The Australian Defence department is pursuing closer co-operation with Japan as it determines the way ahead for the submarine service. The navy’s six Collins class boats are due to be replaced from 2026, and the long process of developing replacements is well under way. A 2009 White Paper outlined plans to spend around A$40 billion to build 12 new submarines with greater range and endurance.

The Japanese Souryu class submarine has been identified as a potential successor, notwithstanding that Tokyo does not share defence technology with any nation other than the US. This stance is now softening as tensions in the region grow with Chinese naval expansion.

Another option under investigation is that of extending the lives of the Collins class by adopting sophisticated Japanese drivetrain technology. Of the many performance issues that have beset the class, their propulsion system remains a weakness. By replacing the entire system, from diesel engines and electric motors to batteries and propellers, their service lives could be extended by another ten years.

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