Submarine Matters provides an expanding database on submarines worldwide. Australia should contract in 2016 to only buy a batch of 6 Shortfins - then, in the 2030s, decide whether to buy: 6 more Shortfins or 6 Barracuda SSNs or 4 Virginia SSNs. With increasing numbers of Chinese, Russian and Indian SSNs in Australia's region Australia's Shortfins cannot attain any 2016 Defence White Paper goal of being "regionally superior". Australia would need to buy SSNs to be "superior".
My favourite sport is watching tennis and pastime (writing about submarines). But rarely do the two meet.
Now that women are welcome on submarines there may be narrow,
assertions that they are "girlie" and therefore "unreliable." But such assertions
may mask the reality that some crew members see them as competition, as this article
eventually makes clear.
Traditionally the bad boys of tennis have been American
and this is only fitting: Jimmy Connors
(bad but funny), John McEnroe (bad, less funny), Andre Agassi (bad, but married the one time sex-symbol Brooke
Shields, so must be OK). All of them turned out OK, once they matured.
Agassi’s part in this tale doesn’t end there, though.
The world’s second greatest traditional Tennis Power - Australia - has
now caught up in the bad boy stakes: Bernard Tomic has had his run-ins
but getting better.
Now there is Nick Kyrgios [pronounced Kir-ee-oss]
who has already been fined at Wimbledon 2016 for bad language. Earlier, in 2015, in what is Kyrgios' most memorable line – he advised an opponent during
a championship match - picked up by the court microphones - that "Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend,
tell you that mate".
Below, full of bad language, is only a partially exagerrated parody of Kyrgios. He has a
very exotic ethnicity - not black but Australian-Greek-Malaysian. Some might say a fiery combination...
Swanton remembered Agassi, when young in the late 1980s, and pre-Wimbledon:
“Andre Agassi got drunk on Jack Daniels, berated
spectators, smashed balls at opponents, abused linesmen, stomped around with a
Mohawk haircut he dyed red or orange, wore a wig, drew crosses on his face with
eyeliner, grew an inch-long pinky fingernail, painted the pinky red, painted it
black, gave his racquets to a homeless man and vowed never to play again but
then contested a tournament in Florida while wearing pink lipstick and ripped
Why? Rebellion. Too much pressure. Suffocating
expectation. Stop telling me who to be. Stop telling me how to act.”
“Nothing tops Kyrgios’s sledge of Stan Wawrinka and the
defenceless Donna Vekic on the shame file but Agassi gave it a decent whirl in his
day. [Agassi said that winning] the 2005 US Open made him “as happy as a fag in
a submarine”…" There you have it.
Deployment Map A. (above) of key acoustic sensor sites
currently sampled for sea noise by IMOS (black) and the North Western Australia
locations (red) which ceased [civilian?] operation in mid 2015.
Map B. (above) IMOS about: "The Australian Ocean Data Network (AODN) Portal (http://portal.aodn.org.au ) allows marine and climate scientists and other users to
discover and explore IMOS data streams coming from all of these
So how do the sensor network locations on the maps above compare with map below? :
Map C. (above) is from page 54 “Map 4. The US ‘Fish Hook’ Undersea Defense Line” of Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter's, The Tools of Owatatsumi Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities (2015, ANU Press) http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p309261/pdf/book.pdf?referer=444. [large PDF file] This map, looking highly sanitised, may depict past or current SeaWeb undersea array positions (eastern Asia - inner western Pacific sub-section).
In plain sight is Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).
IMOS includes Australia's dual (civilian, military) use passive acoustic undersea network and many other ocean sensor platforms. This includes RAN operated AUVs. Here is IMOS's facilities list http://imos.org.au/facilities.html - very much an Australian dual-use portion of the wider allied with the US SeaWeb sensor-database network.
DST Group is the Australian government's lead
agency responsible for applying science and technology to safeguard Australia
and its national interests. As one of Australia’s largest employers of
scientists and engineers, it delivers expert, impartial advice and innovative
solutions for Defence and national security.
