June 8, 2018

2015 News: Damen & Saab Long Been Talking Netherlands Submarine Replacement


The June 1, 2018 Damen-Saab Netherlands submarine replacement design details via Dutch site De Telegraaf (then via other Dutch sites and English language sites) seems to be old news, little changed from 2015. It appears to be Damen-Saab advertising for just one of the Netherlands Walrus replacement submarine possibilities.

The Netherlands government and commercial entities have had ongoing talks with competing submarine builders over the last few years on possibilites for the Walrus replacement. These include:

-  TKMS (perhaps offering an enlarged Type 209, 212 or 214)
-  Naval Group (enlarged Scorpene or small Shortfin) and
-  Navantia, as the S-80 Plus (also at) will already displace 3,300 tonnes it may not need a size
   adjustment for the Netherlands).

The Netherlands has been actually mid-life overhauling/upgrading its current four Walrus class submarines to continue operating through the mid to late 2020s. So replacement submarines, from any of the four competitors, might only be launched from 2029 onwards.

Submarines Matters has recorded Netherlands-Swedish discussions since 2015. See

"Sweden and the Netherlands Replacement Submarine Needs, February 19, 2015"
"Saab-Damen Agreement

Since mid-late January 2015 there have been several reports that Saab and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group have signed an exclusive teaming agreement. This is to:

- explore future opportunities in the international submarine market including bidding jointly on submarine procurement programmes, and

- explore development of a potential Walrus-class submarine replacement for the Netherlands. 

...Possible Swedish Role

While Sweden is building its own two A26s Sweden might build the two to four Walrus replacements or at least supply the components for assembly in the Netherlands. 

Sweden's 3 Gotland Class submarines  (launched 1995-96) need replacing by 2025 and 2 Sodermanland class (relaunched 2003) for replacement by 2035(?).

Some extra issues/questions are:

...4. Would there be some technical, industrial and political overlap in the Walrus-class submarine replacement and development and construction of Sweden's future submarine A26?

5. Would the Netherlands find only 2 Walrus replacement submarines an effective number, given the "rule" of three and usefulness to the US alliance experience with the 4 Walruses. 

6. Could the Netherlands continue to justify unusually large SSKs or scale down to the usual European country own use maximum of around 1,900 tons surfaced?"

and in 2017 

Dutch Submarine Talks With TKMS & Kockums, not with DCNS, March 2, 2017
"...The Dutch Government continues informal talks with Germany and Sweden on Walrus submarine replacement issues. Surprisingly there was not the previous firm resolve from Dutch naval high command that replacement subs be built in the Netherlands..."


It is also old news that Saab is developing a diver swim out/UUV launch "Multimission Portal" horizontal tube in the torpedo tube room.

See Saab Website "Story" of 21 April 2015:

"[Multimission Portal] Saab's A26 design includes a new innovative 6m x 1.5m Multimission Portal flexible payload capability with a lock system in addition to its conventional torpedo tubes. The lock system makes it easy for commandos to enter and exit the boat, and is large enough to allow the launch and retrieval of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles."

Note the diver swimout Multimission Portal tube at the bow of  the above Saab A26 design. This Saab design artwork was in a Saab "Story" dated 21 April 2015. So the June 2018 Saab-Damen news announcements contain little new.

Like the glacial paced Australian Future Submarine program the Netherlands Walrus Submarine replacement may well take a decade till launch.


June 6, 2018

Australia not attending US/India/Japan Naval Exercise MALABAR 2018


Australia has chosen not to participate in Exercise MALABAR 2018. This is very likely due to Australia’s desire not to offend its largest trading partner and regional strategic threat, China. Way back in 2007 I wrote a MALABAR 2007 article for Newsweekly. In 2007 Australia did participate.

China is concerned MALABAR is just one manifestation of an informal "Quadrilateral" US/Japan/India/Australia alliance (or security dialogue) designed to contain Chinese military power in the Indian and Western Pacific oceans. China usually succeeds in dissuading Australia, the weakest member, from being fully active in the Quadrilateral.


Dinakar Peri for The Hindu, June 5, 2018, reports from New Delhi 

"War games to hone anti-submarine skills

Malabar exercise from June 7 to 16. - The Navies of India, Japan and the U.S. will enhance their anti-submarine warfare skills in this year’s Malabar naval war games to be held off the coast of Guam [in the Western Pacific Ocean] from June 7 to 16.

For the first time in a Malabar exercise, all three Navies are deploying their maritime reconnaissance (MR) aircraft to sharpen those skills.

“Each side has aircraft which can lay sono buoys and we will also monitor each other’s sono buoys. We will cross-attach people from all three countries,” the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral G. Ashok Kumar, said.

