August 25, 2016

Japan's fewer Submarine Leaks and High Strategic Threat Connection

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
Crew: 50
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.



Turtle said...

Just it had a fewer sources of leak still does not guarantee better security. I remember a scandal where students and lecturers of Japanese Naval Academy carried copies of Aegis technical data outside the secured locations.

Anonymous said...

Asian allies of the US do not need to wait for Mr. Trump on November 8 since the failure to ratify the TPP so far (or in the foreseeable future) already send the message for all to see (China included).

Peter Coates said...

Hi Turtle

Well, yes, Japanese companies have had their moments .

The issue of dual-use technology finding its way to Russia and/or China (eg. MTU 4000s for marine use ) are particularly vexing.



Peter Coates said...


Yes a Trump win would lead to many surprises for even the most out-spoken, rightwing, US officials.



Josh said...


I'm a little surprised by the excitement some parts of the web have with the DPRK launch of a submerged missile. Given the short range of the boat, the number of missiles it can carry (two in the sail, like the old Zulu Vs?) and the nature of the missile (more or less Scud analog) I don't see how this is a significant capability when as recently as 1998 the DPRK could launch a missile clear over Japan. The ability of Chinese boats to get outside the first island chain undetected is a little questionable; the ability of North Korea to get its one aging ballistic missile test bed out seems hopeless - in which case the ranges we are talking about are well within established Nork IRBM range, let alone their longest ranged missiles. Quite honestly if I were in their shoes I would have attempted to develope cruise missiles, but perhaps miniaturized turbofan or turbojet tech is even more out of their reach than submerged missile launch.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

I'll turn my response to the interesting issues you raise into an article later this week.