May 5, 2016

Turnbull's Pre-Election Shipbuilding Spending Rush

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (left) may remain ahead in the polls (as at May 1, 2016) while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (right) continues his naval shipbuilding spending offensive.

Prime Minister Turnbull is hurling vast sums at naval shipbuilding, prior to the July 2, 2016 Election, in the hope that it will slow any lead by the Labor Opposition and the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT). If Labor wins (meaning yet another new Prime Minister!...) the Labor heartland shipbuilding State of Victoria (neglected by Turnbull) is likely to win more of the shipbuilding action.

Submarine Matters thinks its time to tabulate the avalanche of Australian shipbuilding announcements on:

February 25, 2016 – the 2016 Defence White Paper documents including the At A Glance summary Maritime Operations and Anti-Submarine Warfare

April 26, 2016 – that Media Release on announcement that DCNS won, - see Sub Matters article, and

May 3, 2016 – Turnbull Government Budget which included a Defence Budget Media Release and within that a “Naval Shipbuilding Strategy” Section. On May 3, 2016 the Government announced that the Defence Budget 2016-17 had risen to A$32.3 Billion [US$24.24 Billion] representing 1.9% of GDP.

The 2016-17 Defence Budget for 23 million Australians (when added to the list) will exceed the Defence Budget for 60 million Italians.

Over the next 10 years the Australian Government’s naval shipbuilding strategy will invest around $90 billion in the naval capability and shipbuilding industry.

I’ve used figures from the February to May 2016 announcement to compile the Table below.


12 x Shortfin Submarines
$50 Billion + $5 Billion Combat System. Expensive planning began years ago. Build at/near Techport Australia, Adelaide. High degree of interoperability with USN. Likely begin to enter service in early 2030s to around 2050. Rolling acquisition program to maintain a fleet of 12 subs as sub and ASW technologies develop. A review of strategic circumstances and developments in submarine technology will be conducted in the late 2020s to consider whether the configuration of the submarines remains suitable or whether consideration of other specifications should commence.

6 x Collins Class
Total sustainment costs around A$600 million/year. Mid-life upgrades will cost $Billions to extend life into the 2030s when Shortfins will be enter service.

12 x Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPVs)
$3 Billion to build. Will replace the 13 Armidale Class patrol boats. First Pass Approval by Cabinet. Shortlist stage. First OPVs will begin build in Adelaide, 2018 before moving to Henderson, Perth, when the Future Frigates begin construction in Adelaide in 2020.

9 x Future Frigates (FFs)
$35 Billion build. First Pass Approval by Cabinet. Shortlist stage. Build starts 2020. ASW, air warfare and land attack cruise missiles. Entering service from the late 2020s. Replacing 8 existing ANZAC frigates.

24 x MH60R Seahawks
Naval combat helicopters being accepted into service for AWDs and ANZAC Class Frigates’ antiship and antisubmarine warfare operations.

21 x Pacific Patrol Boats (PPBs)
Austal build up to 21 steel-hulled PPBs in Henderson, beginning 2017. PPBs mainly for some Pacific Island nations.

hydrographic survey vessels
Current fleet of 2 x large and 4 x smaller to be retired from early 2020s.
3 x Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs)
AEGIS equipped, being built in Adelaide. In service by early 2020s.
2 x Canberra class
Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) have just entered fleet.

8 x MRH90 helicopters
will support the LHDs.
4 more P-8As
Maritime surveillance and response aircraft with ASW, anti-shipping, over sea and land intelligence gathering capabilities in addition to 8 x P-8A’s already ordered, 3 more to be ordered = total of 15 P-8As.

2 more Airbus 
Multi-Role Tanker Transport [MMRTT] [which can refuel P-8As] aircraft to bolster the Royal Australian Air Force’s existing fleet of five = total of 7 KC-30As.


Australia is undertaking the largest naval shipbuilding program in its history (this is including the WWII period when most major ships (cruisers, destroyers and the 2 post-war carriers) were built in Britain).

With the many shibuilding programs competing for limited defence funds DCNS may be making efforts to commence the Shortfun program early. 

