June 27, 2015

Chinese Yuan Submarines for Thailand and Pakistan?

What may well be a Chinese Type 039A "Yuan" class submarine. An S-26T derivative may be  exported to Thailand.

For the latest on Thailand's on-again, off-again interest in submarines see Submarine Matters Does Thailand Need Submarines At All? August 12, 2015.

To go back three months mDeletey post Thailand may eventually purchase two submarines, March 25, 2015  identified the possibility the Thai Navy may want two diesel-powered submarines with displacement of 2,400-3,000 tonnes. The source said the Chinese-made Yuan class is favoured by the committee due to its specifications. The "U-class" [do they mean U-209 class?] from South Korea and Germany also pinged the sonar screen." 

Later, on June 25, 2015. a Bangkok Post article indicated:
the navy said a committee working on a plan to buy submarines has finalised its option - it's likely to go for the Chinese-made submarines - and will submit the proposal to the cabinet for approval next month...The 36-billion-baht [US$1.07 Billion] budget covers two submarines, as well as maintenance and training of the navy's personnel. Some reports say China has offered special, undisclosed packages to win the deal. Sources in the navy said there are two short-listed countries. China is the No.1 option, followed by South Korea."

The next day (June 26, 2015) the Bangkok Post reported China is offering three submarines (“12 billion baht [US$355 million] each”) with Germany or South Korea possible second choices and Russia, Sweden and France eliminated.


The unusual decision making process of the Navy declaring a possible result may be a strong encouragement for the Cabinet to finally make a decision after much submarine acquisition hesitancy over the years. Lack of Navy clarity on whether it will get three or two submarines, for the US$Billion total, might indicate the Navy is hoping for three.

China is an unconfirmed choice with room that the Thailand may still be aiming for a better deal from South Korea or Germany before the Thai Cabinet (including the dominant Army representation) makes the final decision.

If China is finally chosen then a submarine with some features of the large Type 039A "Yuan" class submarines and some features of the smaller Type 035 Ming class is possible. The result of this Yuan-Ming combination may be the "S-20" with specifications including: 1,850 tons (surfaced), Range: 8,000 nm at 16 kn, crew of 38, with or without Stirling AIP. China more specifically may be offering a Yuan S-26T (T for Thailand) version .

Three new subs (with support and training) for US$1 Billion is mysteriously cheap. Despite the Yuan S-20 or S-26T drawing-board designs it is unclear whether China is offering:

-  new build submarines?

-  used and refurbished?

-  Stirling AIP included?

Chinese Submarines sold to Bangladesh and maybe Pakistan (?)

China’s submarine sales at low prices campaign is a major new political phenomenon. Economically this is in competition with European, South Korean and potential Japanese suppliers. In late 2013 China had its first submarine export success in concluding a deal to sell two obsolete Type 035 “Ming” class submarines to Bangladesh

Pakistan has long repeated claims over the years that China is “about to” export varying numbers of submarines to Pakistan. To date this has appeared wishful thinking - however a more substantial news article has come to hand that records a visit of a Chinese Yuan to Karachi around May 22-29, 2015 - it being possible the Pakistan's body politic are being provided a pre-purchase or pre-gift inspection.

In the area of possibilities North Korea is always a potential recipient of submarines as is Myanmar. The Philippines and Cambodia are other ASEAN countries without submarines so far.


June 25, 2015

Technical problems: Fuel Cell AIP and Hull Cutting

Illustrated by the Type 214 submarine - it shows how potentially difficult it may be to rearrange the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) AIP and "Main components" (FCPPs) when  replacements are required. Type 214s apparently use a large hatch. But such a hatch or hull cutting may weaken the hulls of deep diving Soryus.  (Diagram originally from thaifighterclub.org )

A SINAVY PEM Fuel Cell module. Difficult to squeeze such a large awkward item into a submarine while rearranging parts already in the submarine. The module's dimensions are 500mm x 530mm x 1.47 meters long (making for a 500mm x 530mm diagonal measurement of approximately 720mm (too big to squeeze through a torpedo tube!)

In Comments on June 24, 2015 at 9:48 PM “S” raised the following interesting issues. I have altered some of the English for clarity:

The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MOD) was researching fuel cell AIP but decided to end this research. The MOD indicated one of the main reasons was that it could not overcome the issue of hull-cutting required when exchanging fuel cell stacks. The lifetime of a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) is 40,000 hours for continuous running. But for actual submarine operations, the lifetime is expected to be shorter because of adverse effect of inevitable start-and-stop conditions. In a test taking into account realistic start-and-stop cycles the estimated lifetime of the PEMFC AIP is 2,000-4,000 hours.

