Japan "white whale" subs & Fukushima taxes. Keating right-on AUKUS, Indonesia subs & non-proliferation, China sub tech advances, DPRK tsunami sub-drones, US fears Russian subs, UK nuke graveyard.
UPDATE: The United States has unleashed a tsunami of submarine activity across the so-called Indo-Pacific. Today’s Long Mekong Weekend takes a deep dive into regional power dynamics and the sunk costs submerged in all the talk of AUKUS and a China threat.
Japan’s lawmakers are concerned about appropriating the reconstruction tax for defense purposes, but keeps launching “white whales”. AUKUS too, looks more like a “white whale” than a great white shark. Indonesia seeks a fleet fleet, North Korea launches nuclear capable sub-drones, China has more advanced tech, the US has a Cold War sub-hangover and the UK has a “white whale” graveyard.
Fukushima Reconstruction tax shifted to defense spending
As the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's proposal to fund a defense budget hike with a special income tax originally intended for disaster reconstruction draws criticism, party executives are planning to split the levy in half and create a new defense tax. The reconstruction tax adds a 2.1% levy to individual income tax through 2037, generating about ¥400 billion ($2.9 billion) in revenue for the government each year.
The initial plan was to use a total of ¥200 billion from the tax revenue for defense spending. But many lawmakers had concerns about appropriating the reconstruction tax for a totally different purpose. The latest plan, therefore, is to reduce the 2.1% levy to 1% at a suitable time after 2024 and appropriate the remaining portion as a new “defense purpose tax” and extend the duration of the reconstruction tax for “as long as necessary.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to spend a total of ¥43 trillion between fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2027 on defense. The government plans to secure funding by cutting other areas of spending and utilizing some surplus money and nontax revenue, but it is expected to fall short by ¥1 trillion.
The talk of tax hikes come as the public grapples with rising prices and stagnant wages. When it was reported that Kishida said “the Japanese people should (accept the tax hike) as their responsibility” during a party meeting earlier this week, criticism mounted on social media, with users saying the government should be responsible for the funding, rather than the people.
Read full article here.
Japan’s New White Whale: “Hakugei” Submarine
The second submarine in the Taigei class, Hakugei, is one of the most advanced in the world. It will play an increasingly crucial role in national defense. On March 20, Japan's newest submarine Hakugei was delivered to the Ministry of Defense at Kawasaki Heavy Industries' Kobe Works.
Hakugei is 84 m long, 9.1 m wide, and 10.4 m deep. With a displacement tonnage of 3,000 tons, and like her sister Taigei, is outfitted with lithium-ion batteries that work in tandem with a diesel engine via a diesel-electric propulsion system. Crucially, lithium-ion batteries have a higher capacity than lead-acid batteries. They also offer improved underwater navigation and significantly longer dive times. The increased power reduces the number of times the submarine must resurface for charging, which is when it is most vulnerable.
Additionally, Taigei-class submarines are quieter than nuclear submarines and have advanced stealth capabilities, making them difficult to detect. Furthermore, the detection capability of their sonar system, which detects objects and measures distances using underwater sound waves, has been improved.
Read more here.
Paul Keating has a point on AUKUS
The bottom line of the AUKUS deal is that it locks us into the US military strategy even further, to the point where if the US again does something stupid, such as to support Taiwan in a military confrontation with China, it would be likely that we would join with the US, thereby exposing Australia to the risk of some sort of revenge or no-regrets attack from China. Where’s our sovereignty in all that?
The AUKUS deal was basically yet another political stunt by Scott Morrison with no proper top-down analysis of our defence requirements.
Surely it should be an early priority of the government to state publicly that if the US engages in a war with China over Taiwan, we will not join them. If we objectively consider the full price in dollars and subservience to the US, an important question is, will the Chinese really be deterred by our nuclear- powered submarine capability?
Former prime minister Paul Keating correctly stepped beyond party discipline to seek to ask the relevant questions and to comment on the appalling media agendas being run by some on this issue.
I must say, I have been fascinated by the global focus on “the rise of China” rather than the more relevant development, namely the demise in the substance and global standing of the US.
Given the speed with which China has become the world’s largest economy – and in so doing has raised many millions out of poverty – the country should be given the global respect that this deserves, especially with countries searching for ways in which they can develop productive economic, cultural and environmental relationships with the Chinese. Yet this is not the focus of the coverage.
