February 25, 2016

2016 Defence White Paper: Submarine Matters Much Across Sub Issues Raised

For "regionally superior submarines/boats" see Defence White Paper (A.) pages 19, 21, 90, 91 and 115. (Poster sourced via The Guardian)

Australia's 2016 Defence White Paper has been published today - see the Homepage at  http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/ .

It consists of the traditional:
A.  2016 Defence White Paper document (large PDF of 10 MB), 191 pages (itself quite long): http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/Docs/2016-Defence-White-Paper.pdf

But what makes it a huge reading and assessment task is that its 191 pages and there are two additional documents (published with it) which are:

B.  2016 Integrated Investment Program (PDF 5MB) http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/Docs/2016-Defence-Integrated-Investment-Program.pdf, 123 pages, and

C.  2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement (PDF 5MB) http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/Docs/2016-Defence-Industry-Policy-Statement.pdf , 79 pages.


Today I'll just stick to highlighting/extracting mentions of submarine(s) with some bolding and [Bracketed comments on particularly curious parts]. 

Mid next week I'll comment more broadly on A. though with special mention on naval issues, missiles and jets. Might write on electronic intelligence (if the authorities have spared me still).

Then comment on following weeks on subs, naval, missiles and jets in B. and C. 

Writing an overall assessment of all three documents would be better published in late March 2016.

Between White Paper writing will be the usual writing on subs, missiles and jets from around the world as they hit the news.

Returning to:

A.  2016 Defence White Paper (large PDF of 10 MB), 191 pages: http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/Docs/2016-Defence-White-Paper.pdf

One way to analyse it is keyword search to identify frequency of hits and where they are:

Hit Ctrl + F for keyword search, which yields:

70 references to submarine(s) (of which 13 “anti-submarine” have been excluded). Most submarine(s) are in “Chapter Four: The Future Australian Defence Force” pages 83 to 115. Particularly in the Submarine section, pages 90 to 92.


Page 19
The submarine force will be increased from 6 to 12 regionally superior submarines with a high degree of interoperability with the United States.

Page 21
The Government will ensure that the future submarine project provides a regionally superior [better than China's SSNs?] capability and value-for-money for Australian taxpayers while maximising the involvement of Australian defence industry. The competitive evaluation process, which is underway, will provide a clear pathway for Australian defence industry to maximise its involvement in the project, without compromising capability, cost or the project schedule. More detail on the Government’s shipbuilding plans are set out in Chapter Four

Page 42
2.11 China’s Navy is now the largest in Asia. By 2020 China’s submarine force is likely to grow to more than 70 submarines. China also possesses the largest air force in Asia, and is pursuing advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft capabilities. China’s military modernisation includes more-capable special forces, aviation and command and control networks and it is also investing in new technologies including space and cyber capabilities.

Page 50
2.41 Within the broader Indo-Pacific region, in the next two decades, half of the world’s submarines will be operating in the region.

On Page 90 begins the key Section “Submarines” including:

4.25 Submarines are an essential part of Australia’s naval capability, providing a strategic advantage in terms of surveillance and protection of our maritime approaches. The Government has determined that regionally superior submarines with a high degree of interoperability with the United States are required to provide Australia with an effective deterrent, including by making a meaningful contribution to anti-submarine warfare operations in our region. The key capabilities of the future submarine will include: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and support to special operations.

4.26 The Government will increase the size of the submarine force from six to 12 boats. The doubling in size of the submarine fleet recognises that Australia will face a more challenging maritime environment in the decades ahead. By 2035, around half of the world’s submarines will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region where Australia’s interests are most engaged. Australia has one of the largest maritime domains in the world and we need the capacity to defend and further our interests from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans and from the areas to our north to the Southern Ocean. Submarines are a powerful instrument for deterring conflict and a potent weapon should conflict occur.

