December 31, 2014

[Superseded] "Future submarine selection December update expected"

New Japanese Defence Minister Gen [his first name is NOT an abbreviation for "General"] Nakatani. Nakatani intends to introduce a range of conservative (or internationally normal) defence policies to replace Japan's traditional "peace" constitutional defence policies.

[Note the December 15, 2014 article below was superseded on December 21, 2014 by the appointment of new Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews. 
 Superseded because a new Defence Minister Andrews (and his new Ministerial office staff) will have insufficient knowledge for perhaps two months to answer media and industry questions about a submarine selection process. 

Also Japan has experienced political processes recently (the December 14, 2014 Japanese Elections, delaying Japan's Diet sitting schedules and mid December 24, 2014 appointment of new Japanese Defence Minister Nakatani) that will delay Japan's ability to formulate new new defence policies that would inturn backup a Japanese Soryu announcement.

- Also the Australian Government will be on firmer negotiating ground as Australia's Defence White Paper 2015 will be closer to publication - a paper that will partly justify the new submarine aquisition.

Brendan Nicholson in The Australian December 15, 2014 expects Prime Minister Abbott to make the future submarine selection update-announcement before Christmas. Full string of the now outdated commentary is

Title "Tony Abbott to surface with plan for submarines"

TONY Abbott is expected to announce within days the start of the process for selecting the navy’s new submarines from a range of international options and for building and maintaining them.
The Australian has been told the Prime Minister’s announcement is likely to include the creation of a new defence industry entity to work with an experienced international submarine designer and builder.
The expected re-election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government with a substantial ­majority will remove a significant hurdle to Japan providing new submarines for Australia.
Japan, Germany, France and Sweden are all keen to provide the submarines. The Japanese are ahead of the others because they have the most experience building conventional submarines large enough to meet Australia’s needs.
The government is developing a three-stage strategy to save the shipbuilding industry, involving buying submarines overseas but maintaining them in Adelaide, completing the navy’s three Air Warfare Destroyers and building eight new frigates in Australia.
While a Japanese submarine has for months been the most likely option, Japanese domestic politics remained an issue.
Defence officials are in discussions with their Japanese counterparts to see whether the submarine technology they have on offer would suit Australia’s ­requirements.
If that deal does go through, Australia is likely to share in the design and building of a new class of submarine that will be an evolution of Japan’s Soryu.
If Australia does buy a Japanese submarine, it will be modified to extend its range and fitted with the same potent combat system and torpedoes as US nuclear-powered attack submarines.
The new submarine is likely to be powered by advanced lithium batteries, which take up less space than lead-acid batteries. More batteries can be carried, which significantly increases the submarine’s range and reduces the time it needs to run on or near the surface while running its diesel engines to recharge the batteries. Modern conventional sub­marines using such systems can stay submerged, without snorkelling, for three weeks." ENDS.
Connect with my own commentary of December 10, 2014 Australian Future Submarine Choices - Need for a Plan B at :


December 29, 2014

Mixing Australian Conventional and Nuclear Submarines

Click on image to expand. Submarine program matters are highly complex being a mixture of what would be ideal (such as the Virginia SSN above) and what is politically, economically and technically feasible. Timeframes are also essential considerations.

On December 26, 2014 Alexander Judzewitsch provided a comment on my post Future submarine selection December update expecte..:

"Collins subs cost us more than $605m per year to maintain. An early replacement can save us billions which could be spent on new subs with lower maintenance costs. Replace 10 years early saves more than $6Bn and that is possible.

Nuclear powered subs are the only ones that give us the capability we need in a production submarine. Both these have been stated as essential for our new subs. So why not arrange with the USA to crew and possibly lease two Virginia class subs starting in say 5 years? It would save huge sums in maintenance and two operational SSNs have far greater capability than all of our Collins. The Americans would be happy to have us pay for two boats to work in our region as it would save them the cost of doing it. That leaves open the options of having all SSNs or a mix of diesel-electric plus SSNs as we could add SSKs or SSNs to our capability depending on what is available and our perceived needs in the future. The above suggestion meets all of the requirements stated so far and saves heaps of money."


