SYDNEY – The government has assured Australia it will share Japan’s most secret stealth technology if it wins the contract to design and build Canberra’s next generation of submarines, Deputy Defense Minister Kenji Wakamiya reportedly said.
Three international bidders are competing for the project worth as much as 50 billion Australian dollars ($36 billion) to replace Australia’s current diesel-electric submarines, which are set to be retired starting around 2026.
The tender process is now closed, with submissions received from DCNS of France, Germany’s TKMS and the Japanese government.
Besides matching the range and endurance of Australia’s current Collins-class boats, the new generation are expected to offer superior sensor performance and stealth capabilities.
Wakamiya reportedly told The Australian newspaper in comments published Monday that Japan ordinarily only shares details of its Soryu-class submarines with the United States, but Australia is also considered a deeply trusted ally.
“It is of major importance to us that we will be sharing this secret technology with Australia,” he was quoted as saying.
Wakamiya added that Tokyo’s willingness to do this demonstrates the importance it places on maintaining regional security.
“Please also recognize that this decision was based on Japan seeing Australia as a very important partner,” he said. “And I believe that a joint project to build the new submarine would contribute greatly to maritime safety in this region.”
Late last year, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani likewise said that Japan winning the submarine deal could help ensure maritime security in the Asia-Pacific.
He was alluding to the importance of allies such as the U.S., Japan and Australia working together in the face of China’s growing military might.
For Australia, cooperating with Japan — whose Soryu class is widely seen as the best submarine of its type — risks angering China, its biggest trading partner.
According to the report, Japan is offering to build a new Soryu-class sub with its hull extended 6 to 8 meters to carry more batteries and fuel to take into account the massive distances the Australian Navy travels.
The tender process has been politically sensitive, with Canberra keen to maximize Australian industry involvement and jobs. There are fears that an off-the-shelf purchase could kill off the domestic shipbuilding industry.
Japan, France and Germany all have said they will build a large part or all of their submarines in Australia.
The competitive evaluation process expected to take 10 months.