June 1, 2014

Increasing Australian Interest in Japan's Soryu Submarine

Soryu class submarine being launched. Above submarine is the SS-502, the Unryu or Cloud Dragon.

A boppy commissioning(?) of Soryu SS-505, the Zuiryu or Auspicious Dragon. The video conveys some idea of the size of this submarine.

For the latest complication on the Soryu see June 11, 2014’s Australia's Future Submarine - Swedish vs German Claims http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/australias-future-submarine-swedish-vs.html . Note that the Soryu propulsion may have a mainly German licensed diesel and mainly Swedish licensed Stirling AIP.

The following article from Reuters via The Maritime Executive of May 28, 2014 http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Submarine-Deal-Could-Rattle-China-2014-05-28/ is in line with my own article Australian interest in Japan Soryu Submarine's Propulsion System [January 30, 2014 posted on Australia by the Indian Ocean] when I wrote:

“If Australia were to consider buying some features of Japanese submarines - such as the Soryu's propulsion system - Australia would need to be confident Japan could make this politically and economically possible [including Japan's ability to integrate the propulsion system with submarine hulls and electronic suites designed by Australian, European and US submarine arms companies]. To date Japan has never exported a major weapons system … Japan's self-imposed ban on arms exports began in 1967.” 

In the Comments section below Harish commented: "Let us say Japan did sell the Soryu drive-train or the entire package of the Soryu to Australia wouldn't that be breaking Kockums technology deal with Kawasaki Heavy Industries as they are the original source. I believe Kawasaki merely license produces these engines, is there something missing in that deal."

My comment is: I think Harish is correct that part of Soryu's drive-train (that is the Stirling engine AIP) is under license from Kockums. The Soryu uses two Kawasaki diesel generators, designed in conjunction with MAN [or is that MTU?], charging batteries that power a 5.9 MW Fuji Electrics main motor driving a seven bladed propeller. This licencing matter might not be an issue if TKMS-HDW legally owns Kockums. This is because I believe TKMS-HDW has the strongest chance of winning an Australian tender to build the future submarine. The result may be a development of the HDW 218SG - also stemming from the paper HDW 216 design. 

However the Swedish Government might still legally dispute a Stirling engine technology sale by claiming that these are Swedish inventions. The German Government might need to agree to Japan onselling the diesel technology to Australia.

The Maritime Executive article:

"Submarine Deal Could Rattle China"

May 28, 2014

"Japan is considering selling submarine technology to Australia - perhaps even a fleet of fully engineered, stealthy vessels, according to Japanese officials. Sources on both sides say the discussions so far have encouraged a willingness to speed up talks.

Any agreement would take months to negotiate and remains far from certain, but even a deal for Japan to supply technology would likely run to billions of dollars and represent a major portion of Australia's overall $37 billion submarine programme.

It would also be bound to turn heads in China.

Experts say a Japan-Australia deal would send a signal to Asia's emerging superpower of Japan's willingness, under nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to export arms to a region wary of China's growing naval strength, especially its pursuit of territorial claims in the East and South China seas.

A deal would also help connect Japanese arms-makers like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries to the world market for big, sophisticated weaponry, a goal Abe sees as consistent with Japanese security.

Abe has eased decades-old restrictions on Japan's military exports and is looking to give its military a freer hand in conflicts by changing the interpretation of a pacifist constitution that dates back to Japan's defeat in World War Two.

"There's a clear danger that aligning ourselves closely with Japan on a technology as sensitive as submarine technology would be read in China as a significant tightening in what they fear is a drift towards a Japan-Australia alliance," said Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. "It would be a gamble by Australia on where Japan is going to be 30 years from now."

Australia's proposed fleet of submarines is at the core of its long-term defence strategy. Although Canberra will not begin replacing its Collins-class vessels until the 2030s, the design work could take a decade or more and each submarine could take about five years to build, according to industry analysts.

A final decision on the type and number of submarines Australia will build is expected to be made after a review due in March 2015.

Australian officials have expressed an interest in the silent-running diesel-electric propulsion systems used in Japan's Soryu diesel submarines, built by Mitsubishi Heavy and Kawasaki Heavy. Those vessels would give Australia a naval force that could reach deep into the Indian Ocean.

More recently, Japanese military officials and lawmakers with an interest in defence policy have signalled a willingness to consider supplying a full version of the highly regarded Soryu to Australia if certain conditions can be met. These would include concluding a framework agreement on security policy with Canberra that would lock future Australian governments into an alliance with Japan, the officials said.

Mitsubishi Heavy had no comment. Kawasaki Heavy said it had not been approached about any proposal regarding the Soryu and could not comment.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he favors boosting strategic cooperation with Japan. For their part, Australia's military planners are similarly enthusiastic about cooperation as a means of hedging against an over-reliance on the United States, people with knowledge of their thinking said.


The Soryu's ultra-quiet drivetrain could avoid a problem that makes Australia's six current submarines prone to detection, said sources with knowledge of the discussions in Australia.

The Australian government has committed to building the A$40 billion ($37 billion) replacement for its Collins-class submarines at home. However, a government-commissioned report from U.S.-based think-tank Rand Corp found that Australia lacked enough engineers to design and build a vessel it said would be as complex as a space shuttle.

"The likely practical approach is that Australia would partner with a foreign partner company and government," the report published last year said.

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston met his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, in Perth recently and the pair meet again in June in Tokyo along with foreign ministers. Abe will follow up with a trip to Australia in July, one of the sources in Tokyo said.

Johnston said this month he believed the Soryu was the best conventional submarine in the world. He has also said he expects Japan and Australia will work together on research in marine hydrodynamics as an initial area of cooperation while working toward a "framework agreement" on military technology.

