September 28, 2017

SSKs then SSNs: Continuing the Australian Future Submarine Debate

In response to many of the points raised in comments on the previous article

Basic plan: the Australian solution could be 6 x 3,000 ton SSKs to be built 2030-2040 and 6 x 5,000 ton SSNs after 2040. These SSNs may carry small ballistic missiles - the precursor to a nuclear deterrent.

More Detailed Explanation:

If at least 4 Collins hulls (number of deep dives defines submarines that are too "old") can last until 2035 then I think an interim submarine will effectively become the next generation Future Submarine (FSM) which the Government has decided is the Shortfin SSK.

Alternatives to the Shortfin SSK could be 6 SSKs of at least 3,000 ton (surfaced)) with LIBs and maybe AIP, They might best be one of:

-  an enlarged (more fuel and batteries, AIP) 3,000 ton Scorpene currently known as SMX 3.0 see

-  an enlarged Type 218 (could call it 216) (already has advanced fuel cell AIP)(has time to 
   incorporate LIBs)

-  a Soryu Mark 2 or 3 (which would already be developed for LIBs)

The 6 submarines could also utilize highly developed Autonomous Underwater Vehicles to extend capability into the more dangerous (by then China dominated) waters of the South China Sea and near China's future Indian Ocean naval bases.

A submarine tender ship is probably unviable for Western Australia north of Fleet Base West because of the lack of viable ports:

Exmouth port is only an uneconomic 700nm north of Fleet Base West

-  the Port of Darwin, run by a Chinese company, also has a naval base with tide/channel limitations 
   largely restricting it to small patrol boats and also is only minutes by fast jet or cruise missile from
   likely future Chinese air bases in East Timor

After these 6 SSKs are built in Australia it will be 2040 and by then Australia (to have regionally superior subs) will have needed to buy/build 6 SSNs. This is because regional countries (China, India, Russia already have SSNs) and by 2045 North Korea, South Korea and Japan will likely have developed SSNs, likely mounting SLBMs.

So the Australian solution could be 6 x 3,000 ton SSKs to be built 2030-2040 and 6 x 5,000 ton SSNs after 2040. These SSNs may carry small ballistic missiles - the precursor to a nuclear deterrent.

Scale model of the 3,000 tonne concept submarine, SMX 3.0, on display at the DCNS stand, at Euronaval 2016. The SMX 3.0's external shape seems to owe much to the current DCNS 2,000 tonne Scorpene. More details. (Photo courtesy Navy Recognition)


September 27, 2017

Report Suggesting Two Future Australian Submarine Types

A most interesting report commissioned by businesman GaryJohnston has been released today (September 27, 2017).

The report Australia’s Future Submarine Getting This Key Capability Right (September 2017) (Media Release and whole Report(PDF 12MB)) was written by Australia’s Insight Economics consultancy.

The report was launched by ANU Professor Hugh White and also by Michael Keating (former Head of the Australian Public Service) at the National Press Club, Canberra ((September 27, 2017). A transcript of the Press Club launch may follow tomorrow.

Some central issues in the report include:

1.  capability gap - any midlife upgrade of the 6 Collins subs might only make them useful until 
     around 2030. But the future submarine "Shortfin" may only be operational in 2040. Hence
     Australia may lack submarines for 10 years.


2.  rather than extend Collins, take urgent steps to acquire 6 off-the-shelf submarines, modified to
     extend their range and built in Adelaide. At the National Press Club it was suggested 2 submarine
     builders be asked to submit interim (but already operating) submarine designs. They are Germany
maybe TKMS’s Type 212s/214s/218s/Dolphin 2s) and France (Naval Group’s Scorpenes) 

3.  because of the long transits to the Navy’s areas of operations, acquire a submarine tender (ship)
     forward based in Australian waters.

4.  the 6 interim subs and tender might cost under $10 billion.

5.  hold a review on whether Australia should either acquire more off the shelf 
     submarines; or build the Shortfins; or acquire nuclear subs [eg. Barracudas]


Suggestions that Australia's interim and/or future submarines have Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) could delay either build by 10 years. AIP is less problematic. 

An order of 6 interim submarine Scorpenes with AIP, built in Adelaide, would make the most sense as:

-  legal problems of already signed agreements (with Naval Group) would be minimised

 many Scorpene submarine parts, supply chains, personnel and operating methods would be
   common to the later Shortfins

-  engineering and legal continuity with Lockheed Martin integrating the combat systems into
could more easily carry over to the Shortfins 

-  Naval Group is the only Western supplier that can offer both (conventional) SSKs and then
   6 (nuclear) SSNs. That is if Australia genuinely wants "regionally superior" attack submarines
   by the 2040s.


