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India, Japan Set to Deepen Anti-Submarine Warfare Cooperation

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Asia Defense

India, Japan Set to Deepen Anti-Submarine Warfare Cooperation

India and Japan are considering expanding joint anti-submarine warfare training.

India, Japan Set to Deepen Anti-Submarine Warfare Cooperation
Credit: Kawasaki Heavy Industries

Indian Defense Minister Shri Arun Jaitely and his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, have agreed to expand joint anti-submarine warfare training between the Indian Navy and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), according to a joint press statement issued on the occasion of the India-Japan Annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue, held on September 5 in Tokyo, Japan.

“The two sides will consider inclusion of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training to expand cooperation,” the statement reads. “In addition the ministers agreed to pursue exchanges and training by ASW aviation units such as P-3C.” (Japan currently operates around 80 P-3C Orion aircraft.) Furthermore, the press statement specifically mentions the participation of Japan’s first indigenously developed and built maritime patrol aircraft, the Kawasaki P-1, in next year’s iteration of the trilateral Malabar naval drill.

Japan became a permanent member of the annual Malabar naval exercise, originally a bilateral naval drill between the United States and India, in 2015. This year’s naval drill had a heavy ASW focus and included the MSDF’s largest surface warship, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo, an effective anti-submarine warfare platform. (The carrier can accommodate over a dozen Mitsubishi-built SH-60k ASW helicopters.) The statement does not mention additional details on future Indo-Japanese ASW training.

Nevertheless as my colleague Ankit Panda reported earlier, the Indian Navy could potentially operate Japanese submarines in the near future. India has recently issued a request-for-information to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) for an estimated $8 billion contract to build six advanced submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP) technology under the Project 75(I) initiative.

India and Japan have both been stepping up their anti-submarine warfare capabilities in recent years.

MHI and KHI have been building the new Soryu-class of diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK) for the JMSDF.  The JMSDF currently fields older 9 Oyashio-class and eight Soryu-class submarines with five more SSKs of the latter class to be inducted by 2021. The Indian Navy is slated to commission the lead boat of its new class of diesel-electric attack submarines, Scorpene-class (Kalvari-class) diesel-electric attack submarine, INS Kalvari, in the coming weeks. India is expected to operate a total of six Kalvari-class SSKs.

Furthermore, India has purchased eight P-8I Neptune ASW aircraft from the United States and is expected to receive four more aircraft beginning in 2020. The P-8I is one of the most advanced sub hunting planes in the world equipped with some of the most modern U.S. ASW technology, and armed with cutting-edge weaponry including Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets, and Mark 82 depth charges.

As I explained in a piece for The Diplomat Magazine, India could enormously benefit from enhanced training with the elite JMSDF submarine force. “Japanese submariners have gained admiration and respect for their professionalism and their boats’ excellent performance characteristics from allies all over the world including the Royal Australian Navy and U.S. Navy,” I noted. “During military exercises such as the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific exercise, Japanese subs have repeatedly succeeded in penetrating multi-layered defense perimeters of carrier strike groups and successfully attack surface warships.”

India-Japan maritime security cooperation overall remains a work in progress as I reported earlier this year:

Indian and Japanese defense and foreign ministry personnel have been holding a lower level recurring maritime security dialogue for years. Since 2012, the Indian Navy and JMSDF have held the Japan-India Maritime Exercise.

Japanese and Indian defense officials interact through a number of bilateral forums including the 2+2 Dialogue, Defense Policy Dialogue, and a Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard cooperation dialogue. In 2016, India and Japan also set up the first dialogue between both countries’ air forces. 

Defense industry ties have also been slow to emerge.  For example, the September 5 joint statement merely states that the ministers “noted the effort made by both countries” regarding the conclusion of a $1.3 billion defense deal for the procurement of 12 Japan-made ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious search-and-rescue aircraft.