Hi Alexander Judzewitsch:

I agree the maintenance costs and low availability (dry dock downtime) 6 Collins subs is excessive.

Your claim that $6 Billion can be saved in retiring the Collins ten years early is incorrect on several counts:

-  the Collins has become a more efficient sub for Australia’s needs operationally due to many sunk costs expended over the last twenty years. This included fixing such deficiencies as the combat system, propulsion system and quieting.

-  The 6 Collins would not be suddenly removed all at once then replaced by a new subs all at once. The 6 Collins would be steadilly retired at a rate of one-per-year (perhaps 2020-2025) or slower. Rather there is a staggered purchasing, building, launching and commissioning process for each new sub.

-   New subs would have high initial startup infrastructure costs.

-  New subs would have their own maintenance costs.

-  “Nuclear powered subs” mainly meaning the Virginia SSNs do many things well but there are niches for conventional subs (SSKs) as well.

-   A US crewed and leased Virginia may serve the interests of the US in a major war rather than risk destruction in the defence of Australia. It mayalso respond to US orders that might effectively bring Australia into a major war in Northeast Asia.

-  Australian would need to be fully aware of how a Virginia operates and preferably partly or wholey crew it.

-   Two Virginia's are not enough. If one is in dry dock the other couldn't cover east coast, west coast, south and north, as well as forward deployment (say in the South China Sea).

-   Four Virginias would be better.

-   I agree a “mix of diesel-electric plus SSNs” would be even better.

-   Nothing in submarines “saves heaps of money” until deals are made and purchasing-building-commissioning and downstream program costs are experienced and finalised over the three decades of a submarine’s service life

On December 24, 2014 - two days before you made the 26 December comment - I commented as "plantagenet" on On Line Opinion pretty much in line with Alexander Judzewitsch arguments but over a more extended period :    

"Getting Virginia nuclear powered subs would be a longshot in the next few years. So we need to work with what is likely...I see Australia ultimately needing two classes of submarines:

6 x medium conventional subs ([2020-2025]). Ideally they would be currently in-production subs (with extended range). That is:
- Soryus (Abbott's Plan A?)
- Plan B? HDW 214 (Dolphin 2 version?) or Scorpene? Their introduction from around 2023 would gradually remove the 5 working Collins from our navy.

4 x Virginia nuclear powered attack subs (SSNs) (Plan C) from 2035, but ultimately serving as SLBM carrying "baby boomers" the main platform for Australia's nuclear weapons (talking 2040 at least). This would depend on a perceived increase in threats - most likely from China.

Combining nuclear and conventionally propelled subs in a fleet is fairly common (India, China, Russia and eventually Brazil). Nuclear and conventionally propelled subs can perform a wider range of missions more economically than just one class.

 Wednesday, 24 December 2014"

Submarine program matters are highly complex being a mixture of what would be ideal and what is politically, economically and technically feasible.

ANU’s Stephan Fruehling wrote in ASPI Strategist a most interesting article on this:  Nuclear propulsion and the future of Australia’s submarine force of March 11, 2016


December 23, 2014

Christmas in Australia 2014

Australia's Christmas (in the Southern Hemisphere) is the hottest time of year. Temperatures average around 30ºC (86ºF) during the day and 17ºC (63ºF) at night. Christmas feasts are frequently at midday on December 25 and are often cold cut seafood, ham and turkey or hot barbecued meats cooked outside. 

Here's an Aussiefied Christmas Carol:

An "Esky" is a portable insulated container for keeping food or drink cool!

CHRISTMAS sandman 

 australia is very much part  of the
anglosphere. here is a carol from elsewhere in the sphere. 



December 21, 2014

New Defence Minister Kevin Andrews

Today Australia's Abbott Government announced that (as expected) Defence Minister David Johnston has been demoted to the backbench - without portfolio.

