(Sankei: February 1, 2016 – p. 1)
By Hideki Yoshimura in Singapore
Although Japan, Germany, and France have been competing for the contract to build Australia’s next submarine fleet, Germany may be losing ground due to the U.S.’s disapproval. Speculation is rife that only Japan and France are now left in the race. The Australian media reported that the U.S. had indicated its refusal to provide technology if the submarines will be developed jointly with Germany because of concerns about Chinese industrial spies stealing classified information. There are reports that Japan’s Soryu-class submarines have the best chance to win the bid since Japan, like Australia, is a U.S. ally.
Australia plans to build 8 to 12 new submarines by the second half of the 2020s to replace its superannuated Collins-class fleet. The contract, including construction and maintenance, is worth a total of 50 billion Australian dollars (approximately 4.4 trillion yen).
Japan, Germany, and France submitted their proposals on underwater navigation capability, cost, and economic effect last year. The Australian government plans to select a joint development partner by the second half of this year.
Australia, which is surrounded by water, wants to build 4,000-ton class submarines with long operational range. Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) is proposing to scale up its 2,000-ton Type 214 vessel. Reuters reported that due to TKMS’s lack of experience, several industry sources regarded its bid as “technically risky.”
The U.S. government has stated that it is “neutral” on this bid. However, a major newspaper, The Australian, reported in its online version on Jan. 25 that the U.S. “has serious concerns about whether Germany will be able to protect sensitive defense technology from Chinese industrial spies.”
This paper also said that if the Soryu-class (4,000 tons) manufactured by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries is adopted, the U.S. “promises to provide cutting-edge combat systems.” It further reported that if the Japanese bid is unsuccessful, the U.S. “will regard this as a diplomatic and tactical victory for China (which is opposed to the Japanese bid).”
Meanwhile, the French state-controlled shipbuilder DCNS has proposed a converted version of its 5,000-ton Barracuda nuclear-powered submarine. This company is emphasizing to the Australian government the economic effects in terms of technology transfer and job creation to Adelaide, South Australia, the center of its defense industry.
The Australian government wants to build the submarines domestically. Japan had not been keen about this but has taken a more positive attitude recently.