Japan to develop high-tech submarine to prepare for future threat

Japan plans to develop and produce a "next generation" non-nuclear submarine that is quieter, more resistant to attack and has more advanced sonar capabilities, a Defense Agency official said Tuesday.

The estimated 5.1 billion yen (US$42.9 million; Ђ34.28 million), 10-year project is to begin in April 2007, an agency spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

He said the agency has made a budget request of 400 million yen (US$3.36 million; Ђ2.68 million) for the initial year, pending parliamentary approval.

The project primarily aims to cut the noise from a submarine's propeller to minimize the risk of it being detected, while increasing the vessel's shock resistance in case of enemy attacks, he said.

The agency plans to conduct research and development in the first five years, followed by experiments on a prototype through 2014 for an expected launch in 2016, he said.

The spokesman denied the project is targeted to a particular nation. But he said China and Russia currently have nuclear-powered submarines that can operate anywhere almost indefinitely, reports AP.

Japan has 16 conventional submarines but no nuclear-powered ones because of the country's policy of not possessing, producing nor allowing the introduction of nuclear-related weapons into Japan under its pacifist Constitution.

The submarine project surfaced at a time of mounting military tensions in the region.

North Korea announced a successful nuclear test on Oct. 9, prompting U.N. sanctions over the weekend. Japan also has unresolved territorial disputes with China, Russia and South Korea.