[S provided the source for the above figures which is http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/fuel_cell_technology [Last updated May 4, 2015]:
“If operated in a vehicle, the PEMFC stack has an estimated service life of 2,000-4,000 hours. Start-and-stop conditions induce drying and wetting that contribute to membrane stress. Running continuously, the stationary stack is good for about 40,000 hours. Stack replacement is a major expense.

S added “[Lithium-ion Batteries] LIBs and Lead Acid Batteries can be exchanged through a [Soryu’s existing hatch], but PEMFCs cannot. A PEMFC is too big. It means that we would have to exchange a PEMFC by hull-cutting, which is very complicated and expensive and includes rearrangement or adjustment of hydrogen stage or delivery system. Various impacts (reduction in hull strength, life shortening, hull-cutting and rewelding periods, verification periods, increase cost, etc) must be considered every 4,000[?] hours or less running time.

[S asked the following questions]

1.  How many times do we have to cut the hull during the 22 years of operating a Japanese submarine?

2.  Should we avoid possible hull-cutting by significantly reducing the operating period of a Japanese submarine?

I asked whether squeezing the PEMFC into the submarine through a torpedo tube was possible (I measured the Fuel Cell module's recorded height (500mm and width 530mm to give a diagonal approximately 720mm - which is too big for a 533mm torpedo tube)

S responded that it might be possible to fit a PEMFC through a hatch as occurs with German submarines. 

The illustrations of PEMFC at the top of the article are probably the most helpful - also see  http://www.industry.siemens.com/verticals/global/de/marine/marineschiffe/energieverteilung/Documents/sinavy-pem-fuel-cell-en.pdf Fig.5 (page7) of and Table (page9).

MHalblaub indicated that on http://www.industry.siemens.com/verticals/global/de/marine/marineschiffe/energieverteilung/Documents/sinavy-pem-fuel-cell-en.pdf page 10 ' that a SINAVY PEM fuel cell module size is 500mm x 530mm x 1.47 meters.


Japan has a whole range of technical tradeoff (costs and benefits) decisions to make. For example making a large hatch in the hull to exchange PEMFCs may weaken the hull for especially deep diving Soryus.

Please connect with my article Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) Technologies and Selection, August 5, 2014 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/air-independent-propulsion-aip.html 


June 20, 2015

Defence distances itself from Tony Abbott's submarine claims

 Australia's Prime Minister should not be a salesmen for Japanese subs.

Tom Richardson for INDaily ADELAIDE Independent News has written an excellent article which indicates that Prime Minister Abbott's claims favouring Japan's Soryu are not supported by the Australian Defence Department http://indaily.com.au/news/2015/05/25/defence-hoses-down-pms-soryu-sub-hype/

"Defence hoses down PM’s Soryu sub hype


ADELAIDE | The federal Defence Department has refused to back Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s assertion that the Japanese Soryu submarine is “the best in the world”.

The PM made the claim in [23 February 2015], telling parliament that discussions over the multi-billion dollar Future Submarines contract “have been more detailed with the Japanese, because the Japanese make the best large conventional submarine in the world”[!]

But written answers from Defence to questions put on notice by Senator Nick Xenophon from an Estimates hearing are considerably less effusive.

Asked whether authorities have briefed the Prime Minister that the Soryu is the best in its class, the department replies: “Defence has provided a range of advice to Government on the future submarine program, and through engagement with Japan, Defence has established that Japan has been successful in the design and build of the Soryu class, which is of a size similar to that required by Australia.”
Xenophon told InDaily: “The political rhetoric doesn’t match the technical realities.”

In similarly measured terms, Defence responds to a question about whether it has technical information to support the PM’s claim: “Defence has technical information that helps us to understand aspects of the Soryu design that relate to our submarine capability needs.”

However, it continues, “publicly available information does not provide a true indication of the capabilities of the Soryu design”.

“Submarine capability is judged against a number of attributes, including range, endurance, payload, stealth and sensor performance. The Soryu and Collins class differ in various ways when each of these attributes is considered. There are particular requirements for the Future Submarine that the Soryu class has not been designed to meet. Incorporation of the preferred combat and weapon systems for the Future Submarine would also entail design changes.”

Defence revealed senior navy submarine command-qualified officers have “been to sea in a Soryu class submarine” early this year as part of their research.

“My mail in terms of people that I’ve spoken to, the inside running is with the Japanese,” Xenophon said.

“They’re the favourites to win this, the process seems to be stacked towards [Japan] and that is a real concern because they have never built a sub overseas let alone shared their technology, unlike the French or the Germans,” he told ABC Radio.