In short, is it wise to unnecessarily antagonise our largest trading partner by sucking up further to the US, committing ourselves to further doing their bidding?
Especially when so much will happen geopolitically and in submarine and associated technologies during the next three decades, creating genuine doubt about the usefulness of an AUKUS-type deal.
Read full text here.
Nuclearizing the Indo-Pacific
Australia’s announcement that it is acquiring nuclear-powered submarines from the United States is escalating the heat in the already tense Indo-Pacific region, and now with the added nuclear factor thrown into the pot. It has certainly angered China, the target of Australia’s military buildup, and caused concerns for other countries, including Indonesia.
Granted it’s not a nuclear weapon, but acquiring the nuclear technology to build the submarines takes Australia a step closer to becoming a nuclear power. It is setting a precedent in exploiting the nuclear naval propulsion clause in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is designed to prevent more countries from acquiring nuclear weapons and keep the world safe.
Canberra’s assurances that it will abide by the NPT and pointing out at its fine records does not guarantee that other countries will not follow suit, in the name of protecting sovereignty or any other pretext. We already have more than our share of nuclear countries in the Indo-Pacific region. We could do with less, and not more. Australia’s move is dangerously paving the way toward the full nuclearization of the region.
Now, more than ever, Australia is living up to its reputation as the self-appointed deputy sheriff in this part of the world for the US, a term incidentally coined in 1992 by then prime minister John Howard.
The US is leading the campaign to stem the rise of China by building alliances, including establishing AUKUS now with the nuclear-submarine deal with Australia. While we cannot stop Australia from moving ahead with the plan, Indonesia should continue to voice its long-held opposition to the nuclearization of the Indo-Pacific region and the rest of the world for that matter.
To the suggestions as echoed by officials and observers in Australia that Indonesia is a beneficiary of the greater security protection provided by the presence of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines, this may be true if China was the single biggest threat to regional peace.
If history is any guide, there are other powers and countries that have the potential to threaten regional peace and stability.
Read the full article here.
Indonesia Submarine Capabilities
The Indonesian Navy, also known as Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Laut (TNI-AL), operates two classes of submarines: The older Cakra-class Type 209/1300 vessels and the Nagapasa-class Type 209/1400 vessels. A Central Command links the three main Indonesian fleets: The First Fleet Command in Jakarta, the Second Fleet Command in Surabaya, and the Third Fleet Command in Sorong.
In December 2011, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense signed a $1.1 billion contract with DSME to purchase three Type 209/1400 diesel-electric attack submarines by 2020. Two of the vessels, christened the Nagapasa-class, were built in South Korea.
In April 2021, the German-built KRI Nanggala (402) went missing off the coast of Bali during a torpedo drill. In the aftermath of the Nanggala sinking, the Indonesian military requested the acquisition of eight new submarines. Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder Perseroan Terbatas Penataran Angkatan Laut (PT-PAL) signed an agreement in February 2022 with the French defense contractor Naval Group to build two Scorpène-class conventional attack submarines in Surabaya with the possibility of ordering two more vessels. This procurement may replace the order of three additional Nagapasa-class submarines which Indonesia has been considering since 2019.
In early April 2013, the Indonesian Navy opened the Palu Naval Base in Palu, Central Sulawesi to complement the submarine base at Surabaya. On 28 September 2018, a tsunami struck Sulawesi, damaging the new naval base and halting plans to deploy the Nagapasa-class submarines. Indonesia also began building a submarine base on Natuna Besar in the Riau Islands in 2021.
Read full assessment here.
China’s New Extra-Large Uncrewed Submarine
New evidence points to China's XLUUV (extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles) being armed with torpedoes. This is a significant leap in this space and, together with a large-scale development program, may be out-pacing the West.
China has at least 5 designs in the water, many more than any other navy. New information from the NAVDEX 2023 defense exposition in Abu Dhabi, UAE reveals details of their designs for the first time. It indicates that some of China’s uncrewed underwater vehicles may be submarine killers.
Unusually, the XLUUV has a structure along its side which is consistent with flank array sonar. Even more unusually, this is combined with telltale doors for four torpedo tubes in the chin position. Taken together it implies an anti-ship and/or anti-submarine role.