September 26, 2017

India May Want to Buy Japanese Submarines

Might Japan one day sell India a for export specification submarine similar to Japan's Yushio-class design - with pressure hull steel equivalent to High Yield HY120 and air independent propulsion (AIP)? (Photo via Wikipedia).

Japanese Prime Minister Abe's Indian visit in mid September 2017 raised the issue of a possible future sale of Japanese submarines to India. The sale would be under Project-75(I) to supply the Indian Navy with 6 AIP submarines. The re-issued and extended RFI might be steadily giving Japan a better chance of winning. Japanese Soryu submarines have been mentioned, but they may be too highly classified and expensive. Hence a for export specification Japanese design might be more likely.

Ever since Pakistan introduced MESMA AIP into its latest 3 Agosta submarines India has been intent on also acquiring AIP for its own submarines. China also has (Stirling) AIP (locally developed or bought from Sweden) in its Yuan submarines.

India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has long been developing a fuel cell AIP technology, but this is a very difficult - so much so that Germany is the only demonstrably successful fuel cell AIP developer.

Recent border friction with China and increased Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean has underlined to India that it needs more powerful conventional submarines quickly. India's perpetually delayed Project 75(I) AIP submarine selection project is therefore being accelerated.

Chances that Japan is now a serious contender in Project-75(I) may be increasing. Japan builds highly capable large submarines (which can carry more missiles, torpedoes and mines) and has long experience with Stirling AIP (probably bought from Sweden). Japanese sale of Stirling AIP to India would likely require involvement of Sweden. Stirling AIP is likely superior in quietness and low heat signature to MESMA AIP. A submarine purchase from Japan would also boost a key regional strategic friendship against India's and Japan's strategic competitor, China.

Regional friendship is something Project-75(I) competitors (Germany, France, Sweden) in distant Western Europe, cannot deliver. Northeast Asian nations, (Siberian) Russia and South Korea, also competing for Project-75(I) are both careful not to antagonise China.

Japan's large 2,900 ton (surfaced) Soryu submarines might be uncompetitive as they may be priced at US$1.5 billion each. This is in comparison to US$1 billion for 1,800 ton 75(I) competitors.

Japan does not want its most tightly held submarine secrets finding their way to China - so Soryu technology may be too sensitive. Japan would be wary of India's exchange of submarine high technology with Russia in the form of Kilos, naval reactors and SSNs. Russia also shares submarine technology with China.

Due to these security concerns Japan is unlikely to offer its Top Secret high yield pressure hull steel. That steel is Japanese NS110 grade - equivalent to US High Yield HY156 used in the Oyashio and Soryu classes.

Instead Japan might supply lower specification for export submarine technology - particularly pressure hull steel used in Japan's older Yushio-class design ie. Japanese NS80 grade (equivalent to still advanced US High Yield HY120 steel - see the Table on Submarine Matters).

When eventually decided India's Project-75(I) competition will be a major win for any of the competitors.


September 14, 2017

Australia (with US cooperation) Active in LIBs Research for Submarines

Thermal runaway in Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) in submarines 
 has been a serious problem as US testing in November 2008 (see below) revealed. The above artwork concerns destructive phases through heat buildup in LIBs in hearing aids. (Courtesy Hearing Health & Technology Matters)

Many countries (from Europe to Northeast Asia and the US) are carrying out Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) research for submarines.

Australia is also active in research on LIBs for submarines. Australia’s Department of Defence’s multi-faceted research organisation, the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group is active in LIB safety research. 

In one of the activities DST's Defence researcher, Kane Ivory, is establishing DST’s LIB Safety Research Facility - on DST's website see an article Powering the Future of Submarine Fleets of 

The US Navy and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had bad experiences with LIBs way back in November 2008 under the now cancelled Advanced SEAL Delivery Vehicle (ASDS) program. The prototype (ASDS-1) "was having its lithium-ion batteries charged Nov. 9 when an explosion started a battery fire that burned for about six hours. No one was aboard the 60-ton craft, which was on shore at its base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii...The incident came at a key time for the [ASDS] mini-sub program. The ASDS was to have deployed in November [on top of] the guided-missile submarine [USS Michigan (SSGN-727)] — the first SSGN deployment for the [ASDS mini-sub]." 

As well as LIBs for mini-subs and UUVs the US Navy may want to eventually use LIBs as backup batteries in nuclear submarines. 

US-Australian cooperation in defence research is revealed by a US Navy document regarding Ken Ivory’s secondment, in 2016 to the US, under the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP). The US document indicates:

"Kane is here working with us on understanding how that safety program works and the types of tests and approaches to testing we have to see what is applicable to Australia," Fuentevilla said. "One common area of interest for Australia and the United States is early fault detection for lithium battery failures. Normal battery management systems will detect a fault or failure as it's happening, but not necessarily with sufficient time to prevent system-level hazards. We're looking at technologies that would provide additional early warning so that you can effectively implement hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a small problem from becoming a bigger problem."