Page 91 
4.27 Australia’s new submarines will be supported by upgrades to enablers and facilities such as wharves and port facilities [does this mean extra facilities up north in Broome or Townsville?], as well as simulators, training and submarine rescue systems. The key strategic requirements for the future submarines include a range and endurance similar to the Collins Class submarine, sensor performance and stealth characteristics which are superior to the Collins Class, and upgraded versions of the AN/BYG-1 combat system and Mark 48 MOD 7 heavyweight torpedo jointly developed between the United States and Australia as the preferred combat system and main armament. The new submarines will have advanced communications systems to link with other Navy ships and aircraft to conduct anti-submarine warfare operations.

4.28 The acquisition of the 12 future submarines will commence in 2016 with the first submarines likely to begin entering service in the early 2030s. Construction of the 12 new submarines will extend into the late 2040s to 2050 timeframe. The length of the construction process will mean that Australia will need to be planning the follow-on submarine well before the last new submarine enters service. To ensure no capability gap and the ability to progress development of a replacement submarine in the 2050s, the Government has decided to implement a rolling acquisition program for Australia’s submarine fleet. A rolling acquisition program will ensure that Australia is able to maintain a fleet of 12 regionally superior submarines as submarine and anti-submarine technologies develop over the coming decades. [Note that Japan's building style is more "rolling" with slight upgrades to each sub, rather than European batch building.] 

4.29 During the long life of the new submarines, the rapid rate of technological change and ongoing evolution of Australia’s strategic circumstances will continue. As part of the rolling acquisition program, a review based on strategic circumstances at the time, 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.
 [If a "review based on strategic circumstances" means that an increased China threat then demands SSNs, then SSNs may be appropriate].

Page 92
4.30 The future submarine program is the largest defence procurement program in Australia’s history. The Government has already committed to maximising Australian industry involvement in the submarine program, without compromising cost, capability, schedule or risk. The Government will announce the results of a Competitive Evaluation Process in 2016.

4.31 The Government will also continue to make appropriate investments in the existing Collins Class fleet, including priority capability enhancements, obsolescence management and fleet sustainment, to ensure Australia’s potent and agile submarine capability is maintained until the introduction of the future submarine fleet. This will include upgrades to the Collins Class communications and sensor capabilities.

4.32 This investment will build on recent improvements to Collins Class availability. In 2011–12, Collins Class availability was about half that of the international benchmark and in the past there had been up to three submarines undergoing long-term maintenance. Following the 2012 Coles Review and implementation of a comprehensive and innovative transformation plan, there has been a major improvement in the availability of the Collins Class, and Defence is on track to reach the international benchmark for submarine availability by mid-2016. By mid-2016, the submarine HMAS Farncomb will have completed the first two-year full cycle docking in Adelaide – a maintenance activity that formerly took over three years to complete. From then onwards only one Collins Class submarine will be in Adelaide for full cycle docking. Defence will continue to work closely with industry to implement reforms to optimise Collins Class availability, reliability and capability.
[Improving the overhaul-sustainment rate will be good. Having more than 5 Commanders to Captain the subs (+ other hard to keep crew members) would also be good. Thinking 8 Commanders for a rolling 8-9 subs will be important.]

[end of submarine only section]

Page 111
4.108 . Innovation also includes developing new and more efficient ways of maintaining ADF equipment, such as transforming the management of the Collins Class submarines to maximise their availability for operations.

Page 114 
4.118 The Government has already announced 500 dedicated jobs in the new submarine program for combat system integration, design assurance and land-based testing.

4.121 France, Germany and Japan, are participating in the future submarine Competitive Evaluation Process, which will assess their ability to partner with Australia to deliver the future submarines. These potential international partners have been invited to provide options for an overseas, Australian or hybrid build program, and to seek opportunities for Australian defence industry participation in the future submarine Program. A decision on which international partner will be selected will be made in 2016.

