January 19, 2017

Lithium-ion Battery Arrangements Planned for New Japanese Submarines

Outline of a Lithium-ion Battery for a Japanese submarine. This is from a January 2017 article on wispywood2344’s blog, at http://blog.livedoor.jp/wispywood2344/archives/2017-01.html .

Submarine Matters looks at Japanese submarines in detail with periodic updates (for example on August 26, 2016). The following is the latest update followed by the SORYU TABLE. The Japanese Navy (JMSDF) is highly likely to be the first Navy to use Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) on its diesel-electric submarines. At the same time these new submarines, known as Soryu Mark 2s, will not use the existing Stirling AIP systems.

The first Soryu Mark 2 (with LIBs, no AIP) carries Soryu program number “27SS” (see table below). Construction of 27SS at the MHI shipyard in Kobe began in 2015. 27SS might be launched this year (2017) (with LIBs being inserted after launch?). With such a new battery technology for submarine use 27SS will undergo many more trials/tests and exercises than usual, It may be commissioned by 2020.

The arrangement of batteries, including LIBs, has many implications and affects, influencing:
-  a submarine’s overall arrangement of all the other large internal items (fuel tanks, command center 
   location, diesel placement etc)
-  balance/buoyancy of the submarine
-  ease of removing old LIBs and placing in new ones
-  electronic control of function and performance of the 100s of batteries used
-  particularly avoiding runaway heat buildup in battery groups
-  emergency measures
-  minimising the batteries' electromagnetic emissions out of the sides and bottom of the submarine
   (with implications for indiscretion)


Some interesting new information on 27SS’s LIB arrangement and many other details appeared in January 2017 on wispywood2344’s blog at http://blog.livedoor.jp/wispywood2344/archives/2017-01.html. The information is by way of a Japanese Freedom of Information request possibly made by wispywood2344.

According to wispywood2344, 27SS shall be equipped with 2 battery module groups.

A.  Each group consists of 16 rows x 20 columns, adding up to 320 batteries per group x 2 totals 640

But, Anonymous thinks 27SS shall be equipped 2 possible different arrangements for the battery module groups.

B.  The 2 battery module groups, will consist of 12 rows x 28 columns, adding up to 336 batteries x 2
      totalling 672 batteries, OR

C.  12 rows x 24 columns, adding up to 288 batteries x 2 totalling 576 batteries.

By placing SORYU in the top left Search Box you will notice a wealth of information on Japanese submarines kindly provided to Submarine Matters.

SORYU TABLE (with earlier Oyashios) as at January 19, 2017
Build No
MoF approved amount ¥ Billions & FY
Laid Down
5SS Oyashio
8105 Oyashio
SS-590/ TS3608
¥52.2B FY1993
LABs only
 Jan 1994
Oct 1996
Mar 1998
10 subs
¥52.2B per sub
LABs only
 Feb 1994
Mar 2008
Soryu Mk 1
¥60B FY2004
Mar 2005
Dec 2007
¥58.7B FY2005
Mar 2006
Oct 2008
¥56.2 FY2006
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
¥53B FY2007
Mar 2008
Nov 2010
¥51B FY2008
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
No 21SS built
¥52.8B FY2010
Jan 2011
Oct 2013
¥54.6B FY2011
Feb 2012
Oct 2014
7 Mar 2016
¥54.7B FY2012
Mar 2013
2 Nov 2015
Mar? 2017
¥53.1B FY2013
22 Oct 2013
12 Oct 2016
Mar? 2018
¥51.7B FY2014
Mar 2019?
27SS First
Soryu Mk 2
¥64.3B FY2015
LIBs only
28SS  Second
Soryu Mark 2
¥63.6B FY2016
LIBs only
Mar 2021?
29SS First of
New Class
¥76B FY2018
LIBs only
Table courtesy of exclusive information provided to Submarine MattersLABs = lead-acid batteries, AIP=air independent propulsion, LIBs=lithium-ion batteries. ¥***B = Billion Yen.


January 18, 2017

Liaoning carrier group 6 - Uses for Liaoning.

