KEY POINTS

  • The 29SS submarine will have an advanced conformal sonar system
  • It is more discreet with the ability to do better in shallow coastal waters
  • JMSDF will increase its fleet to include 22 diesel and AIP-powered submarines

Amid increasing territorial conflicts with China, Japan is reportedly building a 'deadly' next-generation submarine, which will be commissioned by 2031, said reports. 

The submarine dubbed the 29SS or 'New 3,000-[metric] ton Submarine' will be manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said a report by Kyle Mizokami that appeared in The National Interest.

The 29SS will begin development in 2025–2028 and, will cost $710 million. As per the report, the 29SS is an evolution of the lithium-ion batteries-powered Soryu with all its maneuverability and resilience. 

However, the 29SS will have an inclined bow and its "tall sail squashed downwards and blended into the hull." These modifications will improve aqua dynamics. It will improve acoustic stealth by cutting down drag, which facilitates speed and range. The 29SS will be quieter, thanks to a floating floor structure that can mitigate vibrations and shocks.

Besides several other improvements, the 29SS will also boast advanced conformal sonar systems. The vessel's bow will reportedly be optimized for discretion, long-distance detection, and also function better in shallow coastal waters, the report added.

The report also touches on the vessel's armament configuration, which is likely to include at least a half-dozen torpedo tubes. 

This comes as Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force aims to increase its submarine fleet amid increasing Chinese and Russian threats. As per the plan, the JMSDF will increase its submarine fleet to 22 operational diesel and AIP-powered submarines, plus one testing and two training submarines.

China's increased operational capability too has forced Japan to take steps in this direction. Tokyo is engaged in a territorial conflict with both China and Russia over Senkaku Islands and Kurile Islands, respectively. Both China and Russia own conventional and nuclear-armed missiles that Japan wants to avoid. 

Recently, Japan and the U.S. carried out an anti-submarine warfare exercise to counter China, whose submarine forces continue to grow. The JMSDF conducted an in-house mine warfare exercise and a bilateral mine warfare exercise with the U.S. Navy.

China reportedly has more than 40 submarines capable of firing long-range and supersonic ASCMs.

The U.S. too has been partnering with Japan to increase its hold in the Pacific as a bigger Japanese submarine fleet would give it an edge in the region. 

"Japan is the most capable U.S. ally in the region," Jeffrey Hornung, a political scientist, told Nikkei Asia. "If choke point defense were assigned to the Japanese submarine fleet, the U.S. could focus on fighting the surface war and the Japanese could focus on the subsurface," he added. 

Soryu -SS-501 - Japan submarine Japanese Submarine Sōryū (SS-501) was commissioned on March 30, 2009. Photo: Kaijō Jieitai / Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, CC BY 4.0