He also highlighted fears an overseas design would not yield local jobs in manufacturing, highlighting another response to a Question on Notice, with Defence Minister Kevin Andrews confirming the much-hyped 500 new jobs would instead be in “design assurance, combat system integration, and land-based testing of submarine systems”. WHOLE ARTICLE


June 17, 2015

Guam Nuclear Submarine and Bomber Air Base

US Naval Base Guam at Apra Harbor (west central Guam on map) hosts surface ships, onshore facilities but also nuclear submarines, west central Guam. Meanwhile Andersen Air Force Base (with nuclear capable bombers and storage(?)) is on the northeast tip of Guam.

This article is about the nuclear submarine and aerial bomber facilities in Guam. These benefit Australia and have relationships with at least two Australian bases.

Australian nuclear free activists were opposed to French underground testing from 1974 to 1996 at Moruroa Atoll at the extreme range of 6,800 km from Australia. Little did they know that around three US submarines armed with a total of 48 (or more) nuclear missiles were based between 1963 and 1981 only 2,700 km from Australia :-)

(USS Proteus, 3 SSBNs and an SSN at US Naval Base Guam, Apra Harbor (Courtesy the late McDowell, Donald Bratton, CPO)

So at the height of the Cold War, from 1963 to 1981 usually three SSBNs within Submarine Squadron 15 permanently operated out of Guam – an island only 2,700 km north of Australia. Those SSBNs were the early ones including some of the George Washington class, armed with nuclear tipped Polaris SLBMs. These were serviced by submarine tender USS Proteus

Guam enjoys the political permanency of being a US possession in the ideal strategic position of the central west Pacific. Guam is within quick nuclear propelled sub “steaming” distance of (and bombing distance from) Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

Given the relatively limited 4,600 km range of Polaris missiles forward basing some SSBNs made sense at the time. Guam based SSBNs, after around 2 days at sea, were in a comfortable position to hit such major targets as China, the eastern-central Soviet Union (including land based ICBM silos)  and the Soviet naval base at Cam Ranh Bay (Vietnam).

The thaw in the Cold War, increasing political sensitivity of forward nuclear bases and especially the longer range of Poseidon then eventually Trident II SLBMs (11,000 km range) meant that basing at US mainland ports or Hawaii became adequate. Hence Submarine Squadron 15 was disestablished in 1981.

Submarine Squadron 15 was reactivated in 2001 (to the present), again at Guam, this time operating Los Angeles Class SSNs.

Today, the squadron consists of the Los Angeles class USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723), USS Chicago (SSN-721), USS Key West (SSN-722). In the last few weeks USS Topeka (SSN-754) has joined the suadron.. The submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS-40) is also homeported at Guam. The squadron also supports every deploying SSN in the Pacific Fleet Area of Operations, as well as SSGNs USS Ohio (SSGN-726) and USS Michigan (SSGN 727). Note that Australia’s submarine base at Rockingham, Western Australia also hosts some of the same US SSNs and SSGNs on a much more temporary basis. Eventual replacement of Guam Squadron 15’s aging Los Angeles subs with newer Virginia SSNs is likely.

USS Frank Cable (AS-40) and USS Salt Lake City (Los Angeles class SSN 716) Apra Harbor,  Guam.

US SSNs have many possible roles including: shadowing Chinese and Russian SSNs, SSBNs and major surface ships; intelligence collection; contributing to the SEAWEB sensor network; escorting US strike carrier and amphibious warfare groups; and interacting with Japanese and Australian subs and surface ships.

HA-51 is a former Japanese mini-submarine on display on Guam. In July 1944 it ran aground off Guam's southeastern coast. It was crewed by two Japanse soldiers who held off American troops for three days before surrendering. It is a Type C Kō-hyōteki-class submarine. Japanese forces occupied Guam from December 8, 1941 until Guam’s recapture by US forces on July 21, 1944.

Submarine Tenders

From 1964 to 1971 the USS Proteus serviced submarines at Guam. From around 1997 (to this day)  USS Frank Cable has that job. Submarine tenders these days are very large with USS Frank Cable displacing up to 23,000 tons. Submarine tenders are very lightly armed with USS Frank Cable only having 25mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns – more likely used to deter and destroy suicide boats. Submarine tenders therefore require protection, in any time of conflict by warships (such as frigates) and airpower (if in port). Guam hosts the necessary protective US Air Force jets and warships including the SSNs.

Tenders and/or more extensive port facilities are essential to support SSNs between missions. This is because SSNs carry very limited stocks of food, torpedoes, small missiles, other supplies, limited maintenance equipment and few repair specialists. Tenders can voyage to a sub in need (for at sea replenishment) or provide these services in port. In the US Navy tenders are equipped with workshops and can accommodate Gold/Blue relief crews. Tenders can also replenish naval surface ships. 

