Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews has toured the Kawasaki and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries commercial shipyards in the city of Kobe during his first visit to Japan as MINDEF, as the Future Submarine competition heats up.
Speaking to the ABC, Minister Andrews referred to the Kobe tour as a “goodwill trip” similar to previous visits in France and Germany during which he inspected submarine manufacturing facilities. “The Japanese submarine is about the size that we are looking for in Australia, but obviously it requires changes,” he said on June 4. “What we want is a submarine which has the endurance of the Collins [class submarines] that has superior stealth capacity to the Collins, and is one which is going to be interoperable in terms of the weapons system with the US. Now that is going to require design changes and modifications in the case of whichever submarine we buy from whichever country, and so it is important that each of the countries, Japan included, understand that.”
Questioned in the ABC interview about potential concerns relating to Japan’s willingness to release sensitive information, MINDEF stated: “Look our sense at the moment is that the Japanese are aware of that; they want to cooperate in relation to this. They are obviously going through a major transition so far as the way they look at the defence of Japan…there are obviously sensitivities in Japan, but at the same time we have requirements, and if those requirements cannot be met we may well look elsewhere.”
The federal government announced in February that France, Germany and Japan would be invited to participate in the “competitive evaluation process” that will assess their ability to partner with Australia to develop the Future Submarine.