September 26, 2014

Japan's Soryu - less promising Future Submarine (FSM) for Australia

Immediately below is a diagram of Australia's Collins submarine (launched 1993)

The rapid growth and turnover of Japan's 3 most recent submarines (shaded) over the last 25 years. At bottom the Harushio (launched 1989),  middle the Oyashio (launched 1996) and upper the Soryu (launched 2007)
Peter Briggs has written the excellent article below on the many downsides and risks of chosing Japan's Soryu "Option J" for Australia's Future Submarine (FSM). Peter Briggs is a retired Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submarine commanding officer and past President of the Submarine Institute of Australia.  He wrote this article on The Strategist the blog of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). I've put particularly interesting facts and views in red. The string for the article is :

Option J for FSM—a Japanese solution?

26Sep 2014
A Collin's submarine at sunrise transiting Gage Roads. Gage Roads is the sea channel in the Indian Ocean offshore from the Collins' main base off Rockingham, Western Australia.
[ASPI's] Andrew Davies raised some interesting issues regarding the possible acquisition of Japanese submarines for Australia in his recent post, ‘Getting the submarine we want’. I’d like to take a closer look at the suitability of the Soryu.
Comparisons with the Collins class are difficult given the scarcity of published information and the fact that the Japanese platform and combat system components have been developed in an environment isolated from competition with Western/NATO suppliers.
Still, the table below provides a comparison of the Soryu and Collins class submarines using publicly available information.
Surface Displacement (tonnes)2950*3100Regularly quoted displacement for Soryu (4200 tonnes) is submerged displacement, which means that Soryu carries 1300 tonnes of ballast water/external fuel. Useable space on-board is determined by the surfaced displacement. Note: since Soyru is a double hulled design some of the ballast tanks may be convertible to fuel tanks, improving the useable volume calculation.
Range (NM)6000 @ 6.5 knots9000 @ 10 knotsAustralian operations require long distance transit to reach patrol area within a reasonable timeframe. Soryu is not designed for such long transits.
Diesel Generators2 x 1400 kW3 x 1400 kWOne fewer similar powered diesels means longer snorting time for battery charging and higher indiscretion rate, i.e. reduced stealth.
Propulsion (electric motor)5900 kW5400 kWThe higher installed power on Soryu is required due to the extra ballast water carried when submerged.
Combat SystemC2 (Japanese)AN/BGY-1 (US/Aus)US based combat system fully integrated on Collins. Integration of US combat system into Soryu would be required.
TorpedoesType 89 – (Japanese)MK 48 (US/Aus)MK 48 torpedoes fully integrated on Collins. Integration of US combat system into Soryu required.
MissilesHarpoon (US)Harpoon (US)
Legislation and Naval RequirementsJapaneseAustralianModification of Soryu is required to meet Australian safety and technical regulatory standards.
Operational Life 16 years28 yearsChanges in design and support philosophy required for Soryu. New maintenance program required.
It’s apparent that Soryu would need to be heavily modified to meet Australian requirements, particularly for long ocean transits and patrols. This would carry cost, performance and schedule risks, and will effectively amount to a new design—it won’t be a MOTS acquisition.
The Coles Review highlighted the vital importance of establishing through-life logistic support arrangements in Australia during the submarine construction phase. For that to be done successfully it’s critical Australia has full access to the boat’s technologies—otherwise the effectiveness of the new submarines will always be reliant on the relationship with the overseas parent navy and its industrial base. To expect to access all relevant technologies during the course of an overseas build of such a complex vessel as a submarine for the initial collaboration with a country, which has no experience in such matters, is extraordinarily ambitious and inherently risky.
The cultural differences between European ship and submarine builders and ourselves have been sufficient to cause significant problems for the Collins and the Air Warfare Destroyer. The prospects for difficulties arising from cultural differences with Japan are all too apparent and real.
Careful, measured consideration of risks is required, and any proposal for a Japanese solution for the Future Submarine must address those issues. Based on the assessment possible from the limited amount of information available that doesn’t seem to have been done.
Despite the apparent political attraction of this solution, it seems most unlikely that Soryu is as capable as Collins, and it almost certainly can’t offer the sort of improvements required in FSM. Considerable development would be required before a Soryu or its successor could achieve that.
Nor can continuing political support in Japan be assumed, the current positive atmosphere is highly dependent on the personal commitment of the Japanese PM—a position that has changed 14 times in the last 15 years.
The $20bn program cost being used in the media softeners lacks any details or credibility. For example, does it include the 25–30% contingency appropriate for a developmental project with the risks and issues identified above?
Finally, all this will take time; time we don’t have if a capability gap is to be avoided. We do have time to do it properly. Using Collins as an indicator, the contract was signed in 1987 and the first submarine was delivered in 1996. While there were issues to resolve, this was a nine-year design and build program for the first of class from a greenfield site.
Option J is a distraction. An Australian-led project definition study, utilising reputable European designers, is the way ahead to provide Government with the information and maximum options for the key decisions necessary to avoid a capability gap.
Peter Briggs is a retired RAN submarine commanding officer and past President of the Submarine Institute of Australia."
The article's preference that Australia work with a European submarine builder is in line with my own preference that Australia work with Germany's TKMS-HDW. For my concerns about the risks of an Australian choice of Japan's Soryu see my earlier articles on One Line Opinion