Andersen Air Force Base

A B-2 stealth bomber and 2 F-15s fly over Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) on Guam has been a heavy bomber base since 1944. From B-29s bombing Japan (World War Two) the bombers grew to B-52s bombing Cambodia, Laos and of course Vietnam (Vietnam War). Since the end of that war Andersen has continued to host B-52s, defensive jetfighters and occasional deployments of B-1B and B-2 (stealth) bombers. Andersen also hosts KC-135 refueling aircraft which extends the range of bombers sufficiently to bomb the Asian mainland (only when necessary).

To underline the strategic importance of Andersen AFB – it is still occasionally circled by Russian Bear spy planes that are annoyingly refueled by Russian IL-78 aircraft based at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay.

See this good report, August 29, 2016 in The Diplomat on doubling the US military presence on Guam http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/guam-where-the-us-military-is-revered-and-reviled/


So Guam is an ideal base for US submarines and bombers. Its location allows these weapons to use there nuclear propulsion and inflight refuelling to major advantage. The US bases at Guam are important to Australia’s and broader regional security. Guam can also host Australian submarines and aircraft. 

Australia pays for such US security through the high cost of US weapons and through hosting US visits at Australia’s submarine base at Rockingham, Western Australia and Tindal Air Force Base.


June 16, 2015

Lack of Japanese legislation could slow Soryu sale

A Soryu submarine. Soryu means "blue" or "green dragon". More Japanese legislation and public support are needed for the sale of an enlarged Soryu to Australia.

Yuki Tatsumi for The Diplomat, has written an interesting article (June 16, 2015) indicating that Japanese Prime Minister Abe is having difficulty pushing through crucial alliance legislation. Implicitly this legislation is necessary to justify the sale of enlarged Soryus to Japan’s emerging ally Australia.

It appears that pushing the legislation through Japan’s Parliament (“Diet”) will not happen next month, as hoped, but maybe next year. The political hesitation is, in part, prompted by legal arguments that difficult constitutional change is necessary earlier than first thought. Also too many of the Japanese public remain hesitant about the Japanese military becoming more active as an alliance partner (regionally and further afield).

This complicates the Soryu sale because Abe has been painting the sale as an alliance cementing activity with Australia. 

This political uncertainty in Japan makes it difficult for Australian selectors to choose the Soryu, or eliminate one of the contenders, early next year after the “competitive” evaluation process is completed. On a favourable note for Abbott a Soryu decision is better made AFTER the next Australian election, which may be as late as November 2016. Choice of the Soryu is likely to be politically unpopular in Australia as it is strongly assumed to mean fewer submarine building jobs for Australians.


June 15, 2015

UK Astute class SSNs - some problems

An Astute class submarine with detachable pod. In this case dry-wet cell for divers (not a minisub itself - see The Sun). Other pods could take a mini-sub, diver delivery vehicle, LDUUVs or even missiles ejected horizontally.  

Astute class submarine inside (Courtesy UK Daily Mail).

Some 2012 or still continuing(?) Astute class submarine problems, including noise (Courtesy 2012 Daily Mail report).

"Nicky" in comments June 15, 2015 raised the issues of Australia perhaps buying the UK newly built Astute class SSNs or non-Soryu SSKs. 

It looks like the UK Astutes have not yet become fully mature and efficient submarines. That even the 2nd in class HMS Ambush was almost a decade from being laid down (October 2003) to commissioning (March 2013) suggests program problems. See problems with the Astutes. UK production of Astutes may be as delayed and overbudget as would be achieved if a sub were built in Australia.

Australia buying any nuclear submarine is unlikely due to major domestic and regional political issues, cost and basing issues.

Problems with the UK Astutes include or included "As of March 2008 the programme was 48 per cent (or £1.2 billion) over-budget and 47 months late. Further delays due to a range of technical and programme issues brought the programme to a position of 57 months late and 53 per cent (or £1.35 billion) over-budget by November 2009, with a forecast cost of £3.9 billion for the first three Astute boats.”

"Some serious quality assurance problems have been identified in the first boats built. Due to the failure of a pipe cap, made of incorrect material although construction records indicated the correct metal had been used, Astute was forced to surface following a leak that was flooding a compartment. Other problems have been identified, including the wrong type of lead being used in a reactor instrument, and other quality issues leading to early corrosion of components." Maybe such problems happen with new subs - but it causes any customers to be cautious.

Such problems are major for the UK Navy even when operating its Astutes right near UK repair facilities. If any Australian Astutes experienced similar problems then a 20,000 nautical mile (80 day) round trip to-from UK shipyards would be crippling.

I'm also not sure whether the US would allow Astutes to be marketed in competition with US Virginias given all the US technology transfers to the UK nuclear submarine programs over the years including nuclear weapons and reactors.

No French Barracuda class SSNs have been launched. They suffer the same relatively distant repair facility issues with the added problem of needing "refuelling and complex overhauls (RCOHs)" every  10 years.