·Acoustic Observatories – Funded for pilot deployment
of three sea noise loggers in Perth Canyon, Jan-Apr 2007 and then assisted
further with logger development
gliders (ANFOG) – Slocum glider data from the oceans
around Australia have been collected by DSTO on an ongoing basis with
previous deployments contributed to the IMOS Ocean Portal including: Coral Sea
deployment during Exercise Talisman Sabre in July 2011, Coral Sea deployment,
adjacent to Shoalwater Bay, during Exercise Talisman Saber in July - August
2013, and a Perth Canyon deployment, during a combined ocean glider deployment
in conjunction with the IMOS ocean glider facility, in February - March
Clearly having had a "Good Lunch" a jovial “Federal”
(but more South Australian) Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne (above) versus a completely astounded Julie Bishop (below) who is the senior Federal
politician from Western Australia.
The industrial limbo that has been the Election Period has delayed
the reckoning from which full blessings of ASC flow.
South Australia's ASC, having made its mark building on-time and on-budget, is therefore being entrusted with most of Australia’s
current and future shipbuilding business. As they say in France "ASC is Australia's shipbuilder par excellence".
Is not ASC South Australia's Cargo Cult in
which Federal Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, is the John Frum? If you build a
veneer of political uncertainty during Election times, Federal money, and heavily protected make-work, will come. To further mix metaphors - a shipbuilding Field of Dreams.
Without competitive bidding (but total political favouritism)
ASC is to build some very large canoes including:
- 2 Offshore Patrol Vessels
- 9 Future Frigates
- 12, though mercifully more likely 6, “regionally superior”
in ASC’s good time.
The trick is to milk the Federal purse for all its worth
and stretch out the work (like the AWD, like Collins maintenance) for as long
as plausibly possible.
There appears to be closed shop resistance to competition from other states of Australia. Peter Williams for The West Australian, June 24, 2016, has reported:
"Civmec battled defence contractors
contractors were hostile to heavy engineering firm Civmec [website] entering their space to chase work
under the Federal Government’s $90 billion shipbuilding program, chief executive
Pat Tallon says.
Previously resources-focused Civmec had not worked in the
defence space before announcing last year it wanted to help build submarines
and other vessels. The Henderson-based company even built a portion of a
submarine hull to show foreign bidders for the $50 million submarine program it
could do the work.
Mr Tallon said some other companies did not want Civmec
“cutting their grass”.
“They weren't exactly very happy at the idea that we
seeking entry to the defence area,” he told a Chamber of Commerce and Industry
WA function yesterday.
“Several have tried to distract us from doing this. We
have been discouraged more than encouraged and ‘This wasn't the right space’
for us to be in.”
In addition to the submarines, Civmec is interested in
the $3 billion offshore patrol vessel program which the Government has said
would move from South Australia to WA in 2020.
That would put the company into competition with fellow
Henderson shipbuilder Austal, which has built dozens of patrol vessels for the
Royal Australian Navy and Australian Border Force.
Mr Tallon said Civmec was leaning towards bidding to
build modules for defence vessels from Henderson instead of setting up in South
Australia, where the submarines, frigates and some of the early OPVs will be
built. That was because the fabrication labour pool in SA might not big enough.
So where does this leave senior politicians from other shipbuilding states, including:
- Western Australia's Julie Bishop (Deputy Leader of the Federal ruling Liberal Party) regarding submarine and Frigate building? and
The lower UK revenue base once/if Scotland breaks from
Britain (in order for Scotland to remain in the EU) also needs to be factored
in. This means a lower Defence Budget for Britain, no matter if the Pound recovers.
Defence spending and planning is now expected to come
under severe pressure as a result of the Brexit vote, with a growing
possibility of cuts and a new review once a new government is installed in the
Defence and security featured episodically in the Brexit
debate, mostly in issues such as an EU European army and the need for more
security forces for stopping illegal migrant trafficking.