Our submarines to be built overseas?
International - 12/09/2014, and



Turtle said...

Does anyone feel this Japanese submarine sale will become Collin redux?

Pete said...

Hi Turtle

Yes. If Australia chooses the Soryu Australia may well order so many changes tailored to Australian requirements that it will be almost as over-priced and messy as the Collins.

The only way to reduce the problems would be to have the Aussie spec Soryu fully made in Japan. If Adelaide+ASC+DMO+unions build part of it they are sure to maximize costs and build time - as they have done with the Air Warfare Destroyers (ie. 3 AWDs for the price of the 4 that they originally wanted to build).



Josh said...

Only recently found this blog, so doubt anyone will see this comment.

Don't all the European offerings suffer from EXACTLY the same short comings of the Japanese offering, with the one exception noted that they perhaps are more politically reliable in terms of supplying allies with submarine equipment? No German, Norwegian, or French combat system is going to drop in with Austrailian requirements, equipment, or training. All of the proposed redesigns are much greater than the J offer in terms of size and range compared to anything currently produced - so I don't see what the author is getting at with regard to necessary modifications - no sub in the world fits the Australian requirement out of the box, and the one with the closest capabilities to the requirement (and indeed likely the closest related combat system given JDMSDF system's US lineage) is in fact the Japanese offering.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

Re "Only recently found this blog, so doubt anyone will see this comment."

Rest assured powers-that-be won't read your comments - so you are "safe" :) not.

After all, using my sitemeter I have noticed, this blog has for years attracted the attention of IP addresses out of DC including some place listed in clear as:

- the "Central Intelligence Agency"
- "US Department of Justice"
- "Department of Homeland Security" and
- out of Baltimore and Laurel, Maryland some string called ""

So my blog is even read by y'all Yanks :)

Turning to the rest of your comment. Yes the combat system for Australia is technologically the US combat system promoting inter-operability with US submarines and other US sensor platforms, and expediting Australian use of US software including Big Data records. See the term "SeaWeb" in my blog.

As the US has no SSKs to sell to Australia selling a combat system/weapons to Australia is the next best thing - accounting for more than 30% of the cost of an SSK.

This combat system monopoly, or perhaps Lockheed Martin and Raytheon duopoly situation, is not something the Australian politicians and public are informed about - and won't understand until the situation is irreversable.

The Australian politicians and public need only be given the Japan vs Germany vs France scenario.
That is all they need to know.

BTW US combat system certainty = Japan has won. This is partly because the power demands of the US (Australia locked in) combat system + high transit propulsion electrical demands exceeds the electrical output of DCNS and TKMS AIP systems. So DCNS & TKMS do not have the usual AIP market advantage.