Regarding US Virginias and possibly Los Angeles class SSNs the US made Ambassadorial level soundings to Australia around February 2012.

If Australia did go the nuclear submarine route then buying US makes more sense. Buying Virginias would yield Pacific alliance benefits, constant interoperability, even more commonality in common combat systems and relatively close repair facilities at Guam (my next article), Pearl Harbour, Diego Garcia and other US Indian Ocean naval bases.

Other SSKs are being looked at under Australia competitive evaluation process (mainly the Soryu SMX Ocean (conventional Barracuda), TKMS-HDW 216, but also some information sought on HDW 209, HDW Dolphin 2 and DCNS Scorpene). Major program problems with S80 (Isaac Peral class) have eliminated it.


June 11, 2015

Australian "Soryus" Will Not Be Off-The-Shelf - Much Larger

If Australia chooses a Japanese submarine this submarine is very likely to be fundamentally different from the Soryu Mark 2 (28SS) in several respects. Australia’s Japanese designed submarine:

1.  should last for 30 years in-service including the diesels, hull, welds and Lithium-ion batteries (not just the Japanese standard of 20 years) 

2.  should be made of a hull and welds that can be cut and rewelded in Australia, by Australians

3.  will be heavier to give it twice the range (12,000 nautical miles (nm)) rather than the current Soryu’s 6,000 nm

4.  will be heavier to accommodate a vertical launch system (VLS) which may perform other duties (divers, LDUUVs) making it a vertical multi-purpose lock (VMPL)

5.  is required by the US to have a US AN/BYG-1 Combat System which may (or may not be?) the new combat system fitted to Japan new Soryu Mark 2 (28SS).

6.  it may be true to say the Australia's version of the AN/BYG-1 has almost the same access to the US run Seaweb network that US SSNs have (?).

7.  unlike the Soryu Mark 2 Australia's sub will be fitted for and with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Mark 48 torpedos rather than Japanese Mark 89s

8.  like the Soryu Mark 2 Australia's will not have Stirling AIP

9.  this non-off-the-shelf submarine will therefore have specifically Australian only requirements. "Off-the-shelf" is more a political slogan, implying quick, uncomplicated and inexpensive. The reality is all countries want some modifications in major weapons systems and these systems (even "interim") usually take more than 8 years to be delivered.

10.  it is likely to be much heavier, perhaps 3,600-4,000 tons (surfaced), than the 3,000 ton (surfaced) Soryu Mark 2

11.  the heavier and Australian only features will make it much more expensive than the Soryu Mark 2 in terms of up-front price per vessel and this is not including all the very expensive backup-training-facilities costs (including translating 100,000s of owners manual pages into English).

12.  Australia will require the transfer of more secret intellectual property details than the Japan’s military have transferred before

To keep his job and win the next Federal Election Prime Minister Abbott (most probably) cannot choose Japan until after that Federal Election which may be as late as November 2016.

The first 1 minute 30 seconds of this video http://video.news.com.au/v/301610/Paul-Kellys-view reflects the political dangers to Prime Minister Abbott of giving the appearance of a personalised Captain's pick. Abbott likes to be photographed with weapons and with men in uniform but his submarine policy too obviously leaves out much of the Australian Defence Department's and Navy's advice.

If the choice of Japan is inevitable Japan can make the political risks of "Build in Japan" less by offering industrial offsets. The submarine builders, KHI and MHI, can offer much work for Australians in sectors unrelated to submarines. For example Kawasaki HI builds oil and gas rigs which could be built in Australia for the Australian market. Mitsubishi HI builds heavy machinery - much could be built in Australia for the Australian market.


Japanese Submarine's Inside Functioning

Here is a 2009 Japanese language video on the insides of the preceding Oyashio class submarine. The last of the 11 Oyashios was commissioned in 2008. They are still in service alongside the new Soryus. Oyashios are very similar to the Soryus except Oyashios don't have Stirling AIP

The Oyashios have a crew of 70 and weight is 2,750 tonnes (surfaced) - which implies long endurance even if they don't have the long transit stages of the Collins. 

Note in the video how large the work areas seem - though the sleeping areas look more cramped. Note damage control training facilities 5mins 20secs in. Many Australian Navy and submarine maintenance people will need to become much more aware of the Japanese spoken and written language.


June 9, 2015

Philippines Increasingly Interested in Submarines

The Philippines is acquiring new patrol boats and perhaps submarines (in future) to defend several territorial claims. This includes claims in the South China Seas - called "West Philippine Sea" in the Philippines (Map courtesy Wall Street Journal via Chinh's news)

Which South Korean submarine might be right for the Philippines' defence budget, needs and tastes? The Philippines is interested in acquiring submarines. However submarines are expensive, rapidly become obsolete and cannot be bought used without substantial upgrades and repairs. The Philippines' usual US Navy or US Coast Guard suppliers have no conventional submarines to sell. 

