politics

Australia rules out open tender for new subs; Japan in box seat

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If you are wondering about the "urgency", the current Collins class subs have a variety of problems, some of them very serious indeed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collins-class_submarine

Last week Johnston apologized after saying he would not trust ASC “to build a canoe”.

Many would share his view.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Advice to anyone, including people connected with Japanese military suppliers, or European ones: do not give any credence to any utterance from the current Australian federal government regime - any Australian would advise the same.

In their first couple of months just over a year ago they shepherded three remaining motor vehicle manufacturers' pathways out of the Australia without a whimper, effectively removing a large part of Australia's technological and manufacturing base and know-how with them. One other remaining sector, Australian Defence Industries (ADI) in South Australia is in their sights, and their removal would remove a strong economic and social base and fabric from that region. People in Australia know all this, people in Australia have mandatory voting (ie. over 90% of people vote) and people in Australia are getting set for an reckoning with the current government's hypocrisy, anachronistic attitudes to energy and environment and the pugilistic prime minister (plausibly currently the most hated person in Australia) and overall disappointing performance. I, and a lot of other people from Australia, are staying away from there until the incumbents are gone.

To replace them would be the Australian Labor Party, which oversaw tendering for submarines resulting in the Collins class vessels, which at the time were the political rather than the preferred military option and there were years of political bad weather resulting from that decision in the 1980s, which never really went away and certainly would continue with them if they become the next Australian federal government.

Australia is after the lithium battery Japanese technology, perhaps the worst-kept secret in the South Pacific, and my money is on that technology being sold rather than the submarines themselves (though if Shinzo offered Tony coal-fired propulsion technology, Tony would not be able to say Yes fast enough!!!). Operating and weapons systems - American/Japanese sourced is what they would want, but ADI alter things like that in any program they get their hands on anyway.

So, to sum up, the article is a reasonable summing up of things how they stand, but I certainly would not recommend it as a definitive source for predicting what is going to happen.

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" They have said Canberra wanted a new lithium-ion battery propulsion system, which experts say will give submarines better underwater range and speed compared to other diesel-electric vessels that use air independent propulsion under the sea, a system which requires fuel to operate "

I think the writer is a bit confused about the technologies involved here. Of course the Soryu class needs fuel to operate, just like the AIP systems that the Europeans want to sell. What does he thing the sterling engine it uses runs with?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@WilliB

That sentence is trying to cover too much. I'll simplify it for anybody interested. Please keep in mind that I'm not an engineer.

Diesel subs use diesel fuel. But they use the engines to charge their batteries.

Their batteries enable them to travel submerged. Running off battery power enables diesel subs to be a lot quieter (avoiding detection that can result in being attacked etc). But the power of the batteries eventually runs out, and for a long time, subs had to raise a snorkel for air to run the diesel engine when charging their batteries. This made them even more detectable, in addition to using diesel engines which causes unwanted noise.

Recently a system called AIP has been used on modern diesel subs. AIP means Air Independent Propulsion. Subs can now charge their batteries underwater, without the need to raise a snorkel. (Mostly)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air-independent_propulsion

Having better batteries (mentioned above) that run longer, as well as AIP, is the best of both worlds.

By the way, (some) nuke subs also diesel engines as backup in case they have problems with their nuclear plant/propulsion system. I think it is also used (in some cases) for intricate maneuvering (such as in port) if necessary.

I welcome any corrections or information regarding my comment or the article.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Let me get this straight; this new submarine technology is powered by a lot of Lithium Ion batteries, placed in an airtight tube, sheltering its delicate human cargo from a very hostile external environment? Are we talking about a new submarine or a Boeing 787? Australia - you had better do more in-depth testing on this technology than the FAA did on the 787 before make such a hefty commitment. Especially since the battery technology for the 787 is manufactured by Yuasa.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Cool a rechargeable submarine, not sure there are many underwater battery charging stations though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I googled the topic and found out that Japan indeed wants to replace the AIP stirling engines on the latest Soryu subs with giant lithium batteries. That was news to me.

Considering the continuing reports of suddenly igniting smart phones, electric "Volt" cars and dreamliner jumbo jets, I find this a rather mind-boggling decision. Obviously, the problems with lithium batteries are not solved, and I don´t any of the size needed to power a huge submarine has ever been built.

So the Aussie want to spend an enormous amount of money on unproven and very likely unsafe technology`?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"the new multibillion-dollar fleet"

No worries! Australian government debt is only around A$326,000,000,000.

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@WilliB,

I googled the topic and found out that Japan indeed wants to replace the AIP stirling engines on the latest Soryu subs with giant lithium batteries. That was news to me.

And to me. I thought they wanted both, but it seems the new batteries are for the last four with no AIP?

I'd be trying them on one or two subs, to see how they go.If NG, the original AIP system has already proved good. Aus Defence should wait to see how things go. If they are in that big a hurry, (understandable considering the Collins situation), they can start off with some AIP, and switch to the new batteries if they prove better. It's not like they are going to make all of them at once. Write a clause and be sensible.

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Australia has no worries since the Soryu to start construction in 2015 or 2016 and enter commission sometime in 2019 or 2020 will be powered with Li-ion batteries. So Australia can inspect in full the benefits before Mitsubishi start building their subs.

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And to me. I thought they wanted both, but it seems the new batteries are for the last four with no AIP?

It was news to me when I first read it, but it makes some sense. The AIP system allows you to stay underwater, but its power is limited so it can only propel the submarine at under 10 knots or less. The battery system allows full speed. The argument is whether using the space consumed by the AIP engine, plus using higher power density batteries (thus several times the previous battery capacity) allows the submarine commander a more optimal range of options.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Even with a bank of LiON batteries, the subs will STILL need diesel engines and the fuel to run them. Or maybe they expect the batteries to get recharged by manpower turning a hand-cranked generator?

Batteries have always been a safety hazard on submarines whether diesel-electric or nuclear-powered. The old lead-acid batteries used during WWII would vent hydrogen into the sub's atmosphere. An extended dive could increase the hydrogen in the atmosphere to dangerous levels.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fadamor

You really need to take a basic lesson on how batteries work.

Lead-acid batteries "vents" hydrogen during re-charging stage in which case the sub would be running on diesel and snorkeling near the surface with air circulating withe the outside atmosphere. During a dive the most dangerous to the crew was Carbon dioxide poisoning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They should use Toshiba's Scib Lithium Titanate batteries which are in the Honda Fit EV. For three main reasons these batteries are better than other current Lithium chemistries such as Panasonic's YUASA'S Lithium Ion. 1.Safety (no thermal runaway risk) 2.Faster recharge (90% in 10 mins) 3. Much longer life (number of cycles). They are slightly heavier but in a submarine this won't be a problem. They are several times lighter than lead acid.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That will be one hell of an underwater fireworks display if one of those giant submarine lithium batteries experiences a runaway reaction. I can´t believe they are seriously planning this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well if they use Toshiba's Lithium Titanate Scib batteries they can cancel out that possibility. Also, the recharge time was only 5 mins! (not 10). I also think they should get a few of the US Virginia Class subs to augment the pure electrics.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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