September 29, 2015

HMAS Sheean's visit to India and Malaysia - broader quadrilateral soundings

Submarine HMAS Sheean in Vishakhapatnam Harbour, India's Fleet Base East. Sheean participated in the binational Australia - India naval exercise (AUSINDEX-15), September 2015 (Photo courtesy Australian Defence).

Collins class submarine, HMAS Sheean, exercised off Vishakhapatnam, in September 2015, with Australian, Indian vessels and Indian P-8I Neptune ASW aircraft.


India and Australia established a bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation in late 2014. This framework included cooperation in maritime security.

In September 2015 Sheean voyaged from Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia to exercise off India’s east coast base at Visakhapatnam in AUSINDEX-15. Along with Sheean were HMAS Sirius (replenishment ship), HMAS Arunta (Anzac class frigate) and a RAAF P-3 Orion. Indian warships included INS Shivalik (frigate), INS Ranvijay (destroyer) and INS Shakti (fleet tanker). Most deadly for Sheean may have been the participation of one of India’s new P-8I Neptune (not Poseidon in Indian service) maritime patrol aircraft.

The AUSINDEX-15 was in many ways an ASW exercise which coincides with a substantial rise in Chinese SSK and SSN activity in the Indian Ocean. The exercise and others may signal a trend towards a loose quadrilateral understanding between the US, Japan, India and Australia. Chinese diplomatic and likely economic pressure (perhaps mostly on Australia) frustrated a Quadrilateral in 2007. But now militant Chinese actions in the South China Sea and East China Sea may weaken Chinese diplomatic righteousness and China's current economic downturn means China needs friends. 

Other quadrilateral, trilateral and bilateral exercises involving some of the 4 may strengthen  quadrilateral understanding, including:

-  MALABA 2015 (in October) - US, India and Japan

-  Australia hosted the Talisman Saber 2015 (July) in Queensland attended by US, Japan and also New Zealand forces

-  Biennial RIMPAC exercises around Hawaii will likely involve all 4 in 2016 with the added bonus of interacting with many other peaceful countries and also China (if still friendly) 

It will be interesting to see if Australia's new Turnbull Government, with new Defence Minister Marise Payne, has a different policy towards any quadrilateral.

HMAS Sheean then sailed to Butterworth port, Penang, Malaysia, September 2015, for R&R (Photo courtesy New Straits Times Online)

Note Penang (state capital George Town), is a small island on northwest coast of Peninsuala  Malaysia. HMAS Sheean is then sailing, October 2015, to Sepanggar Naval Base, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia (on island of Borneo (on island of Borneo – on right). Ambalat contested undersea oil area is just south of Tawau, Sabah. Malaysia is in two main parts (Peninsuala and on Bornea) which complicates Malaysia’s naval functioning!

Submarine news from Malaysia reaches international headlines infrequently - what appears to be peace reigns. A day ago Australia’s Collins class HMAS Sheean tied up at Butterworth port, Penang, Malaysia (see photo and map above) for some rest and recuperation for the crew.

In October 2015 Sheean will proceed to Malaysia’s Sepanggar Naval Base, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. That base is not coincidentally near to the Ambalat undersea oil area that is an issue of some dispute between Malaysia and its neighbour Indonesia. Naturally Australia is neutral regarding Ambalat. Sheean will exercise with one of Malaysia’s two Scorpene class submarines, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman

After the exercise HMAS Sheean will return to Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia.


Singapore’s AsiaOne, September 29, 2015, reports

"Ferry users get a pleasant sub-prise

BUTTERWORTH - The jaw-dropping sight of a jet black submarine crossing paths with ferries here turned a humdrum morning commute into an exciting ride for a few hundred ferry passengers [see Sheean and Penang ferry in photo above].

The 77.42m-long Australian submarine had ferry commuters busy clicking on their mobile cameras and posting pictures on social media yesterday.

HMAS Sheean from Australia is here for the crewmen's holiday before they start a joint exercise with a Malaysian submarine later.

It rolled into Butterworth's deep-water wharf where tugboats nudged alongside it at 11.30am.

Since the news hit The Star Online yesterday, readers have called asking if they could go to the wharf for a closer look. The wharf, however, is off-limits to the public.

Submarine Commander Jason Cupples said the crew was here for a visit.