Korea may possibly be a submarine seller and could use the opportunity to build alliance relations with the Philippines.

  Too expensive? To maintain parity with such neighbours as Malaysia and Indonesia the Philippines would need two or three middle sized subs - perhaps the South Korean made Chang Bogo class ? But the Chang Bogo costs $500+ million apiece. 

South Korea has two Dolgorae class mini submarines (above) launched 1990 and 1991, 175 tons, with two small 410mm torpedo tubes. They have crews of 14 and may be used for surveillance and perhaps special forces. They were bought by South Korea in the 1980s to accustom its Navy to submarine operations. On cost grounds this submarine, or an update up to 200 tons, may be the best submarine for the Philippines to start with.

Maybe too expensive to start with. In 2011 South Korea indicated it would be building new subs to replace the Dolgoraes but this has not happened. The development costs, passed on to the first customer for the KSS-500A (above) would therefore be high. Specifications 510 tons, 37m long, 4.5m wide, diving depth 250m, max speed 20 kn, cruise speed 7 kn, endurance 3 weeks, range up to 2,000 miles, crew of 10. New Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) only propulsion charged at wharf or LIBs and diesel engines. 

TKMS designed and used Kobben submarines (from the Poland Navy) may be a possibility, if heavily upgraded, or more practically new build TKMS 210mods.

As there are some similarities in the Philippines' and Thailand's requirements please connect with Submarine Matters Thailand May Eventually Purchase Two Submarines, March 25, 2015. 


The Philippines is becoming sufficiently concerned about maritime territorial disputes (eg. in the South China Sea, known as the "West Philippine Sea" in the Philippines) that it is seeking new vessels and aircraft. Japan is seeking stronger bilateral relations with key countries in the region, including the Philippines:

- Japan is selling (or planning to sell?) the Philippine Coast Guard 10 patrol boats (44m long) with a loan of  ¥19 billion ($150 million total) from Tokyo based Japan Marine United
-  Japan may also be offering (used?) P-3C Orion patrol aircraft built by Japan's KHI

Japan became an expert mini-sub user/builder in World War Two (even attacking a ferry boat in Sydney Harbour) but I don't know of any current Japanese plans to build modern mini-subs.

Philippines ABS-CBNnews.com reported May 27, 2015 http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/05/27/15/philippine-navy-eyes-submarines-deterrence :

"Philippine Navy eyes submarines for 'deterrence'

MANILA - The Philippine Navy said acquiring submarines is part of the plan to modernize the military, but admitted it won't be easy and can’t happen overnight.

Nonetheless, an office to handle the development of submarine capability has been put up, said Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Millan.

“What we are pursuing of course is to take the initiative. The first important thing is to acknowledge the importance of such capability for our future requirements,” he said.

He said the office can help the military gain knowledge of a new defense capability.

“That is why, our initial step in the Navy is to establish an office to start learning about this discipline. It’s important that we learn about it and prepare our troops who will be involved in the development of such capability,” said Millan.

Navy vice commander Rear Adm. Caesar Taccad said in December [2014] that the submarines can be used as “deterrence.”

The Philippines is embroiled in a dispute with several nations over ownership of the potentially oil-rich West Philippine Sea. China is aggressively pursuing its claim via reclamation in several islands and reefs within the area.

Taccad had said the submarines will serve as a deterrent “so other countries will not try to interfere with our [peaceful] exercise of sovereignty over our maritime areas.”

Millan said the submarines, “can bring a lot of help to us. As you can see, there are instances that it can perform non-traditional roles, even in search and rescue or in doing things that are beyond the capabilities of surface assets. These things can help us.”" ENDS


June 8, 2015

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Contenders for Australia's Submarine Replacement Programme

Xavier Vavasseur of  NavyRecognition has provided this interesting comparison of the three contenders for the future submarine (SEA 1000) process. Original link http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2777 .

I would be most grateful for your comments on it. 


Strengths & Weaknesses of the Contenders for Australia's Submarine Replacement Programme
By Xavier Vavasseur

Plans to replace the existing Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) Collins-class submarines began in 2007 with the launch of "SEA 1000" also known as the Future Submarine Programme. In February this year, the Australian Government announced the acquisition strategy for the Future Submarine Program and invited three countries: France, Germany and Japan to participate in a competitive evaluation process. Here is our analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each contender:
» The Japanese Soryu class
» The German Type 216
» The French evolution of SSN Barracuda 
Plans to replace the existing Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) Collins-class submarines began in 2007 with the launch of "SEA 1000" also known as the Future Submarine Programme. In February this year, the Australian Government announced the acquisition strategy for the Future Submarine Program and invited three countries: France, Germany and Japan to participate in a competitive evaluation process. Here is our analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each contender:The Royal Australian Navy aims at replacing its Collins-class submarines (HMAS Rankin pictured)
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman James R. Evans)