September 13, 2017

September 2017 Report to Donors - Disruptions to Australian Shipbuilding Plans

Hi Donors

I've just emailed out Submarine Matters September 2017 Donor Report: 

Titled - Disruptions to Australian Shipbuilding Plans

Please check your spam bin if you don't see it in your IN box.

Leadin to report:

Timeline illustrates the Coalition Government’s best laid plans of an unprecedented peacetime boost to naval shipbuilding. The strategy is clearly Osborne, Adelaide, South Australia centric. See short Factsheet. But like all things political it is subject to change. (Timeline artwork courtesy Australian Government's Naval Shipbuilding Plan May 2017, page 15) 


Submarine Matters International

September 6, 2017

Updated Table of Japan's Soryu & Oyashio Submarine Program: Admiral Kobayashi

On September 4, 2017 Anonymous provided new information here and here updating Submarine Matter's Amended Improvements & Higher Costs of Soryu Mark IIs Over Mark Is of August 21, 2017

 TABLE - SORYU & Oyashio Program as at January 16, 2018 

Build No
MoF approved amount ¥
Billions FY
Laid Down
5SS Oyashio
8105 Oyashio
SS-590/ TS3608
¥52.2B FY1993
LABs only
 Jan 1994
Oct 1996
Mar 1998
10 subs
¥52.2B per sub
LABs only
 15SS Feb
Mar 2008
Soryu Mk 1
¥60B FY2004
Mar 2005
Dec 2007
¥58.7B FY2005
Mar 2006
Oct 2008
¥56.2 FY2006
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
¥53B FY2007
Mar 2008
Nov 2010
¥51B FY2008
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
No 21SS
No 21SS built
¥52.8B FY2010
Jan 2011
Oct 2013
¥54.6B FY2011
Feb 2012
Oct 2014
7 Mar 2016
¥54.7B FY2012
¥53.1B FY2013
22 Oct 2013
12 Oct   2016
Mar? 2018
8125 Shyuriyu
6 Nov 2017
Mar 2019?
27SS First
Soryu Mk 2
LIBs only
28SS  Second
Soryu Mark 2
¥63.6B FY2016
LIBs only
late 2019?
Mar 2021?
29SS First Soryu Mk 3
(1) (3)
¥76B FY2017
LIBs only
30SS Second Soryu Mk 3 (2)
¥71.5B FY2018
LIBs only
Table from information exclusively provided to Submarine MattersLABs = lead-acid batteries, AIP = air independent propulsion, LIBs = lithium-ion batteries. ¥***B = Billion Yen. MHI = Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, KHI Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation of Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) announced the Financial Year FY 2018 budget on August 31, 2017. Based on the FY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets, the SORYU & Oyashio Program Table (above) can be revised (in red) as follows.

(1) Correction of 29SS; i) “Build No” is 8128; “[the Japanese Ministry of Finance (MoF)] approved amount Yen Billions & FY” is JPY 76 (7.6*)B FY2017.

(2) Addition of 30SS; i) “Build No” is 8029?; MoF approved amount Yen Billions & FY” is JPY 71.5 (2.3*)B FY2018 (submitted).

* Figure in bracket is the first year cost, such as new equipment, and is excluded from the FY budget number. In other words, the real budgets for 29SS and 30SS are 83.6 (=76 + 7.6) and 73.8 (=71.5 + 2.3) JPY B (Billion Japanese Yen), respectively. The first year cost for both 29SS and 30SS recognises that the builders of the two submarines are different.

According to the MOD, first year costs include i) design, ii) test, iii) technical collaboration, and iv) acquisition costs. These costs exclude jigs/tools, machines and equipment. These costs are related to the first year procurement and are specially required for production. 

The first year cost of 29SS (ie. 7.6 B JPY) is much higher than 30SS (2.3 B JPY). One major cost component may be design. The design cost of 29SS is obviously higher than 30SS.

(3) For application in future 29SS-type submarine, a budget for the study of a new silent driving system has been submitted.

Research on the quiet propulsion (or silent driving?) system and hull shape are considered budgeting. The results of previous research will be applied to 29SS-type submarine. An issue remains whether 29SS type submarines can be called Soryu Mark 3 or Soryu Mark 4. A submarine class that follows the Soryus will likely be based on additional research.

Reported in the Japanese language publication SHIPS OF THE WORLD, October 2017 - the ex-commander of the submarine fleet Admiral (retired) Masao Kobayashi (photo and bio details below from Submarine Matters' records) has revealed that 29SS is an upgraded version of the Soryu, with improved LIBs, improved sonars and other performance improvements. So 29SS and 30SS can be considered Soryu Mark 3s.

