With the DCNS document leak still in high drama one thing is becoming clearer. Japan very probably can keep its submarine secrets more secure. This is, in part, because Japan has entrusted its secrets to fewer entities:
- some submarine secrets to Australia (for the SEA 1000 competition that Japan lost), and
- perhaps some to the US, likely for torpedos and other combat system components.
Basically the more copies of secrets you distribute (to more countries) the more likely leaks will happen.
One pressing reason Japan tightly holds its secrets is the high strategic threat that it is under. Russia and China represent significant threats (with powerful militaries) only a few 100 kms from Japan's major cities.
North Korea probably represents a much higher threat that may elude MAD assumptions, making that country difficult to place. North Korea represents a unique blend of nuclear menace under the, so far, absolute control of the insular and Pharaohic, Kim Dynasty.
North Korea's latest piece of brinkmanship has been to launch an SLBM in the direction of the Japanese home islands (yesterday (24 August 2016). The SLBM was no doubt programmed to fall short but Japan would not have known that beforehand for sure and down range mistakes can happen. See lucky flight below.
Unlike some previous claimed North Korean SLBM tests the extended flight of this 24 August 2016 test was very likely tracked by satellites (with electro-optical, radar and infrared sensors). The Russian origins of this KN-11 SLBM suggests what cannot be publicly admitted, that Russian contractors have been helping develop and test this missile for North Korea. (Map from The Japan Times).
Japan, by nature, is very reticent about mentioning scenarios or methods of pre-emptive missile strikes against North Korean ballistic missile threats. North Korea likely assumes a pre-emptive strike would come in overwhelming nuclear force from US submarines or perhaps even from China (to hose down the likelihood of WWIII).
Unfortunately the possibility that Donald Trump might win the Presidential Election (on November 8, 2016) provides Japan with no assurance about what kind of deterrence a Trump Administration would exert against North Korea.
(Photo, specifications, South Korea's KSS-III (Jangbogo 3) courtesy NavyRecognition May 2016)
Displacement (surfaced): 3,358 tons, Displacement (submerged): 3,705 tons
Length 83.5m, Beam 9.6m
Maximum speed: 20 knots
Cruising range: 10,000 nm
6 vertically launched SLBMs [likely conventional warheads, initially]
[Probably around 16 torpedos, mines, anti-ship missiles.]
South Korea was more forthcoming in late May 2016 when it released news about a project to develop an SLBM for South Korea's future class of submarine - the 3,000-4,000 ton Jangbogo-3 (also known as KSS-III or KSS-3). Japan would also be considering submarine launched land attack cruise (and maybe ballistic) missiles. Japan may also desire parity with a South Korean submarine launched missile capability for its own sake. Japan and South Korea are neither enemies nor friends.
So Japan is quietly worried and would be keeping its future capabilities quiet.
I'll write on projected improvements to Japan's Soryu class and follow-on class submarines tomorrow.