As well as the J-15 fighters Liaoning can probably take the usefully medium-large Z-18 helicopter. See much larger Liaoning image.

Liaoning and its exercises with its escort group are a gradual Chinese weapons system project. China recognises that building superior aircraft carriers is more a long-term (15+ year) goal. A complimentary project is airbase island building in the South China Sea. Also useful to China would be a developed aerial refueling capability for carrier aircraft and land-based aircraft (currently very limited).

Drawing on the sources below I'd say China has built and operated the Liaoning:

-  as a technical development prototype. Blueprints or just looking at Liaoning in port are inadequate. Liaoning's existing systems, China's many thousands of repairs and modifications, how Liaoning's technology interoperates with China's new J-15s, helicopters, defensive weapons and sensors all need to be tested in practice.

-  training. the ship-crew, airwing maintainers/directors and pilots all need to be trained and tested. Best to make mistakes in practice rather than in action.

-  given China has never operated modern fleets of ships of any type, in action, many skills and perceptions need developing. The difficult maneuvres and interdependencies of a carrier group also need practice and testing

-  strategies and doctrines must be developed to coordinate Liaoning air operations with air operations from bases on the Chinese mainland, Hainan, and as MHalblaub says below, air bases on South China Sea islands.

-  Liaoning is likely to be of little use in "liberating" Taiwan operations as missiles and aircraft on the Chinese mainland are already in easy range of Taiwan. Liaoning would also be highly vulnerable to Taiwanese anti-ship missiles and possibly torpedos

-  along the lines Josh says below Liaoning is of little use against powerful navies (US, Japan, South Korea (ROK) I'd add Russian) and even against Australia's submarine squadron.

-  it is in low or no threat environments that Liaoning's small, limited range, airwing is more useful. 

-  large aircraft carriers are potent symbols of emerging China’s status as a great power and eventual superpower. More specifically Liaoning is useful in ship visits to
   =  boosting patriotism in northern China, in Shanghai and Hong Kong (these shorter
       range missions would also help Liaoning develop its group logistics-replenishment procedures

       and iron-out any propulsion breakdowns
   =  to intimidate or impress the locals in small countries, perhaps East Timor, Fiji, Solomons and
       other island nations,
   =  to regional countries and arms customers, eg, the Philippines, Malaysia. Thailand might be
        possible in August or later in 2017. This is for a proposed "International Fleet Review Thailand
        2017" Thailand's 11,500 ton carrier is featured in this fleet review "trailer"
-  for regional disaster-humanitarian missions and evacuation of Chinese nationals. Liaoning can provide many resources including a squadron of medium-large helicopters, accommodation for many, and medical facilities   
-  China may eventually aim to sail a Liaoning carrier group across the Indian Ocean. India may object and dissuade China from trying for several years. Perhaps in response to this Submarine Matters article see US Admiral Harry Harris Jr. CINCPAC speculating (30 hours later on 19/1/2017) talking of likely Indian concern about threat of a Chinese carrier group in future operating in Indian Ocean. 

-  To service a rare alliance a visit to Karachi, Pakistan in 2019 may be enticing?

-  2019 or later an operational mission as a command/helicopter carrier on anti-drug, anti-piracy duties my be possible off the Horn of Africa. This may tie in with China's development of its new regional administrative and naval base at Djibouti (where thousands of Chinese military and civilians will serve).

-  the followon ski-jump carrier to Liaoning may be the first used for counter-insurgency/terrorism airstrikes from the Mediterranean if the Syrian conflict continues. Such airstrikes from "floating airbases" are the standard function of US carriers and Charles de Gaulle.

A followon ski-jump carrier or two and then a catapult carrier are likely to be the next evolutionary stages in China's carrier program.


Josh indicated here: "The Liaoning's primary uses as I see it are gathering operational experience, projecting power into low/no threat areas, and diplomatic coercion of lesser regional powers (ie, Not the US, Oz, ROK, or Japan). Again those powers she likely is more of a liability and a target than an offensive asset."