The Collins-class submarine will be involved in the joint exercise with Scorpene-class submarine KD Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 12 and 13.

"We have 60 crew members who want to experience the local cultures and food. "The submarine will be here until Oct 2," Cupples said.

Retiree Ahmad Ishak, 57, heard about the submarine's arrival and brought his five-year-old grandson on a ferry ride just to get a closer view of the vessel. "I've never seen a submarine before, although the Royal Malaysian Navy has two. "It's truly an experience to see such top-secret military transport docked right here," he said when met on the ferry at the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal yesterday.

Student Koh Zhi Zhang, 14, from SKM Hwa Lian in Temerloh, Pahang, said it was also his first time seeing a submarine. "This is my first time in Penang and I'm so lucky to see it," he said.

In a statement, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) said the Australian crew was also planning a courtesy call on the naval officer in Penang.

HMAS Sheean will return to Fleet Base West, Australia once the exercise concludes, the RMN spokesperson added.

The vessel is armed with guided surface-to-air missiles, sub-surface guided torpedoes and mines, and has a surface range of 11,500 nautical miles and a dived range of 400 nautical miles."


US and France in Talks with India to Assist India's Nuclear Submarine Program

India's indigenous nuclear testbed submarine INS Arihant. Structure incorporates some Russian and possible French features. Reactor draws on much Russian assistance.

Russia has leased INS Chakra II to India. But Chakra's large size and much aging technology may well encourage India to seek French and US help to build a smaller, more modern, SSN.

Please connect with Submarine Matters Indian Submarine Propulsion Reactor Needs - Arihant, Aridhaman & Chakra II, October 4, 2015.


India’s news provider The Economic Times (see specific article link below) has reported early discussions of US and French shipbuilders with India regarding possible future assistance for India’s nuclear propelled attack submarine (SSN) program.

The Economic Times article has sufficient detail and the tone to be credible. This is unexpected news. While there have been rumours over the years that France assisted India with some structural features of nuclear submarine Arihant, Russia has been India’s more obvious source of nuclear assistance. 

Over the years Russia:

-  Leased INS Chakra I (a Russian Charlie class SSGN in 1988-91).

-  Assisted India with the reactor and structure for the Arihant – a nuclear propelled testbed submarine, and

-  Has leased to India INS Chakra II - a Russian Akula class multi-purpose nuclear submarine, from 2011 for a 10 year period.

The reasons for the Chakra II lease may be for Indian crew and technicians to gain nuclear experience, probably working with Russian advisers, probably with some technology transfer. Chakra II is most likely non-operational. As Chakra II weighs 8,000 tons (surfaced) it is probably too heavy (with construction and maintenance costs too high) to be a prototype SSN for India. As the Chakra II-Akula class is a 30 year old design its technology may be too dated and loud in operation to be used as India's model SSN - to launch a class of 6 Indian SSNs over the next 20 years. Russia’s much more modern Yasen class SSGN also suffers from being 8,000 tons (surfaced) probably too heavy for India’s budget or needs.

As well as selling nuclear technology to India France may see the technology as a sweetener for France to win the Project-75I tender for 6 AIP SSKs. In doing so France could head-off any Russian strategy to offer further nuclear submarine assistance jointly with 6 Kilos or Amur SSKs to India for Project-75I. France’s Barracuda SSN (see the article below) would be more the size, 4,765 tons (surfaced), and modernity that India wants in an SSN.

The US has much submarine technology (eg. sonars, combat system features, better reactors and vertical launch systems) that India would find attractive. This is also in the context of India now being the US’s second largest conventional weapons buyer.

Biswajit Pattanaik in Comments [Oct 2, 2015 8:42PM] advised concerning:
-  French assistance with sub-systems for Arihant class SSBN from Coyard of France joint venture wiuith FlashForge (FF) an Indian company for supplying customised valves, pipings & fittings for submarines (including the Arihant calss S2/S3/S4 SSBNs).
-  Another joint venture between FF & Nereides (French) to provide the towed array antenna and 
-  SAGEM of France providing their SIGMA 40 ring laser gyro inertial navigation system (RLG-INS) for the Submarine

Biswajit also advised US based L-3 KEO owned RIVA Calzoni (Italy based) have provided non-hull penetrating masts & periscopes. 

