- From: News Corp Australia Network
JAPAN has been accused of refusing to share vital performance details about its top-secret Soryu Class submarines with Australian officials.Australia has asked Japanese officials to provide critical information about stealth, power and combat system integration issues for the 4200-tonne boat considered front runner in the race to be the Navy’s future submarine, but Japan has so far declined to provide access to the information.
News Corporation also understands that the government’s 2015 Defence White Paper — due out by June — explores cutting the number of submarines from 12 to eight, with an option for two more and a budget well below $20 billion.
The 2009 White Paper included a requirement for 12 boats, but defence sources have argued strongly that the Royal Australian Navy could not crew that number of submarines.
The first one or two boats will be built overseas by the successful bidder with the rest to be assembled at ASC in Adelaide — which will likely be split and absorbed by the successful bidder — under a rolling schedule.
Japan has promised that the first two boats could be delivered within three years.
Mr Abbott threw open the doors for a competition on the weekend when he said Australian firms could bid.
Yesterday he ruled out any secret deal with Japan to buy its boats.
He said Australia wanted the best possible submarines at the best possible price to replace the ageing Collins Class fleet.
“There are no secret deals,” Mr Abbott said.
A spokesman for Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the decision on a design partner and construction of the submarines will be based on a competitive evaluation process that takes fully into account capability requirements, cost, schedule, technical risk and value for money considerations.
“Any Australian company that can credibly meet these criteria will be considered on merit, as will potential international partners,” the spokesman said.
He did not address a specific question about issues with the Japanese negotiations.
The most likely solution appears to be a competitive evaluation process between Japan, Germany, France and Sweden.
Two options would be selected to fight it out in a competitive tender for the nation’s biggest ever defence project.
The most crucial element of its military “crown jewels” that Japan is unwilling to share with anyone is how the Soryu boats can cruise submerged at 20 knots with virtually no noise signature.
Stealth is a submarine’s greatest weapon and the Soryu is thought to be the most stealthy diesel powered submarine ever built.
The second area of concern is the boat’s propulsion system and exactly how it can provide an operating life of almost double that of the Collins Class boats.
“Without that information we cannot go with the Japanese option,” a defence source told News Corp.
The third area of concern is the integration of a US combat system and weapons into the Japanese hull.
The final hurdle is the perceived lack of security at the ASC shipyard in Adelaide and Australia in general.
“The Japanese are far better at security than we are,” a senior source said.
It is understood that Japanese officials pointed to an Australian TV documentary on the Collins boats that clearly revealed the subs’ noise signature.