While the Indian Navy is deploying a P-8I long-range MR aircraft, the U.S. is deploying two P-8A aircraft and Japan is sending a Kawasaki P-1 MR aircraft. In addition, Japan and the U.S. have anti-submarine warfare helicopters on board their helicopter carrier JS Ise and aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, respectively.

[So ships include:
-  India’s frigate INS Sahyadri, fleet tanker INS Shakti and large corvette INS Kamorta all from
   India's Fleet Base East at Vishakhapatnam
-  USS Ronald Reagan, Aegis class cruisers USS Antietam and Chancellorsville, some destroyers and
   Los Angeles class submarine USS Pasadena (SSN-752), and
-  Japan's Hyuga class helicopter destroyer JS Ise, Takanami class destroyer JS Suzunami, and
   Akizuki class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki. For the very first time Japan is deploying an (unnamed) Soryu
   class submarine.]

...[Exercise MALABAR] began in 1992 as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the US and has over the years increased in scope and complexity with particular focus on ASW in view of increasing Chinese submarine movement in the Indian Ocean under the garb of anti-piracy patrols."


June 5, 2018

Russian intelligence - first Snowden now Trump

Thought for the day.

Putin, an ex intelligence officer, sets the overall strategy for Russian foreign policy including Russian intelligence. Russian intelligence operates on the established international political zero-sum game principle, ie: “The more the Western alliance is destabilized the better Russia is doing.”

Hence Russia was highly enthusiastic about harbouring Edward Snowden, who carried information that caused distrust between the US government and US public and tension between the US and many of its allies.

And conspiracy theorists might now be correct in concluding Russian help for Trump’s campaign put a man in the Presidency guaranteed generate ongoing tension in US society and within the Western alliance.


June 1, 2018

A Future Australian-Singaporean Rocket May Provide Nuclear Capability


As the US Government sends out mixed, often contradictory, signals to allies and opponents, more countries are hedging with research into components maybe for future nuclear capabilities. For example Japan has long been developing and using the 1,500kg payload Epsilon rocket (see context).

Now Australia and Singapore may be entering the beginnings (in 2 decades?) of nuclear (payload) capable rocket development. Multi-stage rockets of sufficient size and range provide dual civilian/military possibilities.

Rocket engine tests, launch pads and test flights are not possible in Singapore's extremely limited
721.5 kmland area, in which  5.612 million people are crowded. The sea around Singapore, crowded with ships, is also ill-suited to be a test range. 

In contrast Australia has used its wide open spaces to test rockets for decades at RAAF Woomera Range Complex, South Australia. Some Australians have also suggested Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, as a potential launch siteCape York is better suited in terms of  Earth rotational physics and avoiding populated areas. This is because Cape York is nearer the Equator and rockets can be fired easterly and more safely over the Coral Sea.


Gilmour Space March 2018: 70 kN of thrust (15,700 lbs) generated in what could be the world's largest successful test fire of a single-port hybrid rocket engine. The test was held in Australia.

"Gilmour Space prepares for suborbital hybrid rocket launch with 75 kN (16,900 lbs) test-fire

May 29, 2018

 “Our low-cost launch capability could provide a significant comparative (and competitive) advantage to Australia and Singapore’s new space industry.”

- Adam Gilmour, CEO & Founder, Gilmour Space Technologies

AUSTRALIA & SINGAPORE, MAY 28, 2018 – [Australian-Singaporean] rocket company, Gilmour Space Technologies, has completed a longer duration test-fire of its proprietary hybrid rocket engine, bringing it one step closer to launching Australia and Singapore's first privately-developed commercial rockets to space. 

"This was a 12-second static fire of what will be our first-stage orbital rocket engine. It demonstrated stable thrust, and peaked at 75 kilonewtons (or 16,900 pounds) of force,” said the company’s CEO and Founder, Adam Gilmour. An earlier test in March had generated 70 kN, reportedly then the world’s largest successful test of a single-port hybrid rocket engine.

“75 kN marks a new record for this engine, and is more than what we will need for our coming suborbital and orbital launches,” he added. (Watch test-fire video)

Next stop: Suborbital space

Gilmour Space is planning a suborbital test launch in the third quarter of this year, and is working with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to approve the launch from a remote private property in Queensland.

“Our first test rocket launch in mid 2016 was a sub-scale demonstration of our new hybrid engine technology, and its success led to our Series A investment,” he explained. 

“The next launch will be the flight test of a full-scale engine, which we plan to use in the first stage of our Eris orbital rocket.” 'Eris' is the company's three-stage hybrid rocket dedicated to launching small satellites (up to 400 kg) to Low Earth Orbit by 2020.