Just prior to the July 2, 2016 Election the Coalition Government of Prime Minister Turnbull has been  pouring money into shipbuilding because this allocation of scarce Australian funds cannot be criticised by the Labor Opposition. This is because the money benefits a key Labor constituency – the Shipbuilding Unions. Turnbull hopes that this money might drive a wedge between the Labor Right, the Unions and the anti-Defence Labor Left.

Whether this shipbuilding spending will reverse the slight Labor lead in polling (as at May 1, 2016) is unknown. Arms exporters would need to be philosophical about yet another new Australian Government with a new Prime Minister.

This high spending is in an economic climate of reduced government revenue due to low prices for all the minerals and energy Australia exports. 

Any suggested additions/changes (with a kind donation :) welcome.


April 29, 2016

Shortfin's Pump Jet Propulsor - A Sales Feature?

Note that a Scorpene (2,000 tonne "small" conventional submarine (SSK)) is depicted with a pump jet. Was the Scorpene pump jet only an idea in 2005 that was phased out/cancelled? Or is pump jet a possible future inclusion for Scorpene? Pump Jets have been on French submarines since the first Triomphant class SSBN was launced in 1994. (Artwork courtesy DCNS Australia)

Here the Scorpene has no Pump Jet, on the Shipbucket graphics website (circa 2010).

Shortfin concept displaying its proposed pump jet. Also note its X-plane rudders. (Artwork courtesy Navy Recognition)

DCNS' 2016 "pitch" for the Shortfin stated: "Pump jet propulsion means the Shortfin Barracuda can move more quietly than submarines with obsolete propeller technology. In a confrontation between two otherwise identical submarines, the one with pump jet propulsion always has the tactical advantage.

Will a pump jet (which appeared then disappeared from DCNS' Scorpene SSK) disappear from the Shortfin SSK? Will the Shortfin then have the bare propeller which practically all SSKs have?  

The submarine speed threshold (14 knots? 20 knots? somewhere in between?) of when a pump jet becomes tacticly advantageous depends on the situation and needs to be weighed against the downsides of pump jets.

High pump jet weight compared to a bare propeller is a common downside. But wouldn't pump jet weight be scalable? That is would a pump jet for an average 1,800 tonne SSK be proportionatly smaller and lighter than a pump jet for a 5,000 tonne Shortfin?

If the scalability argument is valid - what is the main thing distinguishing SSKs from SSNs? Engine power and resulatant speed.

An SSN can operate at 20+ knots for weeks-months while a SSK fully submerged on battery (and even AIP) can only operate at 20+ knots for (probably) 2 days or less. 



-  In the rare but crucial tactical situation where high speed is required to fight another submarine or flee from a surface ASW threat, a pump jet can allow a higher speed before the onset of cavitation. This means lower acoustic signatures.

-  the shroud of a pumpjet can protect the rotating element (the impeller) from striking hard objects (like rocks or the seafloor). This can assist littoral, shallow water operation.

-  If the pump jet is steerable it may make the submarine more maneuverable at slow speeds. 

Disadvantages compared to Bare Propeller

-  Can be less efficient than a propeller at low speed, leading to higher consumption of limited fuel (not a concern for unlimited nuclear reactor). This may well include an SSK's typical efficient submerged speed (5 knots?) on battery or AIP.

-  Inability to efficiently reverse or reverse at all to slow down or reverse the submarine? Therefore the sub needs a bow thruster? Or would there be a bow thruster anyway for a Shortfin?

-  heavier, more expensive, complex?

-  Punp jet intake grill can become clogged with debris; e.g., seaweed. (Can be mitigated by being able to reverse?)

The Kilo submarine B-871 ("Alrosa") (launched in 1989 (with pump jet? or retrofitted?) has a large pump jet with 7 stators and 11 propulsors. It spends more time in dry dock for repairs and upgrades to its pump jet than at sea.  The pump jet appears to be of excessive size - perhaps implying Alrosa is a test vehicle for a pump jet intended for much larger SSN's or SSBNs. 


