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Australian Navy studies Japanese “Sōryū“-Class submarines

In the November 2011 issue of our “Flotsam” we said something about the future of the Australian submarine force.

Recently, media reported about the intent of the head of Australia´s “Future Submarine” project, Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt, and the Chief Defence Scientist, Dr. Alexander Zelinsky, to travel to Japan to receive detailed briefings about the “Sōryū”-Class submarines of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Forces, which have been introduced to that Navy in 2009. The travel plan is a result of a visit of the Head of the Japanese Navy, Admiral Masahiko Sugimoto, to Australia in June 2012, where he offered Australia cooperation with regard to these submarines, since Japan has ended its embargo on arms exports officially in December 2011 which was a legal self-restriction since the end of WW II.

The Japanese 4,200 t “Sōryū”-Class submarines would meet the conceptual ideas of the new submarines envisaged for Australia, at least with regard to its size and some of its capabilities. The ideas of a submarines force of some 12 units as a replacement for the currently 6 “Collins”-Class submarines after 2026 have been confirmed by the 2009 Australian Defence White Paper. Therefore, there might be some expectation on the side of the Australian vis-á-vis the Japanese connection.

Hakuryū (SS-503), Guam im Jahr 2013
Hakuryū (SS-503), Guam in 2013

The “Sōryū”-Class submarines of the Japanese Navy are a new class of subs built equally at the shipyards of Mitsubishi at Nagasaki and Kawasaki at Kobe since 2005. Meanwhile, four of these submarines (Sōryū/ SS-501, Unryu/ SS-502, Hakuryu/ SS-503, Kenryu/ SS-504) have been commissioned yet, three more (SS-505 to SS-507) are under construction, to be delivered between 2013 and 2015. The submarines have a length of 84 m and a beam of 9.1 m, their displacement is 2,950 t at surface and 4,200 t submerged. Their combination of diesel-electric and air-independent propulsion by means of Sterling engines allows speeds of 13 kn at surface and up to 20 kn submerged, the range is stated to be up to 6,100 nmi with 6,5 kn. The submarine has 6 torpedo tubes to launch 53.3 cm torpedoes, delivery of UGM-84 “Harpoon” ship-ship-missiles will be possible as well. The crew comprises some 65.


Again, Kriegsmarine U-boats make headlines

At the end of July 2012 two news by international media found widespread attention as they were concerned again with former Kriegsmarine U-boats, one of them based on fact the other one simply on wild speculation.

The reports about the first of the U-boats in question was rather clear and based on fact, since they told about the discovery of U 550 by a US diver team off the US East coast before the Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, in great depth, after these specialists have searched for this U-boat for some years, allegedly. Now, very clear pictures of Sonar-receptions of the wreckage of U 550 have been published widely by the media. On 16 April 1944 U 550 was harassed and sunk by three US Navy escort destroyers (USS Gandy, USS Joyce and USS Petersen), 44 sailors died, but 12 survived and were rescued. Among the survivors was the then Chief Engineer, Oberleutant zur See (= Lieutenant) Hugo Renzmann, who, being still being alive and 91 years of age, has become a much wanted partner for interviews following the discovery of U 550.

The second news, allegedly concerning a German U-boat, came from Canada, where a 30 meters long object has been found in the river Churchill near the village of Muskrat Falls, Labrador at about 20 m depth, more than 100 km away from the open Atlantic Ocean. According to a Canadian underwater specialist the object could well have been a small wartime submarine, which, however, needs to be examined further. Media follow hot on the heels of one another in spreading sensational news about an alleged “Nazi U-boat” found at Labrador, neglecting any serious attempts to verify that. Meanwhile, as headlines have been made any further news seem to fade away, in particular, since the Canadian wreckage experts have not published any further results of their examinations yet.

This story can be qualified as perfect PR gag with some justification. Fact is that the Kriegsmarine never operated 30 meters U-boats (Type VII U-boats had a length between 67 and 76 m and IXC U-boats had lengths between 76 and 87 m, the German midget U-boats were between 7 and 12 m long), nor have any patrols been documented of German U-boats maneuvering more than 100 km upwards rivers into unknown terrain, despite all bravery we know of.


  • CBC News v. 25.07.2012
  • www.theaurora.cav. 06.08.2012
  • Bild am Sonntag v. 05.08.2012

Fire on board USS Miami caused by arson

On 23 May 2012 fire broke out on board the US Navy´s SSGN USS Miami (SSN-755) while at dry dock at the USN Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, causing damage that has been estimated initially to be in the region of 400 Mill USD (see our “Flotsam” 07-2012). Meanwhile, investigations of the Navy CIS have brought to light surprising details. According to them a shipyard´s civilian worker, Casey James Fury, who was employed as painter and sandblaster at the dockyard, has admitted to have set fire purposely, as he was suffering from “anxieties and depression” and “wanted to get out of work soon”.

The court proceedings to follow now may lead to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of up to 250,000 $. Official indictment by the US District Court in Portland will be placed this month. During the interrogation Casey has admitted another attempt to set fire in dry dock on 16 June 2012, which fortunately could be extinguished quickly and which did not see any people injured as there was some lighter damage only to the dry dock cradle where the Miami was resting on. Initial findings thought the fire in the forward living quarters of the submarine to have been caused by an industrial vacuum cleaner that sucked up a heat source which then ignited debris inside.

Fury´s confession revealed that, because of his conditions of anxiety and because of taking anti-depressive medication, he simply used his lighter to set fire to some rags on the top bunk in the accommodation area of the USS Miami´s forward compartment.


  • Associated Press (AP) of 23rd of July 2012