November 30, 2013

Australian SEA 1000 future submaine - an S-80 development or HDW 216?

 A rough sketch of the Navantia S-80 submarine. This sub is still being built-developed and might be launched in 2015.

Concerning my article of November 22, 2013, "Ongoing debate on Australia's SEA 1000 future submarine requirements." MHalblaub commented:

"Hi Pete,

do you think the US are unreliable allies? That was my thought reading RAN has to shadow a fast going nuclear powered submarine (SNN) for a week. I doubt that there will be within the next 10 years any technique for a conventional submarine to maintain submerged about 20 knots for more than 24 hours. Therefore the only solution would be a SNN, to wait or to trust the US.

I am well aware that the small HDW 210mod falls short of the SEA 1000 requirements. In my eyes these requirements are the wet dreams of some Admirals.

A greater range would be useful. A bigger weapons load is nice to have. The 8+ VLS are also a nice to have but they could also be tube launched. Btw Popeyes in action:

The British Astute-class submarines can also fire Tomahawks without an US combat system.

The problem for Royal Australian Navy will be the gap between Collins-class retirement and entry into service of SEA 1000 submarines. Australia can throw a lot of money after the Collins-class to keep them running until 2030. Today the price for one HDW Type 210 is about the costs Australia needs to maintain Collins-class for one year. The maintenance costs for Collins-class will awfully rise in the future.

My advice would be to order as soon as possible 6 Type 210mod/A 26 to fill this gap. 5 submarines should be built in Australia. That will give Australia time and knowledge to design a proper submarine. This interim solution would also save a lot of money and add capabilities.

Australia should not try to reinvent wheels that already exist in far better quality. E.g. engines, AIP, combat system, … That will lead to a troubled and outdated son of Collins – just like the father.

(I tried two times to log me in …)

AIP: Direct Methanol Fuel Cell:

November 22, 2013"

Pete's Comments
My response is that I think the US are reliable allies that provide Australia with security benefits in peacetime and would be an essential ally if Australia faced an enemy too big for Australia to handle alone.

You are right that no non-nuclear propulsion would allow an Australian submarine to shadow a fast moving SSN for a week. And yes the only options are for an Australian SSN or reliance on US SSNs to do fast moving shadowing.

It is true the SEA 1000 requirements are very ambitious. They would require a unique, new, very large diesel-electric submarine (SSK) or an SSN.

The value of a VLS is its flexibility eg. for: a divers wet-dry chamber; a hatch for a mini "piggyback" sub; and to fire cruise or small ballistic missiles. For missile firing the main value of a VLS is the low indiscretion factor - meaning the sub can fire all (say) 8 missiles very quickly - reducing that chance that the sub will be detected while firing. Using horizontal tubes probably involves "slow time" reloads of missiles or of follow-up torpedos.

Regarding its quite possible Popeyes were not used. The target was in range of Israel's Harpoon SLCMs. It would therefore have been unnecessary for Israel to use its (perhaps) 1,500 km range Popeye SLCMs and there would have been a risk a malfunctioning Popeye would crash and then its technical secrets might be revealed. If the Popeye SLCMs have a 1,500 km range (see its more likely they would be used for targets deep inland like Tehran or even Riyadh.

Yes its true the British Astute class SSN is a possibility. However any purchase of a French or UK SSN has the disadvantage that their maintenance-repair bases are around 20,000 km away in Northern Europe or effectively further if the Suez Canal is blocked in wartime. Meanwhile the US provides some SSN maintenance facilities much closer in Diego Garcia, Guam and certainly Pearl Harbour.

The Royal Australian Navy would be very aware that an "interim" sub choice might become permanent. The fixed costs of any sub choice are high - therefore making interim highly uneconomic as would running two different sub types simultaneously.

In any case the HDW 210 is basically the smallest of the HDW range (with the even smaller HDW 206 being phased out). This makes the HDW 210 the least likely HDW Australia might buy. The bigger the better in terms of range and endurance - making a very large version of the HDW 212-214 basically a HDW 800 Dolphin+ the most likely buy from HDW.

An HDW Dolphin+ is on the way to an even larger (but technically and financially high risk)  HDW 216 in response to SEA 1000 requirements. It needs to be remembered though that the US (Lockheed Martin) may well not make its highly developed combat system available to HDW. Against this HDW is probably the world's most experienced and productive builder of conventional diesel-electric subs.

In contrast I understand Lockheed Martin is placing its combat system into the Spanish Navantia S-80. It is significant that Australia might have confidence in dealing with Navantia in submarine development because I believe Australia has a positive relationship with Navantia in the current Canberra LHD and Hobart AWD projects. Against this Navantia has never independently built and then launched an operational submarine. Navantia has also had no independent experience building subs for export or assisting a customer to build a sub

Possibly I'm overrating the importance of the Lockheed Martin SUBICs combat system in the SEA 1000 submarine selection - see .

While Kockums submarine division's future is in doubt Australia developing an A26 or any other Kockums design is unlikely.

Definitely "Australia should not try to reinvent wheels" and should avoid a repeat of the Collins experience.

I also have had problems logging-in or commenting on some blogger-blogspot sites - probably some technical problem involving blogger-blogspot or even of its Google owner.




Anonymous said...

Dear Pete,

our view coincide that SEA 1000 is a very ambitious project. Just like the F-35. Ambitious defense projects tend to be delayed and more expensive than expected. In my opinion both projects are far too ambitious.

That any submarine has to use a Lockheed Martin SUBIC combat system will not enhance the development time. The decision to use this combat system is not based on requirements. In my opinion it is only based on cronyism because nobody tried to ask if Australia could get better insight in another system.

A vertical launch system (VLS) is nice to have in case of a real big submarine like the Vertical Multi-Purpose Lock (VMPL) on planed Type 216. You said many missiles could be fired at once from one submarine. My argument is that for one big SEA 1000 submarine at a cost of A$3 billion each Australia could buy 4 small submarines instead with capability to fire even more missiles at once.

For a "piggyback" submarine a VMPL is also unnecessary. A26 or 210mod are planned with a big “torpedo” tube for special purpose. A smaller submarine can get closer to the shore and the "piggyback" sub doesn’t have to be big.

You have the fear an "interim" sub could become a permanent fix. My fear is that without an interim solution Australia will have no operational submarine in the future. A big submarine even with support by DCNS or HDW and interference by ASC will not be ready before 2030. Navantia is troubled to get the S-80 working. A sole Australian submarine solution might be ready in 2040 (IOC). A small “Off The Shelf” (OTS) solution could be built fast in case no big changes were made to sonar system, command and control system, torpedoes …

I also doubt the claim it would be uneconomic to operate two types of submarines at once. At the moment RAN operates one very uneconomic type of submarine. Does RAN also operate just one type of surface ships because this is more economic? Do you think the F-35 will be the only fighter aircraft for RAAF?

Even with SEA 1000 RAN will operate two types at once for a while. I expect it will be a very unreliable Collins-class with incredible maintenance costs and a troubled SEA 1000 program with many delays.

What about politics? Do you think Australia could use an US built nuclear submarine for any mission without restrictions from Washington? Maybe the best solution would be two or three Virginia-class submarines and a fleet of “cheap” small submarines.

Missile systems:
The seeker system of a Popeye missile was build to hit land targets while the Harpoon was initially built against ships. Therefore I think Israel did use Popeye missiles with a 50 % bigger and better suited warhead.


Pete said...

Hi MHalblaub

You've made many good points which I need to consider before responding fully.

With part of the response to include Japan's Soryu Class and DCNS' Brazilian evolution process of Scorpene to nuclear Scorpene (a la Barracuda).