It is unclear why pump jets have not been used for SSKs - leading to more questions than answers, at this stage:

-  are the usual 2,000 tonnes or less size SSKs too small?
-  do the relative lower power of SSK diesels limit their ability to reach pump jet effective speeds?
-  only used once(?) for a larger 2,350 tons (surfaced) SSK (that being Kilo B-871 Alrosa)
-  artwork of a pump jet included on a DCNS Scorpene (2,000 tonne SSK) but no evidence (?) it has been adopted for Scorpene.
-  are pump jets are a recent, expensive, high end, technology only used in already expensive nuclear submarines?
-  pump jets have not been retrofitted on DCNS' small (2,400 tonne surfaced) Amethyste-Rubis class SSNs, so does that prove small size eliminates pump jets or cost of retrofitting on Amethyste-Rubis would be too high?

It is very difficult to nail down whether the pump jet proposal for the Shortfin is of sales value but a technology that may be of marginal practical value.

There is the argument that the Barracuda SSN can serve as a prototype to iron out any technical problems before the Shortfins are built? But then, will the speed envelope of the Shortfin be similar enough to the Barracuda for Barracuda to be a pump jet prototype for Shortfin? Ultimately much will rely on how many knots Shortfin can reliably move - something that may only be apparent in about 2031.

Artwork courtesy DCNS.

Sources included:

- and


April 28, 2016

Specifications Table - Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A

After internet searching no current, precise, detailed, list of DCNS Shortfin specifications has been located. Instead I've drawn together (and sometimes inferred) specs from a variety of internet sources (see links in Table). Some details are available through DCNS Youtubes, diagrams and pictures.

DCNS has limited the publication of Shortfin’s projected specs as keeping the specs secret was a requirement of the CEP. Detailed specs would reflect Australia’s detailed needs. Some/most specs will remain secret.

Also experienced arms sellers (like DCNS) don’t telegraph all the particulars of their product offers.

Now that DCNS has won, it and Australia are likely to be more forthcoming with the specs.

Specs and shapes for other French submarines are also useful indicators. These subs include the Scorpene SSK (2005-present), Triomphant SSBN (1997-present), the 2014 SMX Ocean concep and, of course, the Barracuda SSN (due to be launched 2017).


Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A - Figures at 28 April 2016
Class overview
DCNS Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A
Only envisaged is the  Royal Australian Navy (RAN)
12 to be commissioned:
Approx. commissioned and operational 2030–2070. [may be an initial batch of 6 diesel-electric. By 2040s serious planning for 6 SSNs may occur - depending on strategic threats.]
Preceded by:
[Likely to be 100 HLES high-yield pressure hull steel, roughly equivalent to US HY-130 - see Submarine Matters article Table that uses Japanese document.]
60 + around 16 divers/special forces (depending on mission)
Transit speed 10 to 14 knots (kt) over [12,000?] to18,000 nautical miles (nm).
Maximum submerged speed 20+ kt. Endurance at sea 90 days depending on fuel, food and crew exhaustion. Max range at achieved at constant speed approx 10 kt.

Typical mission profile maybe mix of Transit at average speed (snorting or surfaced?) of 14kt for a week, one month Patrol, Transit back to Fleet Base West at 14kt for week.
 4,500 tonnes (surfaced) [numerous sources]
 5,000 tonnes (approx) (submerged) [numerous sources]
94 meters (see DCNS Marketing Director give length 55 seconds into this Youtube)
Diameter (Beam)
8.8 meters
15.5 meters (hull + fin/sail)
Pumpjet propulsion
[Important to use the same pumpjet tried and tested on the Barracuda rather than a special new propeller only developed to the Shortfin. Pumpjet superior at higher submarine speeds but may have downsides at typical low Patrol speeds]
Acoustic stealth
Rubber/elastic mountings for moving and reverberating parts inside.
Capable of projecting
Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), 
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
Underwater decoys (against torpedoes and mobile mines)
On hull behind fin/sail.
Dry dock shelter for divers, diver delivery vehicles and large displacement UUVs (LDUUVs)
· 4 [?] × 533 mm (21.0 in) tubes
Around 30 heavyweight shots including: including Mark 48 torpedoes, mines, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Tomahawk (land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles) and perhaps anti-air missiles.
Sonars from Thales and other makers. “The sonar suite performance provided by Thales will be the best available ever for a submarine this size.”
Combat System
Updated AN/BYG-1 (the network of sensors, databases and weapons costing about one third of the upfront price of the submarine)
Max Depth
300+ meters (operational)
Exterior stealth
Anechoic coating on hull to deflect and dampen sound waves inside and mainly outside the sub
 Likely 6 x MTU 12V 4000 diesels
  [note Chilean, Indian and Brazilian Scorpenes have 4 x MTU 16V 396 SE]
  7 MW (9,400 hp) permanent magnet motor