 Vice Admiral Masao KOBAYASHI, JMSDF (Retired)  

Masao KOBAYASHI has performed as an adviser to Japan's National Security Council. He graduated from the Japanese Defense Academy in 1973 and commenced a career in the JMSDF submarine service. He held many posts in the submarine force.

Shore billets included Submarine Branch Head in the Ship Systems Section in the Maritime Staff Office and Operations Officer in the Fleet Submarine Force.

He has commanded TAKASHIO SS-571 (Uzushio class submarine), and was Commander of Submarine Division Two. In 2001/2 he was the Commander of Submarine Flotilla One, and was Coordinator of Exercise at sea for Pacific Reach 2002.

Masao’s last post was as Commander of the Fleet Submarine Force (2007 - 2009). He retired from the JMSDF in 2009. Vice Admiral KOBAYASHI served with distinction in the JMSDF and is well regarded as an authority in the international submariner community. 

Anonymous and Pete

September 5, 2017

Saab Kockums Concept Proposal of Three A26 SSK Variants

Kockums, since it returned to Swedish ownership (bought by Saab) in July 2014, has been trying to find foreign buyers for the A26 and variants. In 2014 a variant concept was the 4,000 ton Type 612, which Kockums attempted to market to Australia in the future submarine (SEA 1000) competition. France's DCNS (now Naval Group) won the Australian competition. 

So Saab Kockums is still searching for foreign customers, but, the market has many competing submarine suppliers. Kockum's is now attempting to sell the A26 in three sizes.

Navyrecognition provided details on August 31, 2017 concerning Saab Kockums concept proposal of three A26 SSK variants (illustrated at Artwork A. below).

Artwork A. Saab Kockums August 31, 2017 concept proposal of three A26 SSK variants.  Artwork courtesy Saab Kockums via navyrecognition

Pete Comment/Background

Using the Saab via navyrecognition details the three A26 variants in Artwork A consist of:

The "Pelagic" (Open Sea) variant can perhaps relate to Baltic, Mediterranean, Arabian and Caribbian Sea use. This variant is small – 50m long, about 1,000 tons (surfaced), 4,000nm range at 10 knots. Endurance at patrol speed is over 20 days assisted by the AIP module. Standard complement is 17 to 25. Saab Kockums may have the best chance of selling these small submarines to smaller navy customers including those who use subs for non-state threats, eg. Canada and Latin American countries in alliance with the US countering drug smuggling.

The Oceanic variant is the "baseline" A26 with two being built for the Swedish Navy. A26 Oceanic is 65m long, around 1,900 tons to 2,000 tons (surfaced), range over 6,500nm at 10 knots. Endurance at patrol speed is over 30 day assisted by the AIP module. Standard complement is 17 to 35. [Presumably around 10 Special Forces can be accomodated?]. I assume four A26 Oceanic variants of approximately 2,300 tons (surfaced) are being offered to the Dutch Navy as Walrus replacements.

The Oceanic (Extended Range) variant is a stretched version A26. It is longer than 80m, over 3,000 tons (surfaced). Range is over 10,000nm at 10 knots. Endurance at patrol speed is over 50 days assisted by the AIP module. Standard complement is 20 to 50. [Presumably around 10 Special Forces can be accomodated?]. 

Saab Kockums will have a battle selling the Oceanic and Oceanic (Extended Range) variants given TKMS is already established selling larger than the usual (1,800 ton submarines) to Israel, Singapore and designs to South Korea. India may be the best remaining slightly large  submarine customer under Project 75I.

Artwork B. Saab Kockums concept proposal of the Vertical Launch System (VLS) or Vertical Multi-Purpose Lock (VMPL) module(s) option that can be fitted to A26 SSK variants. Artwork courtesy Saab Kockums via navyrecognition.


September 4, 2017

Sniffer Aircraft May Have Pointed to North Korea Nuclear Device Being Thermonuclear

Intelligence agencies are using not yet public sniffer test results to conclude the September 3, 2017 North Korean nuclear test was thermonuclear. Further confirmation is based arount the power of the 6.3 magnitude nuclear earthquake leading to a thermonuclear range estimated yield of 100 kilotons or higher (various estimates).

Three or more Japanese Air Force T-4 intermediate jet trainers have already been used as “sniffer” aircraft to collect radioactive dust (eg. tritiumdeuterium and lithium-6 deuteride) and noble gases. The T-4s probably use external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper. This is an advance over using a much larger, labor intensive, US Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft.

Some authorities limit the definition of thermonuclear weapon to a two stage weapon where the detonation of a primary fission stage sets off a secondary nuclear fusion stage. But a broader definition also encompasses a boosted fission weapon - typically a bomb using a small amount of fusion fuel to increase the explosive rate, and thus yield, of a fission reaction.

Photo of North Korean leader inspecting a device which looks like a thermonuclear weapon The photo was released a few hours before the test. See very useful BBC commentatry on physical aspects of the Kim-Bomb photo.