November 11, 2014

Submarine Institute of Australia's Centenerary Conference 2014 - No Japanese Delegation?

The HDW Dolphin 2 - tailored for Israel. Note the robust lower hull - for moving near the sea-floor, or sitting on it? Note also the complex rudder system - for manoeuvring this large submarine in shallow seas? 

The vivid color scheme of the HDW Dolphin 2 (being towed backwards out of its base at Haifa?) suggests that Israel operates it in shallow seas in daylight.

The Submarine Institute of Australia's (SIA's) Centenerary Conference 2014 currently being held in Fremantle, Australia, November 11-13, 2014, is a prime venue for submarine builders to offer up solutions for Australia's Future Submarine project.

Representatives of foreign governmental and corporate sales teams are present from Germany, France, the US, UK, Sweden and Spain. Many Australian officials, union leaders, naval officers, South Australian State and Federal Opposition politicians are present.

Two key groups not scheduled to give presentations are Australian Federal Government politicians and any representatives of the Japanese Government or Japanese corporations. Australian Federal Government politicians, after all, represent the ultimate decision makers on any Future Australian submarine selected. At the last SIA Conference, 2 years ago, a Defence Minister gave a speech, but none appears scheduled to speak (or be present?) at the current conference.

As Japan's Soryu is considered the most likely submarine to be selected the lack of a large (or any?)  Japanese delegation is quite odd. Furthermore no Japanese submarine builders or naval officers are scheduled to speak. Could there be a language barrier? Are Australia's Federal Government and Japan absent in order to avoid difficult questions or critical comments? Is the selection of Japan therefore a done deal that needs no further discussion?

In the very complex decision to choose Australia's future submarine the solutions of foreign sales teams have strength and weaknesses.

Japan - to be filled in tomorrow. Large design of the size Australia wants - in production, tested and operational from a strategically important regional ally. Repair facilities in Japan relatively close compared to Germany or France.

Germany - The largest foreign sales team speaking at the conference is from Germany. Germany's TKMS (including its submarine division HDW) is offering a large (4,000 ton (surfaced or submerged?)) drawing board submarine (the HDW 216 ) to the Australian Government.

As a fallback Germany may also be offering less risky prospect of the already launched HDW Dolphin 2  (2,000 ton surfaced) a brand new design with an actual submarine delivered to Israel in September 2014. The 216 and Dolphin 2 both draw on tested technology from the HDW 209s, 212s and 214s. The Dolphin 2 has been modified to suite the warm, salty conditions of the Mediterranean, Red and Arabian seas. It has AIP and a lower structural and rudder assembly built for sitting near to or on the seafloor perhaps for near shore special forces and to launch land attack missiles against Iran. These Dolphin 2 qualities might be further developed in the future 216. The Dolphin 2 may well lack the Lithium-ion batteries that are being proposed for the latest future submarine designs. The Dolphin's range may be only 8,000 nautical miles rather than the 12,000 Australia probably wants. With 209 and 214s being built in South Korea (and many more in other Euopean countries) TKMS would have the experience to backup any building program in Australia.

TKMS is also building 2 HDW 218SGs for Singapore. If, as is possible, the 218 is a 3,000 ton design the 218 may be a good solution for Australia.

France - A smaller sales team is from France, mainly DCNS - offering the very large SMX Ocean.  DCNS is claiming that the SMX is a conventionally propelled version of the existing Barracuda SSN . This claim is difficult to sustain. The Barracuda itself has not yet been launched. Meanwhile an SMX would have many fundamental differences in internal structure to the Barracuda. The SMX's fuel tanks, and highly complex untested propulsion system (two AIP technologies, 6 diesels and large (untested?) Lithium-ion batteries) present major differences. The high weight (4,700 tons surfaced?) could carry high capabilities but also high acquisition costs. However, if Australia were to consider the nuclear propelled Barracuda itself, that may be a good choice noting that the Barracuda's complement of only 60 is reasonable compared to the US Virginia SSN's excessive requirement for 135 crew.

Perhaps DCNS is also proposing a large version of its existing Scorpene SSK, as a fallback(?). The Scorpene  which France may be offering, is a tested current design. Two Scorpenes have recently been delivered to Malaysia and earlier Agostas to Pakistan. This means France has experience modifying Scorpenes for the  temperature, higher salinity conditions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, where Australia operates. France has also retrofitted MESMA AIP into some of Pakistan's Agostas and AIP is available for Scorpenes. With four Scorpenes currently being build in Brazil DCNS has the experience to backup any building program in Australia.

Sweden and Spain - to be filled in tomorrow.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Pete,

you write: "Repair facilities in Japan relatively close compared to Germany or France."

On the other side you mention that South Korea already does build Type 214 submarines. Therefore Australia has repair facilities as far as Japan for submarines designed by TKMS.

The engines are likely to be MTU 4000 based generators no matter which submarine. In case of rechargeable lithium batteries the MTU 396 offers not enough power to provide maximum current to charge the new type of batteries. The 28 MTU 4000 are already in RAAN use on 14 Armidale-class patrol boats. So Australia should know how reliable these engines are. The French SMX Ocean solution with six engines seems to be an ad hoc solution to provide enough power to charge the lithium batteries.

Btw. Dolphin 2 class might already have lithium batteries and the MTU 4000. Only for Dolphin 1 class reliable information is available. Dolphin 2 class is a black box just like Type 218. I still believe these submarines are just relabeled Type 214 with enhanced propulsion MTU 4000 + lithium batteries. The price of 1 billion Euro for two submarines is just too low for more displacement.

According to the SMX Ocean there is a big question mark about the second AIP technique proposed by DCNS. It is not so easy to reform a high quality fuel (hydrogen) for a fuel cell out of standard diesel oil. It might work with very clean bio diesel but “dirty” standard diesel could ruin the fuel cells or the filters very fast. DCNS will for sure offer replacements … Standard fuel cells work with pure hydrogen and oxygen. Methanol or ethanol reformer work rather well with clean fuel. Direct methanol fuel cells are best feed with bio ethanol with even less contamination than standard ethanol.
According to DCNS’ video clip MESMA is the worst AIP system available for long endurance missions – 14 days at 4 kn are just 1344 nm. The 2nd generation AIP by DCNS with an expected endurance of 21 is not much better than the 1st generation AIP on first batch of small German Type 212: proven endurance of 18 days.

SMX Ocean was a nice eye catcher for EURONAVAL 2014.


-Nice pictures from old cars and buildings falling into pieces! -