Unexpectedly Johnston has been replaced by Kevin Andrews MP, who has been the cabinet level Minister for Social Services. Andrews' appointment to Defence Minister comes as a surprise to many who were expecting Immigration and Border Protection Minister Morrison to take the portfolio given Morrison's militarisation of the immigration portfolio. 

In past years Andrews has held roles as Workplace Relations Minister and Immigration Minister. Unlike Johnston Andrews is considered a "safe pair of hands". Andrews brings to the Defence portfolio long experience in higher decision-making and economic matters but not in military technical matters.

Now that Andrews has been appointed it is possible he will make a future submarine selection update before Christmas.

See details of all today's appointments in the Abbott ministry.


December 15, 2014

Swedish Bid for Australian Future Submarine Selection

Artist's conception of a Swedish A26 submarine operating in littoral waters while deploying special forces divers. Graphic courtesy of Saab site .

Sweden's early December 2014 claims might be summarised as:

Sweden is designing the A26 which will be around 2,000 ton surfaced. Australia’s government indicated it has received an unsolicited bid from Saab for an enlarged design. Sweden's claims that this includes a lower price than its competitors. Sweden would facilitate the smooth flow of Japanese submarine [Stirling air independent propulsion (AIP)] technology from the Soryu Class sub. Sweden also promises substantial technology transfer and industrial offsets for Australia, including jobs in Adelaide during the build phase.

See more here:
Sweden wasn’t part of the Australian government’s initial submarine evaluations, because Kockums was barred from export activities by its then corporate parent TKMS. This also prevented Sweden from bidding for Singapore's 2013 two SSK selection - subsequently won by Germany's HDW [as the 218SG proposal]. Saab Kockums is also offering to take ASC and Australian Navy engineers and technicians to work on its new A26 design in Sweden.

The current A26 design or an enlarged Australian version might be competitive with the German Type 214 or enlarged Type 216 respectively. Sweden's Saab and its subsidiary Kockums need to develop the A26 rapidly not only to be competitive in submarine sales but to face the resurgent Russian threat.

France (offering the existing Scorpene and overweight 4,700 ton (surfaced) "conventional version" of the Barracuda SSN) has been distrusted by Anglo counties in the long term and in the short term due to the proposed sale of Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia.

Sweden overall has national knowledge (including FMV and Kockums) of submarine building but Sweden hasn't built submarines (the Gotlands) since 1996 or arguably Collins since 2001. Kockums under German control heavily modified two ex-Västergötland class subs - relaunching them in 2009 and 2010 for Singapore as two AIP equipped Archer class subs.

On lowest price claims - price is very elastic - more an artform of itemisation than an accounting science.

Given the Soryu is less than 3,000 tons surfaced Australia is probably not wedded to 4,000 ton surfaced designs anymore.

Japan may be extricating itself from Swedish intellectual property issues by leaving Stirling AIPs out of the Soryu Mark 2s.

Technology transfer and training are strengths with the European contenders - something probably difficult for Japan.

Some offsets are probably a necessary political and technical benefit or burden for the Australian Government vis a vis South Australia and unions.


December 10, 2014

Australian Future Submarine Choices – Need for a Plan B

A Scorpene class submarine. A relatively simple purchase for Australia?
Australia's Abbott Government's newly stated preference for a quick submarine selection has increased the emphasis on existing submarine designs. This excludes the HDW 216 and also the conventional DCNS Barracuda-SMX Ocean which would both need years of design-development. What is left are the existing, in-production, Soryu's, HDW 214s (perhaps in Dolphin 2 form) and the DCNS Scorpene.

The Abbott Government might announce Australia’s future submarine, likely to be Japan’s Mitsubishi-Kawasaki Soryu, following the Japanese elections to be held on December 14, 2014. It makes sense for Australia not to hold a tender if the Government wants an in-production submarine rather than a risky drawing board design. If the unprecedented sale of Japan’s Soryu (Plan A) falls through Abbott needs a Plan B. Given Australia’s financial situation six new submarines make more sense than twelve.