Several other large uncrewed underwater vehicle designs also feature a sonar like this. Notably the French Oceanic Underwater Drone Demonstrator and South Korean ASWUUV. But the Chinese design is the first to combine it with weapons.
Read more here.
China’s new sub stealth tech defeats US Navy sonar
Sound-emitting tile made of costly rare earth elements can turn powerful US sonar tech against itself. Low-frequency, high-decibel sound produced can cause enemy sonar operator to mistake the submarine for water.
A research team in China says it has created a new coating device that could help submarines evade advanced enemy sonar by mimicking water. The tile-like device can analyse enemy sonar frequency, and generate opposing sound waves to cause the sonar operator to mistake the submarine for water, the researchers said.
Low-frequency sounds produced by the tiles can reach an intensity of up to 147 decibels, which is louder than a rock concert and sufficient to “cancel out” some of the most powerful active sonars used by the US military or its allies, according to the team from the Beijing Institute of Technology.
Read more here.
DPRK Unveils New ‘Haeil’ tsunami Underwater Drone
North Korea’s state media KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) released photos of a new suicide AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) named Haeil (해일 Tsunami). “Haeil was launched near the cape in Riwon Country, South Hamgyeong Province and made a ‘lethal’ cruise underwater between a depth of 80m to 150m for 59 hours and 12 minutes in pre-designated courses, before its warhead successfully detonated at the simulated target near the bay of Hongwon two days after it was launched.”
‘Haeil’ drones had achieved Full Operational Capabilities (FOC) by December 2022 after more than 50 test launches were made and senior members of the party approved its deployment to frontlines.
“These ‘secret weapons’ will be able to secretly sail into enemy’s territorial waters and cause a super-strong radioactive tsunami with an underwater nuclear explosion, destroying strategically important enemy’s ports and groups of warships.”
The DPRK’s development of advanced submarine capabilities signals that its sub-drones can swarm into strategically important locations without being detected to inflict considerable damage to enemy warship fleets.
Read more here.
U.S. General: Russia can park Nuclear Subs on our Coasts
During a hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, General Glen Van Herck, head of U.S. Northern Command, said Russia could deploy their most powerful and silent nuclear attack submarines to patrol off either U.S. coast within the next two years.
According to General Van Herck, Russian Yasen-class nuclear cruise missile attack boats have been deploying more frequently. Within the last year, Russia has also placed their [Yasens] in the Pacific,” he explained. “Now not only the Atlantic, but we also have them in the Pacific and it’s just a matter of time – probably a year or two – before that’s a persistent threat, 24 hours a day. … That impact has reduced decision space for a national senior leader in a time of crisis.”
The Yasen-class submarines he spoke of are a series of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) designed to be multipurpose submarines. They’re capable of conducting a range of missions, including anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, and special operations support.
The submarines are considered to be some of the most advanced and capable submarines in the world. They are equipped with advanced sensors and weapons systems, including torpedoes, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles, as well as a vertical launch system for cruise missiles.
Read more here.
The UK’s old nuclear submarine problems
An official Government report has slammed The Ministry of Defence for its "dismal" failure to dispose of obsolete nuclear-powered submarines - and revealed that nine of the 13 'retired' vessels stored on the banks of the River Tamar at Devonport still contain radioactive fuel.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report reveals the Royal Navy now has twice as many submarines in storage as it does in service, and thee MoD has failed to dispose of any of the 20 boats decommissioned since 1980 - and has not defuelled a single submarine since 2004.
"Maintaining fuelled, rather than unfuelled, submarines also presents additional technical uncertainties and affects dock availability. The failure to address the issue risks damaging the UK's international reputation as a "responsible nuclear power", the Government was warned. It also notes that the MOD "has not defuelled any submarines since 2004 and does not have a fully funded plan to re-start defueling" - and that the "defueling facility project has been delayed 11 years, with a £100 million (57%) increase in costs".
Seven of the submarines have been in storage longer than they were in service with the Royal Navy The estimated cost of disposing of a submarine is £96 million, the NAO said. The MoD has put its total future liability for maintaining and disposing of the 20 stored and 10 in-service nuclear-powered boats at £7.5 billion over the next 120 years, underlining the long-term nature of nuclear waste.
The NAO said the MoD does not have a fully developed plan to dispose of the operational Vanguard and Astute submarines or its future Dreadnought-class boats, which have different types of nuclear reactor
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