Japan Closing in on Submarine Contract


Published Oct 6, 2015 8:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

In another move highlighting the growing ties between the nations, a Japanese consortium has placed a $35 billion bid to construct submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. While France’s DCNS Group and Germany’s Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) have offered proposals, several analysts believe Japan is the only bidder with submarines large enough to meet Australia’s demands.

Japan’s consortium includes the Japanese government, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

If granted the contract, Japan has offered to construct a state-of-the-art submarine concept which would be larger than its 4,000-ton Soryu-class submarine using new designs and sustainment centers in Japan as well as Adelaide and Perth. In addition, Japan has offered to train hundreds of Australian engineers in Kobe, its manufacturing hub, as well as Australia.

Australia is seeking a long-range submarine, about 4,000-tonnes, bigger than the 3,300-tonne Collins that it currently deploys. To compete against Japan’s 4,200-tonne Soryu class, TKMS is submitting a 4,000-tonne Type 216, and DCNS is offering a smaller, non-nuclear variant of its 5,300 tonne Barracuda-class submarines.

Agreeing to construct the submarines in Australia was one of the prior points of contention which appeared to give the European bidders an edge in the negotiations. DCNS and TKMS had both previously pledged their intention to build submarines entirely an Australia, but Japan had been slow to state this intention until recently.

Manufacturing jobs have become a heated political issue in Australia, and the Japanese Defense Ministry recently stated that its hybrid option of building subs in Australia and Japan would be the cheapest option for Australian taxpayers.  

Australia’s interest in strengthening its naval fleet appears to be driven by rising Chinese assertiveness in the region.

In June, India, Japan and Australia participated in trilateral maritime dialogue in New Dehli. The talks were attended by Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki and Australian secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese.

Two Chinese submarines were spotted near Sri Lanka and Pakistan in July, which drew criticism from China’s littoral nations. Australia completed the AUSINDEX-15, its first bilateral maritime exercise with India, last month. The Australian High Commission in Delhi has stated that the exercises will include anti-submarine warfare and coordinated anti-submarine drills.