This article follows my earlier On Line Opinion submarine articles here and here.

The Australian Government’s preference for Japan’s Soryu is partly based on three aspects that could not be part of any tender process. One is deepening Abbott’s friendship with Japanese Prime Minister Abe (like Abbott Abe is a political conservative). Another aspect is the Australia-Japan regional alliance value of purchasing the Soryu. Australia would gain no such alliance benefits in buying submarines from the major European hopefuls (Germany, France and Sweden). The increased tactical  interoperability of Japanese and Australian Soryus would be an additional aspect.

Japanese Political Uncertainty

The December 14, 2014 Japanese election involves at least three levels of uncertainty. First it is for the lower House (of Representatives) where Prime Minister’s Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is in a ruling coalition with the basically pacifist Komeito party. If the LDP loses seats or Komeito gains seats Abe will have a weaker mandate to push through his defence export (Soryu largest item) policies. Secondly, and depending on the election’s result, Komeito might break from its conservative LDP ally and ally itself with leftist opposition parties. Thirdly the Japanese electoral rules require the existing Cabinet, including Prime Minister Abe, to resign. Abe then expects to be re-elected by LDP members, as Prime Minister, but that isn’t a sure thing.

Australia is unfamiliar with such nuances of Japanese politics even though such politics might impact a Soryu selection, delivery and maintenance process for over forty years. The enormity of the Soryu sale will be a test case for Japanese politics, Japan’s constitution and its defence industry as Japan has no major defence sales record.

A German or French Plan B

Japanese uncertainties mean Australia needs a Plan B to buy from European submarine sellers. These sellers have no serious political uncertainties and have proven defence sales records. Problems exist for the European sellers in anticipating what Abbott wants. This uncertainty demands an expression of Australian needs short of a formal tender.

In 2009, at the peak of the mining boom, it was calculated that Australia needed 12 specially designed large submarines. But now we are in a mining trough this seems an unsustainable extravagance. It may well be that the European contenders have anticipated that Australia is still wedded to the 2009 requirements for submarines that weigh 4,000 tons (surfaced). Germany’s TKMS has apparently proposed the Type 216 to the Australian Government. France’s DCNS has proposed a conventional development of the Barracuda SSN. DCNS envisage that a future conventional Barracuda, also called the “SMX Ocean”, would weigh 4,700 tons (surfaced). As both submarines would basically be Australia only (“orphan”) designs they are handicapped compared to the, in production (for Japan) Soryu. Meanwhile Sweden is offering a larger version of the drawing board design (A26). Sweden built its last complete submarine in 1996 or arguably 2001 if you count the Collins class.

The tonnage Australia really wants, or is prepared to tolerate, is a pivotal issue. If Australia is prepared to select submarines at the upper tonnage end of European designs Australia could then make decisions that result in minimal design lags and avoid major excess expense. This would increase the chances that the European submarines are built on-time and on-budget. Australia has practiced flexibility in (apparently) choosing the Soryu, that is less than 3,000 tons (surfaced). Such flexibility should also apply to current designs built by Germany and France.

If Japan’s proposed Soryu deal falls through the Australia government might really be after extended range versions of existing German or French submarines. These are Germany’s Type 214 and France’s Scorpene.

If Australia applied the same design realities of the Soryu Mark 2 to the 214 or Scorpene then lower tonnage would be more reasonable. The new batch of Soryu’s (which I call the Soryu Mark 2s) apparently will be without the extra weight of Stirling air independent propulsion (AIP) plants fitted within the Soryu Mark 1s. Instead (according to Japanese sources) the Soryu 2s will apparently rely soley new Lithium-ion batteries that have a higher performance than existing lead-acid batteries Japan, however, is capable of designing its own AIP technology - which may perhaps be fitted in the Soryu 2.

Germany and France also appear to be developing Lithium-ion batteries. For the Soryu, 214 or Scorpene lighter Lithium-ion batteries should allow extra diesel fuel to be carried for the extra range required (already 21,000 kms for the Collins).