As this is a very recent (April 14, 2016) DCNS Youtube the claims/comments in it are useful. I have recorded most word-for-word and how many seconds in:

0:20 - Stealth capabilities from France’s nuclear submarine program,  

0:24 - pumpjet propulsion [important to use the same pumpjet tried and tested on the Barracuda rather than a special new propeller only developed to the Shortfin]

0:27 - “Hydroplances can retract to reduce drag and noise.”

0:32 - “Most powerful sonar ever produced for a conventional submarine” [Conventions sub’s sonar are less powerful because the sub’s are smaller with no reactor to produce high amounts of electricity for sonars.]

0:42 - “As new technology is developed between France, Australia and the United States upgrades are easily made via quick access tech insert hatches”

0:47 - “By adopting DCNS’ technology Australia will join an elite club which includes only the UK, US and France.” [thats the Western nuclear submarine hull club].

I'll add more details to the Shortfin Table as these details are published on the internet.


April 27, 2016

Why DCNS Won.

Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A (Artwork courtesy DCNS).
In the avalanche of DCNS win articles over the last 2 days Hans J. Ohff has written this excellent explanation in The Conversation, of April 26, 2016. This is republished in full under The Conversation's generously provided Creative Commons Licence. The string is

"Why the French submarine won the bid to replace the Collins-class

France will be awarded the contract to partner with Australia to build the next generation of submarines to replace the Collins-class, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced today.
But what was at stake in this A$50 billion program? What were the real technological differences between the submarines on offer?
In early 2015, the Department of Defence issued invitations to Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany, Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS) of France, and the Japanese government – represented through Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) – to submit concepts for a submarine design by November 30, 2015.
The proposal was also to address the construction and managing of Australia’s most complex defence project ever undertaken. Sidestepping competitive tendering, the government opted for a competitive evaluation process (CEP) to determine its overseas partner(s) for the future submarine program (FSP) project SEA1000.
Headed by Rear Admiral Gregory John Sammut, the Commonwealth’s CEP evaluation team was scheduled to submit its recommendation to an expert advisory panel by early June 2016.
This process has been brought forward in order for the government to announce the overseas submarine design house and, importantly, where FSP will be built before the Senate and the House of Representatives are dissolved for a double-dissolution election.

The French option

DCNS’s Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A, a derivative of its Barracuda nuclear-powered attack submarine currently under construction in France, has turned out to be the winner.
Because of the endurance and long range stipulated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the French have selected the Barracuda as their design reference. The Shortfin Barracuda will be equipped with four diesel alternators to generate electricity, a >7 megawatt permanent magnet motor and ample battery storage.
These should allow it to meet or exceed the RAN’s requirements of range, endurance and indiscretion rate, which is the time the submarine spends exposed while recharging its batteries.

A video by DCNS profiling the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A.

The Shortfin Barracuda uses a pump-jet propulsor that combines a rotor and stator within a duct to significantly reduce the level of radiated noise and avoids cavitation.
The aftcontrol surfaces on a single propeller submarine are likely to disturb the water flowing into the rotating blades. This, according to DCNS, will generate cavitation, which is best mitigated by the introduction of a propulsor where the rotor and stator are shrouded.
DCNS also claims it has incorporated the most sensitive passive sonar ever offered with a conventional submarine. Matched to the US AN/BYG-1 combat system requirements and equipped with sophisticated above-water sensors, the French claim that the Shortfin Barracuda will offer operational capability beyond the RAN’s requirements..

