Members of the Japanese industry team responding to the Australian government’s Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) for the Royal Australian Navy’s Future Submarine requirement have come out fighting against negative media coverage downgrading the prospects of their SEA 1000 bid over cultural and language differences and the demise of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
Speaking to a standing-room only briefing on the Japanese strategy for the Future Submarine at Pacific 2015 on Tuesday, officials said they “don’t like such arguments”, and that there were many positives for the submarine project due to Japan being Australia’s second-largest economic partner – as well as the history of commercial engagement, with many Japanese companies operating successfully in Australia for many years.
According to Assistant Commissioner at the Japanese Ministry of Defence Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency Masaki Ishikawa, Australia’s changing of prime ministers has had no impact on the prospects for success of the Japanese CEP response. He said the fundamental economic and security relationship between Australia and Japan was well established and underpinned by several key trade and national security agreements, including the most recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Ishikawa said Japan was the only country in the world building and operating 4,000-tonne submarines, meaning the Japanese team could offer the Australian government proven technology within the construct of a clear understanding of build, operating and support costs.
Submarine construction resumed in Japan in 1959 and with 60 years of submarine building history and strong program management capability, the Japanese team was confident it could work with Australian companies to deliver a successful SEA 1000 outcome.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ senior vice-president for Integrated Defence and Space Systems Izumi Ishii, emphasised the ability to work with other nations’ companies by pointing to several international cooperative programs his company was involved with – noting BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Thales – each of which already had successful operations in Australia and relationships with the Department of Defence.
Speaking to a just publicly released ‘Team Australia’ Strategy for Australia’s Future Submarine, Ishikawa said the team had developed a three-pronged strategy and an ‘Australia First’ philosophy of technological cooperation and Australian industry involvement.
The approach to satisfying the CEP requirements is to inject RAN requirements into the existing Soryu-class platform then merge new Japanese and Australian technologies to yield a state-of-the-art SEA 1000 submarine concept. Joint technologies relating to current hydrodynamics research also are expected to be reflected in the Japanese CEP response.
On new technologies, the SEA 1000 concept boat will feature:
• All-weather snorkel system.
• Approach to total combat system integration that draws from Mitsubishi’s established competencies as vessel builder and systems integrator.
• Ultimate stealth technology approach incorporating dampening and sound absorption, streamlined hull hone, including propeller and anechoic tiles on the hull.
• World-quality advanced and reliable welding skills.
• High-capacity lithium-ion battery to sustain long-range operations –the SEA 1000 submarines would be the first in the world to utilise this technology.
On the submarine build program, Ishii said Mitsubishi and partners Kawasaki would work with local industries in whatever arrangement best suited the Australian government. Responses are being prepared for all three CEP options but at this stage he said either a hybrid build or a full onshore build looked viable, with very little difference between each option.
The mechanism for technology transfer would include the establishment of dual design centres in Japan and Australia to transit the three phases of concept design, basic design and detailed design.
Ishii said that as time passed, Australian industry participation would grow as a total proportion of the project, with Japanese involvement progressively declining and consolidating around the core areas of validation and verification.
He stressed that up to 300 Australian workers would receive on-the-job training at Kobe in Japan and as various knowledge and skill levels were reached with these workers in Japan, those workers would come back to Australia to fulfil ‘train-the trainer’ roles, thus ensuring an effective transfer of knowledge to Australia to support project objectives to establish in Australia a sovereign ability to operate and support the new submarine fleet.
The Japanese training plan envisages a three-year program of pre mock-up training followed by training on a full scale mock-up of the new submarine’s hull – which would be built in Australia, on-the-job training in Kobe and in Australia leading into submarine construction in Australia. Building a full scale mock-up (or Boat ‘0’) construction, said Ishii, would ensure that from the first-of-class SEA 1000 boat, “construction would be of the best quality”.
Sustainment is to be centred around three ‘real-time’ connected centres – a technical support centre in Kobe and on-site technical support centres at ASC North, Adelaide, SA and ASC West, Henderson) in WA.
To support the whole technology transfer and skills/training construct Australian industries are being invited to express their interest in working on the future submarine endeavour from the design phase and throughout the program.
Following an initial supply chain engagement exercise with 20 companies in Adelaide on August 26 and briefings in Sydney and Melbourne with a further 50 companies this week, the Japanese team is planning additional visits to Perth and Brisbane in November.
Ishii added that such was the interest in concluding a successful ‘Australia First’ engagement with local firms to establish the supply chain for SEA 1000 that representatives of the Japanese team would continue to visit companies all over Australia.