A vertical launch system (VLS) appears to be absent in the Soryus and therefore should not be a weight gaining requirement for German and French proposals. Tomahawk cruise missiles can be fired from existing horizontal torpedo tubes. Modified VLS is not required for divers as divers are increasingly being catered for in detachable dry dock shelter technology that sits behind a submarine’s sail-fin .

Six Submarines Not Twelve

To save many $Billions in purchase, manning and sustainment costs it would be better if Australia aimed at acquiring just six submarines not twelve. This takes into account Australia’s tight financial circumstances with many competing demands within and outside the defence budget. It also takes into account Australia's reported inability to man more than 2 Collins simultaneously (ie. massive crew shortages). A requirement for twelve submarines was an uncosted, minimally justified, extravagance included in Australia's  2009 Defence White Paper (page 70, section 9.3 ) drawn up under the Rudd Labor Government. 

There appears to be a historical trend of shooting high in Australian submarine numbers. The numbers of UK built Oberon class submarines (operating 1967-1999) proposed for Australia shrank from eight to six subs The proposed number of the Collins (operating 1996 - present) went from ten, to eight, to six subs .

Australia's naval budget should not be spread too thinly given that the major new ship acquisitions will need to be maintained. These new acquisitions are the two 27,000 ton Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Docks and the three 7,000 ton Hobart Class AirWarfare Destroyers. The Navy also plans to build eight mainly ASW Future Frigates (Project SEA 5000) in the 2020. The Future Frigates may displace 7,000 tons - approximately twice that of their ANZAC Frigate predecessors. Apparently 21st century smaller crew and miniaturised electronics efficiencies do no apply to the Future Frigates. All of these new ships will arguably double the combat tonnage of the RAN. All before doubling the size of our submarine fleet to twelve larger subs.

Despite the political, financial and strategic uncertainties the Abbott Government needs to make a series of reasonable decisions for the future submarines. By having a reasonable Plan B the political risks of Plan A (choosing Japan’s Soryu) can be reduced. Plan B involves existing German and French submarines that are also in production (like the Soryu). Given Australia’s rapid naval expansion choosing a reasonable six submarines makes more sense than twelve. Whatever happens a repeat performance of designing a very large “orphan” submarine like the Collins should be avoided. 

Peter Coates

December 7, 2014

South Asian Submarine Issues

Sandeep Unnithan of India Today, December 4, 2014, has produced a higly detailed article on South Asian submarine issues - and also an excellent map. I have added some hyperlinks and additional comments and some corrections in [square brackets] to the article. It may take India 20 years to deploy K4 SLBMs (not yet developed) in Indian SSBNs (not yet launched). Article string is :

China's submarine noose around India

Submarine game: How China is using undersea vessels to project power in India's neighbourhood
  December 4, 2014 

Four decades after the 1971 India-Pakistan war, India's intelligence agencies are once again scanning a stretch of coastline in southern Bangladesh. Cox's Bazar [in what was East Pakistan - now Bangladesh]  was rocketed and strafed by [the old] INS Vikrant's fighter aircraft to cut off the enemy's retreat into the Bay of Bengal. Today, 43 years later, it sets the stage for China's dramatic entry into India's eastern seaboard.

Assessments from [Indian external intelligence service known as] the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and naval intelligence say the Bangladesh Navy will station two ex-Chinese Ming-class submarines on bases that are less than 1,000 km away from [India's main east coast naval base] Visakhapatnam, home to the Indian Navy's nuclear powered submarine fleet  [INS Chakra II and INS Arihant] and the Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) missile test ranges at Balasore.

The developments on India's Arabian Sea flank are equally ominous. Intelligence officials say that over the next decade, China will help Pakistan field submarines with the ability to launch nuclear-tipped missiles from sea. Submarines, analysts say, are China's instrument of choice to not just challenge the Indian Navy's strategy of sea domination but also to undermine India's second-strike capability. These developments have been accompanied by a flurry of Chinese submarine appearances in the Indian Ocean this year-Beijing sent two nuclear submarines and a conventional submarine. Two of them made port calls in Colombo [Sri Lanka], triggering concern in New Delhi.

