June 14, 2016
Many In Japanese Government Relieved Japan Did Not Win Submarine Bid
Both Prime Minister Abe (above) and MHI President, Shunichi Miyanaga (below) were/are deeply unhappy with Japan's loss in the submarine bid. But many in the Japanese Government are not grieving.
As is well known Prime Minister Abe was very pro sale but how he instructed government departments to push the sale is less well known. After Japan was defeated by China in the Indonesian high speed rail contract (in September 2015), the Prime Minister's Office ordered the Ministry of Defense (MoD) “Do not fail in the submarine bid.” But the peak Japanese National Security Council (NSC), which is answerable to the Prime Minister, became the Government Headquarters for the submarine bid, not the MoD. Possibly due to bureaucratic rivalry many considered the NSC’s orders nonsense. This included such orders as “Go to Australia to lobby for the subs every month”. The MoD considered this all very odd and consequently it was not inspired to do much selling.
The Japanese Navy (Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) was highly negative because of concerns about information security. This particularly concerned Japan exporting its high yield pressure hull steel (NS80, NS90 and NS110). See mentions in this Submarine Matters Table. Other sensitive technology was the snorkel system and related technology. This was apparent from:
1. Japanese journal SHIPS OF THE WORLD No 321, Sept 2015, page 108.
2. Sankei Shinbun April 27, 2016. The JMSDF were negative about submarine exports, but PM Abe and his office rushed to export. KHI and many below the top of MHI worried about leakage of secret information.
3. Nikkan-Gendai (news online) writing about the defeat of Japanese bid. (http://www.nikkan-gendai.com/articles/view/news/180342/4 which could be translated as “the truth of the matter about the bid is that, Abe's push was premature. Building Soryus required special building techniques which could not be duplicated in Australia. Meaning Japan was lucky that it lost.”
The peak leadership of MHI was very serious about the bid and was shocked by the defeat. In late 2015 MHI had experienced major losses due to delivery delays for two cruise liners for Germany’s AIDAprima Cruises. This encouraged very powerful MHI President Miyanaga in his resolve that MHI should win the submarine bid as a key business reconstruction measure for MHI. Below Miyanaga the middle management and workers of MHI were negative about selling. Negativity among the workers included much harder work being expected of them but without a pay rise.
KHI, quietly most in MHI, JMSDF and MoD did not feel too depressed by the defeat of the Japanese bid after Prime Minister Turnbull’s April 26, 2016 announcement. Australia could have attempted to build Soryus in Adelaide, but, building the Soryu needs special technology and a skill base that has grown up around Japanese building methods. Despite this PM Abe wanted the submarine sale.
The special technology (and knowledge) includes not only NS110 (super high yield steel) and gas tungsten arc welding (to work NS110). But also the roundness of cylindrical hull critically effects submergence depth. An error of the roundness needs to be less than 5mm for a cylindrical hull of that is 9.1 meter in diameter. This means a maximum error of 0.055% which is very difficult to achieve.
Anonymous feels that MHI and KHI have higher submarine technical skills than DCNS (with its paper Shortfin design) in most areas. But, MHI and KHI do not have enough ability in presenting. The defence business arms of MHI and KHI are mainly full of engineers rather than sales men and women.
While sour grapes crossed my mind the above certainly indicates that there was insufficient consensus in Japan's military-industrial and political complex for the Australian customer to feel confident. Australia was right to be cautious about such a fragmented, hybrid, government-business sales "team".
Perhaps, in several years, the various Japanese players could have eventually worked together and with Australia to smoothly build the submarines in Adelaide, but it would have been high risk for Australia.
When Abe's orders were combined with the equally non-consensual brainstorms of Abbott's Prime Minister's office to:
- Buy from Japan
- Build in Japan and
- in a near "crash program" to start replacing the Collins in the mid 2020s,
We are lucky crisis was averted, or perhaps delayed. Fingers crossed.
Posted by Peter Coates