Before we start focusing on each of the three contenders, it is important to understand the fairly new and unique requirements of the RAN. So far and to this day, the majority of export submarines (such as the Kilo, Type 212 and 214, Scorpene, Agosta, A17…) displace around 2000 tons. They answer the needs of navies looking to patrol their coastal area, maritime approaches. Deployment on farther operational theatres requires long weeks of transit and probably port call for refueling and other logistic needs. The RAN needs are fairly unique (even though both TKMS and DCNS somewhat anticipated these needs) as it is looking for a multi-role, long endurance, long range submarine able to take part in joint operations with its allies. The combination of these factors translates into a well above 3000 tons submarines design. In addition, Navy Recognition understands the general consensus is that no matter which design gets selected, the RAN requires it to be fitted with US made combat management system (CMS) and weapons.
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Soryu class submarine Hakuryu (SS-503)Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Soryu class sub Hakuryu (SS-503)
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Christy Hagen/Released)

Soryu class submarineThroughout 2014, several news outlets (all of them US based such as Reuters) tried to infer that the Soryu class was favored by Australia and the procurement of Japanese submarines was almost a “done deal”. Today’s situation however appears to be more complicated for the Soryu as the Australian government decided to study proposals from two extra competitors.
The strengths of the Soryu class are:
- it appears as the only sea-proven design of the three contenders
- it is favored by the United States for political reasons (driven by the "Shift to Asia-Pacific region")
- because of the aforementioned political reasons, the aspects of US CMS and weapons are non-issues.

But will the Soryu really answer Australia’s needs? Looking closely at its reported performance it must be noted that these performance are actually quite similar to existing small or medium modern SSK such as the Kilo, Scorpene or Type 214. The reason may simply be the needs and doctrine of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF): Looking at a map of Japan, one may realize that as soon as it leaves its base, a Soryu class SSK is already in patrol in proximity to North Korean or Chinese waters.

To match the Australian needs for long range and endurance, the Soryu will have to be modified with a new Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system and new Lithium Ion batteries among other things. In other words the end result would almost be a new submarine because of the major modifications required: For example, fitting new Lithium Ion batteries means a completely new electrical architecture, new ventilation schematics, newly designed engines to optimize the use of the batteries…

Another issue with the Soryu is Japan’s lack of experience in the fields of transfer of technology and industrial cooperation related to complex defense programmes.
The Type 216 is TKMS' long-range submarine project. Picture: ThyssenKrupp Marine SystemsThe Type 216 is TKMS' long-range submarine project. Picture: ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems

Type 216 submarine
Revealed at Euronaval 2012, the Type 216 is German Shipbuilder TKMS' view of what a conventional propulsion long-range submarine should be.

The strengths of the Type 216 is that it is fully compliant (on paper) with the needs of "ocean going" navies (such as the RAN) looking for long-range submarines. In addition TKMS' past and present order book speaks for itself: TKMS submarines of all types (209,210,212A,214) are in service with the navies of 17 countries in addition to the German Navy. Finally, unlike the Japanese offer, TKMS is used to complex defense programmes cooperation with local partners.

However, what may limit the Type 216 chances in the SEA 1000 programme is uncertainty on two aspects:
The first uncertainty aspect is TKMS' lack of experience in building large submarines. The design of submarines requires a pre-sizing capability: For example, the basic requirements in terms of speed and endurance drive the electrical and engine power requirement of the submarine which themselves impact the volumes and compartments of the submarines. This pre-sizing capability is based on both experience and empirical knowledge.The design rules (which may even be considered "empirical laws") when building submarines are not linear. In other words, TKMS will not be able to use all of its extensive experience in building under 2,000 tons submarines if it ever starts constructing the 4,000 tons Type 216 one day. Again, the pre-sizing phase is critical. Navantia's (which is another reputable shipbuilder based in Spain) issues with the S80 class SSK is a recent example. The first unit of this new type of submarine needs to be redesigned because a "weight imbalance" was detected. In a large submarine, all of the equipment needs to be "over sized" and this impacts everything on board: Larger or more machinery implies larger or more sea water circuit which requires more weight and room...
A submarine designed for long range and endurance needs to be designed with more reliability, more redundancy and even a workshop for maintenance on the go (as is found on board most nuclear submarines [SSN]). Last but not least, other important parameters need to be considered such as human factors (possibly more space for the crew, better atmosphere, more fresh water...).