Toehold in the Bay

"No one interested in geopolitics can afford to ignore the Bay of Bengal any longer," [semi-governmental US] geopolitical analyst Robert Kaplan wrote in a seminal essay in Stratfor in November. "This is the newold centre of the world, joining the two demographic immensities of the Indian subcontinent and East Asia." For India, the Bay of Bengal is the launch pad for a 'Look East' policy that has received renewed attention under [Indian] Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian Navy is enhancing force levels at its Visakhapatnam naval base even as it has begun building a secret base for a proposed fleet of nuclearpowered submarines at Rambilli [at what will be INS Vasha] , south of Visakhapatnam.

[Future Indian SSBN Base INS Varsha]

[Wikipedia's at length advice is will "de-congest the Visakhapatnam Port, which is used by both the navy and the civilian Ministry of Shipping. The navy's dockyards at Vizag are facing shortage of berthing space due to the rapid expansion of the Eastern fleet, which grew from 15 major warships in 2006 to 46 in 2012, and is still expanding. Varsha will have a large near-by [east coast] facility of the [west coast headquartered] Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), and will include modern nuclear engineering support facilities and extensive crew accommodation. It is designed to support the fleet of 8-12 Arihant-class [SSBN] nuclear submarines to be built for the Indian Navy. It will also have underground pens to hide the submarines from spy satellites and protect them from enemy air attacks. The navy is seeking foreign technical assistance [French or Russian?] pertaining to nuclear safety features for the base.[5] While designed principally as a nuclear submarine support facility, the new base can accommodate other naval vessels because of the Indian Navy's expansion. This facility has been compared to the top-secret [Sanya] Hainan nuclear submarine base for the Chinese PLA Navy. This east coast base expansion program by the Indian Navy was started due to India's Look East policy and the Chinese naval expansion into the region.[1][3][6]
In addition to Project Varsha, in late 2009, the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL), located at Visakhapatnam, was transferred from the Ministry of Shipping to theMinistry of Defence in order to support the Arihant-class nuclear submarine construction program. These new vessels will be based at INS Varsha.[1][7] INR1.6 billion (US$26 million) were sanctioned for the project in the 2011-12 budget, of which INR580 million (US$9 million) were for civil works and the balance INR1 billion(US$16 million) were for setting up a VLF communication system.[8]]

[Article continues] "Equipped [in 5 years time? with the "B05" more widely called "K-15", SLBMs] with the 700-km range, the Arihant-class submarines will have to patrol closer to the shores of a potential adversary. But equipped [in 20 years time?] with the 3,500-km range K-4 missiles currently being developed by the DRDO, the Arihant and her sister submarines can cover both Pakistan and [part of China] with nuclear-tipped missiles from within the Bay of Bengal, providing the "robust second-strike capability" as stated in India's nuclear doctrine.

Inputs suggest Bangladesh has acquired land and fenced locations at the Kutubdia Channel near Cox's Bazar and the Rabnabad Channel near West Bengal. Kutubdia, intelligence officials say, is likely to feature enclosed concrete 'pens' to hide submarines. The possibility of Chinese submarines using this base provides a fresh equation to the strategic calculus.

"Our submarines become susceptible to tracking from the time they leave harbour," says veteran submariner and former Southern Naval Command chief vice-admiral K.N. Sushil (retired). "But a far more worrying strategy is China's ability to be able to threaten our assured second-strike capability. That effectively tips the deterrence balance."