If the talks with the US and France concerning SSNs fall through, India may always gain in terms of leveraging more sensitive nuclear submarine technology from Russia. Any Russian, US or French technical assistance for an Indian SSN would also flow through to India’s SSBNs which are still under development.

Submarine Matters article India's Unnamed Project for 6 SSNs Begins, May 29, 2015 carried an Indian report that India wanted 6 SSNs, mainly based in or near Visakhapatman (the main naval base on India’s east coast) orientated against the geostrategic threat from China. Such a threat would probably come from Chinese SSNs and SSBNs and perhaps eventually Chinese carrier groups. 

Issues for Australia

For Australia the prospect of the US and France helping regional power India with key nuclear technology is less of a proliferation worry because India already has nuclear submarines and nuclear weapons. It is hoped that India would not use its nuclear submarine force to dominate the Indian Ocean in ways detrimental to Australia.

If talks eventually lead to a joint US-France-India build of a small, more economical, SSN then that may be a much more useful future nuclear propelled submarine to sell to Australia than the overly large and crew intensive Virginia SSN or limited reactor Barracuda SSN. Of course Australia is not contemplating buying nuclear submarines for the foreseeable future.


India may get US, French cos as partners for building nuclear submarines

NEW DELHI: For the first time India has options when it comes to finding a partner to build a military nuclear asset. Besides Russia, ship builders from France and the US have started initial conversations with the defence ministry on participating in an Indian effort to build a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines 

Russia has been the traditional ally of India when it comes to sensitive technology and strategic systems 

But a Navy plan for constructing six new nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to patrol the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond has prompted 'discussions' with the two western nations, sources familiar with the development told ET. The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared Navy's proposal in February. 

The Indian SSN project — expected to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore [more than US$5 Billion] — is an ambitious plan to design and produce a nuclear attack boat with the help of the private sector. If this materialises, it will propel India into a select league of the five nuclear powers that have such a capability. SSNs are nuclear powered submarines, but do not carry nuclear warheads, relying instead on conventional weapons and stealth to hunt ships and other submarines. The last country to enter this club was China in 1974 with its Han class boats. 

Sources told ET that senior representatives from the submarine branch of a leading US conglomerate have met key Indian defence ministry officials regarding the project. The efforts included a top level meeting in July. The discussions have been kept low key given the sensitivity of the project and details are not available. 

Similarly, French representatives have also approached the Indian side for exploring avenues for cooperation on the project in the past few months. While the French submarine manufacturer has not commented on the project, the Indian side is interested in the new 'Barracuda' SSN being developed by French ship builder DCNS. A senior DCNS representative refused to take questions on the matter. 

The new nuclear submarine for the French Navy is currently under construction and is expected to start sea trials by next year. The Barracuda was also showcased at the Defence Expo held in New Delhi last year. As reported by ET, India is also in talks with Russia to lease a nuclear attack submarine — a newly built, customised boat that could give engineers a first-hand look at construction technology and process.”

Unlike a nuclear missile armed submarine (SSBN) that is designed to carry out a nuclear strike, nuclear propelled attack boats (SSNs) are considered less sensitive, with their primary role being hunting vital enemy naval ships and submarines. While foreign assistance on SSBNs is a complex matter, there have been examples of nations sharing non-nuclear technology for SSNs. France is at present assisting Brazil with its first nuclear submarine project. The deal involves France helping Brazil with the non-nuclear components of the submarine, with the South American nation using its own reactor and fuel.

India's first SSBN, the INS Arihant, is currently undergoing sea trials in Vizag. It is expected to carry out a weapons test shortly. The only SSN in service with the Navy at present is the INS Chakra, an Akula class submarine on a 10 year lease from Russia to train Indian crew for such operations. 


Please link with:


September 26, 2015

Japan willing to build in Aus says Industry Min Pyne, Japan Design Information - Table

Will an enlarged Japanese submarine (similar to the one pictured) win the future submarine competition and be built in Australia?


Industry Minister Christopher Pyne is playing up an aspect of the future submarine Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) that was always there. This is two days since his last major defence announcement? That is that each of the three bidders must supply a Full Build in Australia option. Pyne's assertions today:

-  supports my theory that as the most senior politician (and MP) from South Australia he has to be seen by other South Australian MPs who voted for Turnbull as standing up for the interests of their State.