“It will also be a test of our mobile launch platform, which we've designed to enable rapid and low-cost launches from remote locations,” he added. "Interestingly, this capability for responsive launch is one that other countries like the US, Europe and UK are trying very hard to develop right now." 

Being new, being nimble

This latest test-fire comes just two weeks after the Australian government officially launched the Australian Space Agency and released details of a nine-month space industry review. 

The report included recommendations to support 'next generation’ rocket propulsion systems, and make necessary changes to the Space Activities Act to enable commercial small satellite launches from Australia. 

"With Gilmour Space's technology and low-cost launch capabilities, small satellite launches could easily be a 'low-hanging fruit' for Australia. Our significant progress puts us as one of the front-runners in today's global small launch market, and we look forward to working with commercial, civil and defence partners to build a stronger and more vibrant domestic space industry in Australia and Singapore."

To the stars.


Gilmour Space Technologies is an Australia and Singapore-based rocket company that is developing low-cost launch vehicles for the small satellite/payload market.

Key milestones since beginning its rocket program in 2015:
  • June 2016: Gilmour Space first made headlines when it successfully flew the countries'first privately developed hybrid rocket to an altitude of 5 Km using proprietary 3D printed fuel (reportedly a world-first demonstration).
  • June 2017: It raised AUD 5 million (USD 3.7 million) in Series-A funding from venture capital firms Blackbird Ventures and 500 Startups, among others. Gilmour Space has also been awarded various R&D grants in Singapore and Australia.
  • August 2017: Successfully ground tested a high-impulse Cubesat Propulsion System, which could potentially power a 1U cubesat to the orbit of the Moon or Mars.
  • January 2018: Announced results of its first full-scale orbital engine test in December, which generated 45 kN in a low-pressure test fire.
  • March 2018: 70 kN of thrust (15,700 lbs) generated in what could be the world's largest successful test fire of a single-port hybrid rocket engine.

Considered one of the leading space startups in Australia and Singapore, Gilmour Space is scaling up to launch their first rockets to suborbital space in 2018, and to LEO in 2020.


Michelle Gilmour
Director, Marketing & Communications, Gilmour Space Technologies
Singapore Tel: (+65) 9106 6714
Australia Tel: (+61) 0408 973 296 – James Gilmour (Director & Co-Founder)

General enquiries: info@gspacetech.com
Facebook: Gilmourspacetech 
Twitter: @GilmourSpace

May 30, 2018

Pick a Number. 100% Rise in Australian Future Sub estimate to $100 Billion

Andrew Tillett for The Australian Financial Review (AFR), May 29, 2018 reports:

“$100 billion babies: Defence reveals true cost of new submarines for taxpayers”  

"Taxpayers will spend $100 billion to build and operate [Australia's future submarines], [Australian] Defence Department officials have revealed for the first time as they also fended off warnings the naval shipbuilding program was at risk of cost blowouts and delays.

While the $50 billion budget to build the 12 French-designed submarines in Adelaide has been known for several years, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut told Senate estimates on [May 29, 2018] the same amount again would be spent on sustaining the submarines throughout their operating life, although he conceded the costs were yet to be finalised..."


How do you count the costs of a submarine program that may stretch to 2080?

A.  In 2018 dollars or 2080 dollars or somewhere in between? 

B.  In Australian Dollars, or factor exchange rate changes in US dollars or, in 20 years time, in Yuan
      World Currency

C.  Recall that we are not just talking Naval Group (was DCNS) or ASC costs in calculations. A
     quarter or a third of the money will go to Lockheed Martin as Combat Systems Integrator.

D.  What do you include? Inclusions are vital. Cost of:
-  building new shipyard sheds, slips and other facilities
-  costs of personnel in Australia's Defence Department, Navy, Army (for some Special Forces) 
-  cost of building 6 to 12 new submarines? As Australia's Defence Department or Navy try out
   higher numbers (say 12, 10 then 8) before settling for 6 (see my 2014 article). Hence 6 Oberons
   then 6 Collins submarines in the past.
-  "sustainment"(?) does that mean regular maintenance and upgrade costs?
-  training costs
-  some operational costs, eg. special skills (eg. US Navy may be Off-the-Books).

E.  Opportunity costs - for:
-  jobs and regional development (outside Adelaide)
-  money that could have been spent on sorely needed hospitals, schools, "green" energy and mass
-  other Airforce, Army and Naval programs (eg. highly developed, future AUVs).

Setting, recording and publishing huge budgets is more a public relations art form than an accounting science.