West Coast Worries

Of greater long-term worry to Indian analysts is a strategic submarine project China finalised with Pakistan in 2010. Intelligence sources say this three-part programme will transform the Pakistan Navy into a strategic force capable of launching a sea-based nuclear weapons strike [initially from Pakistan's French designed Agosta Khalid class SSKs]. Pakistan will build two types of submarines with Chinese assistance: the Project S-26 and Project S-30. The vessels are to be built at the Submarine Rebuild Complex (SRC) facility being developed at Ormara, west of Karachi. Intelligence sources believe the S-30 submarines are based on the Chinese Qing [apparently an export version of China's Type 041 Yuan class SSK] of 3,000-tonne which can launch three 1,500-km range nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from its conning tower.

[The purported Projects 26 and 30 tie in with rumours for several years that China might sell some SSKs to Pakistan. The more public reason the sale has not occurred is that Pakistan doesn't not have the money. Also it was only recently that Pakistan upgraded its 3 Agosta-Khalid SSKs with AIP. Perhaps political pressure on China and Pakistan from India and the US has delayed such a Chinese submarine sale. Also perhaps financial pressure on Pakistan [in terms of overt and covert US aid money] has terminated or delayed such a China-Pakistan submarine deal.]

A [Pakistani-Chinese] Very Low Frequency (VLF) station at Turbat, in southern Balochistan, will communicate with these submerged strategic submarines [and probably Chinese subs in the Indian Ocean]. The Project S-26 and S-30 submarines will augment Pakistan's fleet of five French-built submarines, enhance their ability to challenge the Indian Navy's aircraft carrier battle groups and carry a stealthy nuclear deterrent. "Submarines are highly effective force multipliers because they tie down large numbers of naval forces," says a senior naval official.

Steel sharks on silk route

Speaking in Indonesia's Parliament last October, Chinese President Xi Jinping articulated a "21st century Maritime Silk Road". His vision calls for investments in port facilities across south and south-east Asia to complement a north Asian route. This year, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) put steel into Xi's vision. In February, a Shang class nuclear-powered attack submarine made China's first declared deployment in the Indian Ocean. This was followed by port calls made by a [Chinese Type 091 Han class SSN in November 2014] in Colombo to coincide with a state visit by President Xi [CORRECTION: preceded by a visit from a Chinese Type 039 Song class SSK in September 2014].

China's heightened activity in the Indian Ocean region is underscored by investments in a new port in Gwadar at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, a container facility in Chittagong and Kyaukpyu port in Myanmar. "Such developments have sharpened China's geopolitical rivalry with India, which enjoys an immense geographic advantage in the Indian Ocean," says Brahma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research. "Aspects related to their (Chinese) deployment in international waters are part of securing their maritime interests," Navy chief Admiral Robin K. Dhowan told journalists in Delhi on December 3.

China's new military posture reflects the 'Malacca dilemma' faced by the world's largest oil importer. Close to 80 per cent of China's crude oil imports of 11 million barrels per day, the life blood of its economy, is shipped through the narrow Malacca Strait. Any disruption to this could threaten its economic growth. "Hence, China's economic interests in the Indian Ocean have now taken on an overt military dimension," says an intelligence official.

Naval intelligence officials who correctly predicted that China would use anti-piracy patrols as a pretext for deployments in the Indian Ocean feel vindicated. Their prognosis of this game of 'weiqi'-a game of Chinese chess which uses encirclement, is gloomy. "A full-scale Chinese deployment in the Indian Ocean is inevitable," an admiral told India Today.

"You can only watch it and prepare yourself for it." The preparations include acquisitions of long-range maritime patrol aircraft such as the US-made P8-I Poseidon, investment in anti-submarine warfare and inducting new submarines and helicopters to fill up critical deficiencies in force levels.

Measured Response

China's submarine thrust into South Asia coincides with Narendra Modi's renewed emphasis on securing India's perimeter. "India's response has to be nuanced, a mixture of coercion and largesse," says Jayadeva Ranade, a former RAW official and member of the National Security Advisory Board. While the [previous Indian Government of former Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh-led UPA government scoffed at encirclement theories, the new Government is clearly concerned over the creeping Chinese presence.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval voiced India's concerns at the 'Galle Dialogue' in Sri Lanka on December 1. He cited a 1971 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution mooted by Sri Lanka calling on the "great powers to halt further escalation and expansion of their military presence in the Indian Ocean".

