-System-%28TCS%29 clouds combat system discussion.

Mark 48 torpedoes can operate with or WITHOUT wire guidance - http://www.navy.gov.au/weapon/mark-48

Mark 48 can operate to 800 meters (and probably deeper) see sidebar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_48_torpedo .

More northern Australian bases seem unviable due to tides, limited access channels, vulnerability and redundant cost of duplication and civilian populations unused to major missile carrying warships. Also they can’t host US nuclear or in future Australian nuclear subs.

Yes buying the 10 x Dolphin 2 submarines with 35 crew (to reduce crew fatigue) makes sense.

Once the full cost of the RAN’s wish list and Australia declining revenue base becomes known hopefully Australia will buy a minimally modified (NO VLS) Soryu or Dolphin 2.

Regards

Pete