Japan Launches New Submarine Class

Japan launched the first of a new submarine class this week in Kobe.

The 3,000-ton Taigei and its sister ships are larger, quieter successors to Japan’s advanced Soryu-class submarines. Taigei, which means “big whale,” will now undergo testing and outfitting and will likely be ready for operational employment sometime in 2022.

The Taigei brings Japan’s submarine fleet to 22, a goal set by Japan’s Ministry of Defense in 2010 as China’s fleet was growing in size and assertiveness. One more Soryu is under construction to complete the planned class of 12 hulls and a total of seven Taigeis are planned for now, permitting the retirement of some older Oyashio-class submarines nearing the end of their service lives.

China operates six nuclear-powered attack submarines and about 50 conventionally powered attack submarines, though many are older designs.

For quiet operation, the Taigei will use an advanced lithium battery system, pioneered on the last two Soryu submarines built, that will provide it with longer endurance. The batteries are recharged using diesel generators. Japan does not operate nuclear-propelled submarines.

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