India's defence diplomacy has been severely limited by its inability to offer military hardware to offset the Chinese presence. Over half the military hardware of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are of Chinese origin. In 2008, India called off a plan to transfer the INS Vela to the Myanmar Navy when it discovered the vintage Russian-built submarine was past its service life.

When plans to transfer hardware materialise, they are too feeble to make a difference-a solitary helicopter such as the one gifted to Nepal by Modi in November and a small ex-Indian naval patrol craft gifted to Seychelles recently. Often, there is a demand for capabilities where India itself is deficient. Bangladeshi officials stumped Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials last year when they asked India, and not China, to provide submarines. The Indian Navy is down to just 13 aging conventional submarines. The MEA suggested Bangladesh buy Russian submarines instead. Their efforts are yet to bear fruit. It is a gap China willingly fills."

Link this with Submarine Matters' India's Plans for 21 More Subs including SSNs of August 24, 2014


December 1, 2014

Australian future submarine components and combat systems

Possibly the best available diagram of the Soryu? It has a very rough indications of the locations of such combat system components. See names of some components in red at the base of this article.  


A submarine's combat system must be technically and to an extent politically compatible to a combat system and weapons of an ally. Combat systems consist of a submarine's weapons, data management facilities (including work stations) and sensors (such as sonar). 

MHalblaub on November 29, 2014 said
"This is again the old discussion about what is compatible. The [floating communications bouys deployed by submarines] are just dumb radio transmitters. With an US radio on board there would be no difference which bouy would send the signals.

The problem for an US combat system on any submarine from DCNS, Saab-Kockums, TKMS or Mitsubishi/Kawasaki will be a huge price difference between inherent system and US system. Not to mention the delays for introduction into service due to modifications on both sides.

The SeaFox is in use by Royal Navy, Thai Navy and US Navy just to name a few . The SeaFox is maybe to cheap for RAN and ASC.
I agree with the point about the "dumb" bouys.
However the combat system is a much more comprehensive item that must interface with weapons. Australia is highly unlikely to put the US weapons on the scrap heap and change to German or French. Japanese weapons are sometimes the same to Australian weapons (as in the case of the Harpoon missile) or similar (in the case of torpedos and maybe mines). Australia also wishes to operate the US Tomahawk. 

Australia has spent around 10 years working with the US Navy to develop the combat system used in the Collins with the longer term plan of migrating this system (including the weapons) to Australia's the Future Submarine

See this extended discussion on Australia future combat system issues which supports and refutes some of our arguments.
As well as US submarines an Australian submarine combat system is also designed to interface with US undersea sensor arrays, surface, air and satellite sensor networks. I don't know how intensive this interface is. I also don't know how easily German, French or Japanese combat systems could be used instead. It remains a mystery whether the US would be willing to share the US-Australian version of the AN/BYG-1 combat system used in the Collins with potential German, French or Japanese builders of a Future Australian Submarine. 

However I assume that the Japanese submarines do interface with US sensor network.

As well as electronic efficiency interoperability with the US is an important consideration.

In this earlier blog article note the more detailed discussion of German, French and US combat systems. 

The following components are not grouped under the term "Japanese Soryu combat system" however  these sensors and weapons constitute most of a combat system (see right-hand sidebar of  Soryu submarine wikipedia entry at )

"Sensors and
processing systems:
ZPS-6F surface/low-level air searchradar
Hughes/Oki ZQQ-7 Sonar suite: 1× bow-array, 4× LF flank arrays and 1×Towed array sonar
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
ZLR-3-6 ESM equipment
2× 3-inch underwater countermeasure launcher tubes for launching of Acoustic Device Countermeasures (ADCs)
Armament:6×HU-606 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes with 30 reloads for:
1.) Type 89 torpedoes [similar to Collins Mark 48 torpedo]
2.) UGM-84 Harpoon
Mines [type unknown]"