The Japanese option

Buttressed by a handshake between then-prime minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, the Japanese were sure that MHI/KHI would secure Australia’s largest-ever defence contract. The companies began to work on their evolved Sōryū-class submarine for the RAN, called the Goryu-class, or “Australian Dragon”.
The agreement signed on July 8, 2014, by the governments of Australia and Japan for the joint development of submarine technology, and more specifically the Marine Hydrodynamics Project, provided the Japanese with the requisite peace of mind to work on an optimal Australian submarine submission.
The introduction of the CEP in early 2015 did not unsettle the Abe government unduly as long as Abbott was in charge in Canberra. However, the ousting of Abbott and the appointment of a new defence minister, Marise Payne, meant Japan could no longer be assured of automatic selection. The CEP for the FSP became thoroughly and hotly contested.

The Japanese Soryu-class submarine Hakuryu was to be adapted for Australian use. United States Navy

Caught by surprise when Germany and France were invited to compete for the coveted submarine contract, the Japanese government countered by agreeing to build all 12 submarines in Australia and use the construction facilities in Adelaide as a future base for a major innovation centre.
In a further move, it indicated its preparedness to share its most secret submarine stealth technology with the RAN. And to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the Sōryū-class, the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force was sending the JS Hakuryu to take part in Exercise Nichi Gou Trident with the RAN and RAAF off the Sydney coast.
Not to be distracted by this move, the opponents of the Japanese option let it be known that the RAN would not attain regional superiority even with the evolved Sōryū-class.
Critics asserted that the lack of Japanese submarine technology and know-how meant that the Sōryū offered less capability than the existing Collins-class. It was a deficiency so fundamental, they claimed, that the lengthening of the Sōryū by six-to-eight metres for improved crew habitability and increased range made little difference to the Goryu-class when matched against the submarine designs of the French and the Germans.
The Japanese had planned to install proven high-tech lithium-ion battery technology in numbers 11 and 12 of their current class, and claim that their submarines are quieter and dive deeper than any other conventional submarine in service.

The German option

Arguably the German Navy’s submarines are among the world’s stealthiest underwater platforms. Aside from their traditional combat roles, they are employed as “vehicles of position” that gather intelligence, perform surveillance and reconnaissance at maritime choke points, shipping lanes and harbours.
The design philosophy of “as small as possible and as large as necessary” has so dictated the Type 212A submarines of the German and Italian navies. It also uses air-independent propulsion, which is quieter in operation than conventional diesel-electric.
The latest submarine of the world’s most prolific submarine builder remains small at 1,660 tonnes submerged displacement. Yet the new class is more than three times larger than its predecessor, the Type 206A.

The compact German Type 212A submarine. United States Navy

With this successful upsizing, TKMS answered the sceptics who claimed that the Germans would have found it difficult to evolve their existing submarines designs to the >3,810 tonnes Type 216 Australian variant.
In conjunction with Siemens, TKMS also offered the integrated 3D Digital Shipyard. The application of simulation software was to ensure issues that could affect construction were identified before the first steel is cut. They claimed it is a risk mitigator in the evolution and up-scaling of an existing design.
In this regard, the Germans were countering DCNS’ propulsor with Siemens’ Permasyn propulsion motor and MTU’s proven submarine diesels. While the drive train on the Type 216 required up-scaling of the main motor to over 6MW, Siemens believed that this would have been accomplished without undue difficulty.

Strategic outcome

All three companies have proven track records in submarine design and construction. Building overseas would have seen the Japanese leave their comfort zone. However, they brought defence and geostrategic advantages to the negotiation table. Offering the RAN supply and repair bases in Japan was one of their most persuasive arguments.
The Germans pushed their vast submarine design and building experience – more than 160 submarines delivered to 20 navies over the past 50 years. This experience, TKMS claimed, would have put the FSP in a “safe pair of hands”.
The French Navy operates submarines across the five oceans. DCNS argued that the experience and propulsion technology they transferred from their conventional and nuclear submarines made them the preferred candidate for the FSP. And they turned out to be right."