MHalblaub indicated at 17/1/17 11:32 PM: "The Liaoning is a training vessel for China. Unlike other nations China has the capability to build nuclear powered aircraft carriers. China will notice the deficiencies and build a proper carrier on its own with catapults. At the moment China is building some very large aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. A type called island and very hard to sink by a submarine." 

I found comment the American who may be the No.1 public naval analyst. He is Ronald O'Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Congressional Research Service (CRS) . In China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress, June 17, 2016, CRS 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL33153 https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf (PDF around 10 MB) O'Rourke writes several pages (19 to 26) of comment on China's aircraft carrier and carrier aircraft aspirations. Pages 23 to 25 are strong on Liaoning's uses. 


January 17, 2017

Threats to Liaoning carrier group 5 - begs question of uses.

Now or soon AUVs will be able to identify Liaoning’s unique electronic and sound signatures. The AUV could then work through a transmitting float-to-satellite to cue long range missiles or buddy-torpedo-AUVs to destroy Liaoning. The AUVs could be air-dropped or submarine inserted in Liaonings likely paths - days or weeks before Liaoning passes by. This is one reason why China went to the political trouble, on December 15, 2016, to drone-nap a US UUV near the Philippines.

More generally Liaoning carrier group 4 yesterday pointed to just some of the weaknesses of Liaoning + its escorts as an effective fighting unit. Today I decided to reiterate the overwhelming potential threats to a Chinese attempt (that would use the Liaoning group) to project power east to the Second island chain.

Liaoning's current to medium term (out to 2030) uses will be published tomorrow.

As the key above indicates, the First island chain is in red, and Second island chain in blue. The US possession of Guam, with its large long range aircraft base and naval/SSN base gives Guam a commanding position over the Second island chain.

Liaoning and its escorts alone cannot defeat all the threats out past China's very restricted First island chain environment. The First island chain marks a bastion protective zone for the Chinese navy but foreign land forms and narrows also keep the Chinese navy bottled up in this zone. 

It takes a great deal of national power to despatch a carrier group in safety – into threatening waters that are outside land based coverage. Even out to the Second Island China is potentially threatened by  countries with long experience and advanced militaries (Russia, Japan, South Korea and US forces). 
-  even Vietnam, Singapore and Australia have useful submarines, with torpedos and growing
    long-range anti-shipping missile capabilities, 
-  North Korea has a near pathological leadership with access to deliverable nuclear weapons (in a
    very few years) that may bite (on land or sea) the Chinese hand that feeds it.

To face all these threats - within the parameters of a medium level conflict (an international war using only conventional (non-nuclear) weapons) China would need, out to the Second island chain:
-  regional air-superiority, ie. many more fighter aircraft than the 24 the Liaoning can provide + MPAs
   (for ASW and anti-surface missions) that Liaoning doesn't have
-  surface superiority on the sea and over landforms (ie. no enemy land-based long range missiles
    within range of Liaoning), and

For undersea-submarine superiority, against forces of the power and standard of the US and Russian navies, China would need:
-  SSNs of higher quality than China's Type 093s, and
-  sensor superiority to anticipate and avoid such threats as:
   =  Fixed but in some ways smart and autonomous mines, that may be floating, tethered, and
       rising from the seafloor or LWT style (propeller or rocket propelled).
   =  AUV/UAVs that promise to be even more autonomous, longer ranged, over longer periods, even
       having battery recharging facilities on the sea floor.

The whole Western strategy of restricting Chinese power projection beyond the Second island chain, east into the broad Pacific, may collapse if the US adopts any isolationist, withdrawal from Asian bases from Guam or Darwin strategy. 

So what use is Liaoning to China currently and out to the medium (15 year) term?


January 16, 2017

Liaoning carrier group 4 - inferior to any Nimitz group

Macau Daily Times, Jan 16, 2017, and other sources have provided comparisons of key traits of China’s Liaoning ski-jump carrier group versus US Nimitz carrier groups (See larger image  here. Image via Business Insider Australia). These include: 

-  far less Chinese experience at long range, inter-ocean logistics (supply chains) for Liaoning and its
   whole carrier group

-  far fewer port arrangements, physical facilities and supporting ocean rim allies than the US 

-  Liaoning only carries 36 fighters/helicopters (nothing like the unique Osprey) vs up to around 80
   fighters/helicopters/Ospreys on Nimitzes.