Now the slide of the pound against the dollar will mean a
number of big defence programmes will have to be scrutinised. “Considering that
about 40 per cent of the big defence programmes are tied to the dollar, they
are going to have to think hard,” says the pre-eminent independent analyst
Major aircraft programmes like the Lockheed Martin F-35
Lightning II for the aircraft carriers and plans for the upgrade and replacement
of the Trident nuclear deterrent system will be under examination.
This week the government is due to sign the contract to
purchase nine P8 Poseidon torpedo-carrying maritime patrol aircraft from Boeing
in the United States.
“With the slide in the pound, the whole package could now
cost in the region of £4 billion,” says Tusa, publisher and editor of the
renowned independent Defence Analysis review. “That is really very expensive – particularly as there
will be very little UK employment involved.”
The P8 is to plug the gap after
the cancellation of the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft programme in David
Cameron’s first defence review of October 2010. Recently French, Dutch and other allied aircraft have had
to be called in to track Russian submarines round British coasts – because of
the capability gap left by the absence of the RAF’s Nimrods. The MoD took the unusual course of placing the order
directly with Boeing, without running a full competition. Cheaper alternatives
are available to the P8 such as [less capable for ASW work] Airbus C295 turboprop, which is partly British
Even before Brexit there was a growing belief that the
defence budget -- at roughly £34 billion a year -- was overstretched, and would
need revising. Large naval building programmes such as the two aircraft
carriers now being completed at Rosyth and the requirement for a new frigate,
the Type 26, currently costed at £650 million each, are coming under pressure –
the initial plan for 13 of the new frigates has now been cut to eight.
This autumn [Sept-Nov 2016] the government was due to sign initial
contracts for the main building phase for the four large submarines and new
warhead for the Trident nuclear ballistic missile programme. This has now been
blown off course by Brexit and may not take place till next year as Trident
renewal will have to be debated and approved by parliament.
Crispin Blunt, chairman of the influential Foreign
Affairs Committee of the House of Commons recently published his estimate that
the Trident renewal programme could cost £182 billion at today’s prices for a
32 year programme beginning in 2028 – the date the present Vanguard nuclear
submarines are due out of service.
“At that price, I think it’s pretty unaffordable,” Blunt
Returning to subs - The UK's need replacement of 4 Tridents missile submarines (launched between 1992 - 1998) may
become particularly unaffordable because there will be many smaller more
immediate weapons, and defence base costs, to be paid first.
A major issue is "How long is the real service life of Britain's Trident subs?" An initial 30 year assumption has turned into 40+ years for the USN and French Navy.
Still, if the UK with a lower Defence Budget has to go to the expense of relocating/rebuilding the Faslane nuclear submarine base elsewhere in the UK this may kill off the already expensive/unpopular Trident sub program.
All this means (for submarine advocates) is that the governing UK Conservative Party
needs to be very careful to schedule the decision date (on whether or not to
build the new Trident submarines) to a time such a decision can be a
positive yes. - there are claims the Trident decision will be made in the UK House of Commons before the UK Parliament rises on July 21, 2016 - but I think it most likely in the confusion and acrimony of Brexit Leave the Trident decision will be pushed down the scale of priorities from the expected 2016 "Main Gate" decision point, to 2017 or
A “silver lining”, in these days of Brexit shock, is that it
has destabilised the leadership of the leftist/pacifist Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who, of course, opposes Trident. Corbyn may soon be replaced by more
leader, who is sympathetic to the UK shipbuilding unions who favour building 4 new
This BBC article of June 30, 2014 indicates where the UK Trident SSBN are located (at Faslane, north of Glasgow, Scotland). Alternatives in the UK, France and the US (marked in green) all involve great cost and major political downsides. I'll put a copy of the BBC article on Submarine Matters on July 1, 2016 before the July 2, Australian Election results come out.