It is possible that Australia could purchase submarine hulls from Germany or Sweden and then opt to buy Japanese drivetrains for the vessels, although that would add a layer of complexity and additional cost, officials said.

Participants in a joint-development deal could also include Britain's BAE Systems and state-owned Australian Submarine Corp, which maintains the nation's current fleet.

Australian Submarine Corp's head of strategy and communications, Sean Costello, said the ship-builder had hosted Japanese government officials at its shipyards in March 2013 but no technical discussions had yet taken place.

BAE spokesman Mark Ritson said the British firm was keen to play a major role in Australia's submarine programme and was in regular contact with the Australian government.

In Japan, any submarine supply deal could face roadblocks.

Some senior officials in Japan's maritime self-defence forces are wary of any joint development that could risk a leak of sensitive information about the identifying "signature" of Japanese submarines, one official in Tokyo said.

However, exports would enable Japanese arms-makers to spread their costs over a bigger production base, making them more efficient. At the same time, Abe has pressed for a loosening of legal limits on Japan's military, including an end to a ban on helping allies under attack - though opinion polls show the Japanese public is divided on Abe's security policies.

The Soryu submarines have a range of more than 11,000 km (6,800 miles) and come armed with Harpoon missiles designed to hit enemy ships operating over the horizon. The export or transfer of such lethal technology would be a first in Japan and could face political opposition.

"It's impossible for us to move quickly on this. It has to be a gradual cooperation," one Japanese official with knowledge of the discussions said. (US$1 = 1.0815 Australian dollars). [from] Reuters 2014"

See an earlier Australia by the Indian Ocean article on this issue at Australian interest in Japan Soryu Submarine's Propulsion System dated January 30, 2014.



harish said...

hey Pete,
Let us say japan did sell the soryu drive-train or the entire package of the soryu to australia wouldn't that be breaking Kockums technology deal with kawasaki heavy industry as they are the original source. I believe kawasaki merely license produces these engines, is there something missing in that deal

Pete said...

Hi Harish

I think you are correct that part of Soryu's drive-train (that is the Stiring engine AIP) is under license from Kockums.

I'm unaware whether other portions of the Soryu drive-train are licensed to Kockums?

This licencing matter might not be an issue if TKMS-HDW legally owns Kockums. This is because I believe TKMS-HDW has the strongest chance of winning an Australian tender to build the future submarine. The result may be a development of the HDW 218SG - also stemming from the paper HDW 216 design.



Anonymous said...

Kockums does not own the whole license for the Stirling engine. Sweden is the owner of the biggest parts. The problem between TKMS and Sweden today is what inventions were made by TKMS-Kockums and what is Swedish property.

According to this source Sweden did raid Kockums but the materials are still locked up due to the dispute about whose property is what in detail: www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/sanningen-om-den-hemliga-gryningsraden-mot-kockums/


Pete said...


For your comments and http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/sanningen-om-den-hemliga-gryningsraden-mot-kockums/ .

I'm still confused why Celsius, in the 1990s, sold Swedish government aligned Kockums to a German company HDW. Surely the Swedish Government complained?

I'm wondering whether the reason was Kockums lacked revenue and was about to go out of business?

I'm also wondering whether non-Stirling engine parts of the Soryu's drive-train were invented by Kockum's or other Swedish companies? This concern is in the sense that its possible Australia may want to buy Soryu drive-trains but not the Stirling engine component.



Anonymous said...

I guess any drive-train than the current Garden Island-Hedemora diesel, Jeumont-Schneider electric motor and the MacTaggart-Scott-back-up is a better one. Any Japanese or German diesel engine will do better.

The advantage of the Sterling engine is the use just diesel and oxygen. A fuel cell needs additionally Hydrogen. The storage problem with Hydrogen today is easier with Methanol-Reformer or direct Methanol fuel cells. Fuel cells are more efficient and have no moving parts except small pumps (maintenance costs).

The last time a submarine was laid down at Kockums was in 1994. Since then only refurbished submarines left Kockums.

Kockums was to small to survive after the Collins-class disaster and no more new orders within a decade. Kockums was sold to HDW in 1999. With HDW on board Australia feared a much tougher partner and socialized ASC. Right the opposite of what Sweden did.

Now Kockums will be nationalized again via SAAB. So all Swedish military products will be in one basket.


Pete said...

Thanks MHalblaub

Yes I agree - a German or Japanese diesel is likely to be the best. My post tomorrow will be about German diesel export activity and possible concerns it raises.

The chemicals in AIPs, including Hydrogen, Oxygen and Methanol, sound like high risks for catastrophic fire in peacetime or from battle damage.

Actually AIP have hardly (never?) been tested in battle so their dangerous downsides from sparks or explosions might be underestimated.

The low export volume-experience of Kockums compared to HDW will probably be a decisive consideration in Australia's future selection decision. Australia choosing Kockums or Saab to build a much bigger sub than even the Collins is unlikely.

Our future sub may weigh 2,000 tonnes (surfaced) more than the A26. Size differentials certainly add to design effort and risk.



Anonymous said...

Dear Pete,

the AIP on non nuclear submarines is always chemical. The most dangerous one is Oxygen and what is used on every non nuclear AIP.

The most dangerous solution is the Russian one with the Oxygen tank inside the hull.

I know about the German submarines that only a small amount of chemicals are inside the hull (pipes) and the rest is stored in tanks surrounding the hull.

In my opinion the fuel cell concept is better for Australia. Sterling engines offer more power for faster speed but are less efficient. That is OK for Sweden or Japan but not for Australia. The fuel cells offer more range.