-  China's only carrier fighter type, the J-15, lacks the stealth of F-35Bs or Cs and there seem no plans
    to make carrier capable stealth prototypes of China's J-20 or J-31.

-  as with India's INS Vikramaditya (ex-Kiev) and Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov, Liaoning’s old Soviet
   steam turbines were badly designed, were poorly maintained, of limited range, limited to 20
   knots cruise. This is even though China modified Liaoning's propulsion in a reported "1,000" ways. 

-  This means Liaoning would take longer to arrive on station and be less able to flee from threats.

-  Meanwhile Nimitz-class can travel nuclear, around the world, at 30 knots.

-  the J-15 ski-jump launch requires the J-15s to use more fuel than catapult assisted aircraft US

-  Lower power to weight aircraft types (eg. AEW aircraft and cargo aircraft - standard on Nimitzes)
    cannot be used on Liaoning

-  of course, no catapult assistance limits fighters to smaller fuel-loads (far less range) and to lighter
   weapons and/or sensor loads

-  Liaoning’s pilots, airwing crew and ship crew are far less experienced (by around 94 years) than
    their American counterparts, especially in fire and kinetic emergencies

-  Liaoning doesn’t appear yet able to launch and recover aircraft at night, crucial for combat
   effectiveness and safety (pilots don't want to underestimate when darkness comes)

All this makes Liaoning far less flexible and less effective than Nimitzes.

Tomorrow I look at what Liaoning can do and where. 

Please connect to Liaoning carrier group 3


January 15, 2017

Missile Threat to Japan Perilous - Talks

Japan's three tiered anti-missile defense program. The main threat is nuclear tipped ballistic missiles from North Korea and to a lesser extent China. Japan hasn't decided whether it will, or can, deploy the third tier (known as THAAD). (Diagram courtesy Asahi Shimbun)


We in Australia have no idea how serious the conventional and especially nuclear threats are to Japan. Threats to Japan are a major reason why yesterday's Japan-Australia talks featured regional security so highly.

The nuclear missiles (without their warheads) that North Korea has tested for years near Japan are causing greater Japanese anxiety. 

-  one reason is that North Korea has been steadily shrinking formerly too large nuclear warheads to a
   small enough size to fit on missiles. 

-  another reason is North Korea is developing submarines that could fire nuclear missiles. 

China has a much more mature and powerful nuclear arsenal than North Korea. China has had missile warhead sized nuclear weapons since the 1960s and submarine fired nuclear missiles since the 1980s. 

A North Korean or Chinese nuclear missile could reach Japan in under 5 minutes - hence Japan is worried.

To meet these threats Japan is developing increasingly comprehensive anti-missile missile defenses to shoot down North Korean and also Chinese missiles.


RYO AIBARA for Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, January 14, 2017, reports http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701140038.html

“...Japan currently relies on a two-pronged approach for missile defense, but is considering adding a third element because of the rapid advances in missile technology by North Korea.

...Japan's current missile defense involves a two-tiered system.

Outside of the atmosphere, SM-3 interceptor rockets launched by Aegis vessels would target ballistic missiles, while surface-to-air [Patriot] PAC-3 missiles would be aimed at the ballistic missiles once they re-enter the atmosphere.

Based on the Medium-term [Japanese] Defense Program for the period from fiscal 2014 until fiscal 2018, the number of Aegis destroyers capable of carrying SM-3 rockets will double from the current four. Improvements will also be made on the SM-3 and PAC-3 missiles to expand the range over which they can shoot down ballistic missiles.

[there are also calls in Japan for a third system]...the [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)] system...capable of intercepting missiles moving at far higher trajectories and even outer space.

...A major hurdle for deploying the THAAD is cost. Putting the system into play would require hundreds of billions of yen [many US$ Billions], which may be beyond what the [Japanese] Finance Ministry would sanction given the nation's tight fiscal crunch.