-  takes account of the possibility that if most of the submarines are not eventually built in South Australia at least he can say he tried. Other politicians, interests and scapegoats can then be blamed.

-  confirm his high status in the new Turnbull Ministry while increasing the safety of his electorate position in South Australia

-  redefine the role of Industry Minister in what under previous Governments would have been a matter for main carriage by the Defence Minister or Prime Minister. This may portend current or future power instability in the Turnbull Government. 

-  the relative lack of Defence Ministerial and Prime Ministerial comment on submarines this week appears to indicate tacit approval by those 2 Ministers with Industry Minister Pyne’s message and his right to communicate it. 

-  presumably new Defence Minister Marise Payne is fully engaged with the 2015 Defence White Paper editing and publication process (which includes more official submarine, future frigate and smaller patrol vessel announcements)

The SEA 1000 CEP is actually for an entirely new submarine that will weigh 4,000 tons (surfaced). Claims of Off-the-Shelf are deceptive or uninformed. This will be the world's heaviest conventional submarine. 

The likely eventual cost 3 $Billion each (if built by highly inefficient ASC in South Australia) needs to be anticipated.  

If new Treasurer, Scott Morrison, is talking of the need for restraint in the CIVILIAN budget why is Australia proposing to build the most expensive conventional submarine ever? 

Is the DEFENCE budget a sacred cow set apart from other budget realities?



ABC Online, September 25, 2016 reports.

All three international bidders for the multi-billion-dollar contract to produce Australia's next fleet of submarines would prefer to build in Australia, according to Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne.

…Industry Minister Mr Pyne has confirmed Japan is open to an Australian build process, and said all three countries were prepared to offer a local build option.

"All three of them are now saying they'd prefer a domestic build," Mr Pyne told Channel Nine this morning.

…Mr Pyne holds a South Australian seat that is considered marginal and has played up the prospects of Japan's interest in building in Australia.

"As a South Australian that is music to my ears but we will go through the proper processes and we'll make an announce at the appropriate time," he said.

…Labor's defence spokesman Stephen Conroy said he was happy to hear all countries were providing a local build option. But he said Mr Pyne had not indicated that the Government will rule out building the submarines overseas. "When Chris Pyne and Marise Payne and Malcolm Turnbull receive those bids they should only consider the three domestic build bids."


On a less mainstream media matter special correspondent to Submarine Matters “S” indicated today that:

As [the Japanese Navy] does not like to lengthen submarines, if there is not significant structural change, the length of SS29 [may be laid down 2018 and commissioned 2022 - see table below] is expected to be 84 meters. That is the same as the [current Soryu and future Soryu for Japan] length of  SS28, i.e. 84m.

If the length of SS29 mod-AUS [Japanese designed future submarine for Australia] is 88m (submerged weight = 4500-4600t) for additional fuel and improved endurance - the extra range of 5000nm [to achieve the 11,000 nautical miles range that Australia wants] is achievable without loss of performance in my opinion. I expect some increase (plus 1-2knot/h) in the snorkel speed for 29SS by scaling-up the diesel engines.

The cost of the US combat system integration is not reported, but the cost related to the submarine information processing subsystem consisted of:

 i) computer for calculation on sonar and launch controller and 

ii) display of target is reported. 

The cost of the submarine information display for 19SS in FY2014 is 420M\ (5M$,100\=1.19$)|. [source of information provided to S undisclosed]


LAB or LIB & AIP *
Laid Down
Sōryū (そうりゅう) / Blue Dragon
March 2005
Dec 2007
Unryū (うんりゅう) / Cloud Dragon
March 2006
Oct 2008
Hakuryū (はくりゅう) / White Dragon
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
Kenryū (けんりゅう) / Sword Dragon
March 2008
Nov 2010
Zuiryu (けんりゅう) / Sword Dragon
March 2009
Oct 2011
Kokuryū (こくりゅう) / Black Dragon
January 2011
Oct 2013
Jinryū (じんりゅう)/ Benevolent Dragon
Feb 2012
Nov 2014
Soryu Mark 2 
LIB only
LIB only
LIB only


 1st Australian class?


- LAB = Lead Acid Battery.
- LIB = Lithium-ion Battery,
- AIP = Air Independent Propulsion (Swedish-Kockums designed Stirling engine)