The second uncertainty aspect is the issue of US made CMS and weapons. Nothing guarantees that the US government will agree to share sensitive CMS data and weapons blueprints with TKMS for integration. While some TKMS built submarines are fitted with UGM-84 Harpoon (with the Portuguese Navy Type 214), it remains to be seen whether the US will agree to share its Tomahawk cruise missile data with Germany.
A Barracuda type (Suffren class) SSN. Picture: French Navy A Barracuda type (Suffren class) SSN. Picture: French Navy

Evolution of SSN Barracuda into a conventional submarine
DCNS proposes an evolution of the Barracuda type SSN - currently in production for the French Navy- into a conventional submarine fully compliant with the needs of “ocean going” navies.

The main strength of this submarine is that it exceeds the capabilities of its competitors in terms of speed, endurance and weapons. According to DCNS, a number of key innovations give the submarine a truly outstanding performance.

* NB: These performances are those of the nuclear version.

The transit speed is at least 40% higher than those of its competitors which is significant. It is important to understand that the faster a submarine can deploy, the more operational it becomes because it can spend more time in the mission area.

Like TKMS, DCNS is used to complex defense programmes cooperation with local partners so the industrial aspect is definitely not a problem. There may even be some historical commonality if Australia selects the DCNS solution: The Collins class submarines currently deployed by the RAN are fitted with French Jeumont-Schneider engines, a manufacturer present in all DCNS submarines. Likewise, many systems on board the Collins class such as the sonar systems are Thales products, and so is the case for all DCNS submarines.

Last but not least, DCNS has extensive experience in designing and building large submarine since the company was in charge of designing and building the (former) Redoutable and (current) Triomphant class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), the backbone of French nuclear deterrence.

The main factor that is not in favor of DCNS is again the issue of US made CMS and weapons. The issue is definitely not technical: Since the Agosta 90B, DCNS submarines are "open architecture" to facilitate the integration of new systems and weapons (therefore the installation of a CMS and weapons of American origin are not a technical problem). Regarding that (political) aspect, DCNS is in the same situation as TKMS: nothing guarantees that the US government will agree to sharing information for weapons and systems integration.
The Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and Australia's Defense Minister, the Honorable Kevin Andrews (pictured here with France's Defense Minister) visited TKMS shipyard in Germany and DCNS submarine shipyard in France. In April 2015, the Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and Australia's Defense Minister, the Honorable Kevin Andrews (pictured here with France's Defense Minister) visited TKMS in Germany and DCNS submarine shipyard in France.

The formal RAN requirements for the Collins submarines replacement have not been made public yet, but like in many international procurement contracts, it is likely that political aspects will be given priority with the technical aspects coming a distant second. It appears also that no matter which platform Australia selects, their American allies will give the ultimate "green light"... or not.

That being said, despite many US media picturing the Japanese Soryu as a "done deal" last year, Australia is giving full consideration to the three contenders invited to participate in a competitive evaluation process earlier this year. A simple illustration of this fact: The visit last April by the Chief of Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and Australia's Defense Minister, the Honorable Kevin Andrews, of TKMS shipyard in Germany and then of DCNS shipyard in Cherbourg (where the Barracuda type SSNs are being assembled for the French Navy).

Australian Defence Minister Meets Japanese Prime Minister Abe, Tokyo, Soryu Discussed

Australian Defence Minister Andrews had a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe, Tokyo, June 3, 2015 during Andrews' mainly submarine related visit (Photo courtesy Government of Japan)

At the meeting Defence Minister Andrews (left), Prime Minister Abe (center) Defence Minister Nakatani (right) discussed security and Soryu issues, Tokyo, June 3, 2015 (Photo courtesy Government of Japan)

On June 3, 2015 Japanese Prime Minister Abe took the unusual step of having talks with a foreign defence minister below Prime Ministerial level - that was Australian Defence Minister Andrews. This underlines how seriously Japan takes deeper alliance relations with Australia - with the pending Soryu sale being a major symbolic and practical component. Japanese Defence Minister Nakatani also attended. Note that Minister Andrews did not meet the German Chancellor or French President (or Prime Minister) when he visited those countries on submarine issues on April 23 and April 24, 2015 respectively. 

On June 4, 2015 Minister Andrews visited the KHI and MHI submarine building yards at Kobe.

Japan's Jiji Press Agency via the Japan News, June 4, 2015, reported http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002196895 :

"Abe offers cooperation in developing subs"

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on [June 3, 2015] told visiting Australian Defense Minister Kevin Andrews that Japan hopes to cooperate with Australia on the development of Australia’s next-generation submarines.

In a meeting held at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Andrews told Abe that he will visit shipyards in Kobe on [June 4, 2015] that are run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. The two companies build submarines for the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

At a National Security Council meeting last month, the Japanese government decided to participate in the procedures for Australia’s selection of a partner to develop the submarines. Japan also decided to disclose some of its submarine technologies to Australia."