Pages 114 and 115
4.122 The Government will also ensure a long-term industrial capability to deliver support to Australia’s submarines in both construction and sustainment. A rolling acquisition program for the submarine fleet means managing the acquisition of submarines to ensure Australia maintains, over the long term, a fleet of 12 regionally superior boats that are fit for purpose in the period in which they will be operating. A rolling program of acquiring submarines will provide long-term planning certainty for Australian industry, allowing those Australian companies involved in the submarine program to invest in the capabilities needed to support their involvement in the construction and sustainment activities.
[Again returning to the very rolling nature of Japanese sub building (from the 1960s to the present). Part of that is due to shorter submarine operational life - maybe up to 22 years, but not the US-European standard of 30 years. In view of this how long subs can last (must they last 30 years?) is a major issue.]

Page 147 
…with further growth [in ADF positions] beyond the decade to operate the larger submarine fleet in particular. The generation of crews with the appropriate mix of skills and experience must be carefully managed to meet the challenging growth needed to operate Navy’s new submarines and surface ships. [Indeed]

Page 171 
7.25 Proper planning for the acquisition of complex equipment and systems takes years of analysis and careful decision-making before acquisitions can commence. This is only proper for the expenditure of billions of dollars involving decades of effort. New submarines and frigates, for example, will be brought into service from the 2020s until well into the 2040s and will operate into the second half of this century.

Page 179 
8.12 As Chapter Four and the Integrated Investment Program accompanying the White Paper highlight, substantial new investment will be required in the first half of the 2020s, including for the acquisition of the future submarines and frigates, which will be major drivers of Defence expenditure. The majority of the additional funding to 2025–26 will be provided from 2019–20 to meet these requirements.


There is much more on submarines in documents B. and C.

Happy to report that Submarine Matters, over the last 18 months, has coincidentally, been very much across these issues raised in Defence White Paper A. 



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

We can make a plan and prepare resources (personnel, budget, etc.) to achieve the plan. But, if we do not check implementation status of the plan and do not correct the failure properly, the bad result will be repeated.

As a possible stakeholder, there are so many questions on management of Collins remained. Was the reason of bad performance of Collins submarine thoroughly analyzed and corrected? Were needed resources such as trained personnel, education and equipment were properly provided? How RAN managed ASC? Were responsibility and authority adequately estbalisted? Did correction system or the Australia Board of Audit properly work? Were these issues on management system fixed?


Ztev Konrad said...

You have forgotten the most important word for this White paper- which is of course not mentioned- Election.
It seems that someone has dusted off some old Menzies papers and put in Submarine instead of F-111.
This White paper has been been kicking around for so many years due to the turmoil in the PMs office suite over the last 4 years that it seems no one has noticed you cant afford it.

GA said...

Thanks Mr. Coates, for your short analysis of the extracts concerning submarines in the Defense White Paper.

When I read that "the government will ensure that the future submarine project provides a regionally superior capability and value-for-money for Australian taxpayers while maximising the involvement of Australian defense industry",

I understand the same thing that you noticed : the Australian government wants better subs than China's SSNs. This is the condition for the superiority, and it is very difficult for an SSK to reach the supremacy of an SSN (even the simplest).

So, I also understand that the DCNS proposal has one step ahead in the CEP.
From all the proposals, the Shortfin Barracuda B1a is the only sub which can be at the level of China's SSNs.
Mainly because it is a lightened conversion of the last SSN development which is one of the best SSN (with Astutes and Virginias), and which will soon be commissioned in the French navy.

Everybody seems to agree on the technical superiority of the Shortfin Barracuda B1a, and on the ability of DCNS to work with the local industry to share the construction and the technologies of these subs, as they do with India and Bresil for example.


ONeil Padilla said...

Morning Pete,
You've must've burnt the midnight oil last night.
Good news about the subs but hopefully the cost & risks can be worked out once the Govt. picks a design.
Oddly my favourite part of the DWP was:

4.37 Eight P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and response aircraft will
be introduced in the early 2020s, with seven additional aircraft to be
acquired in two tranches to bring the total to 15 aircraft by the late

Jez I would've been happy with 12! but 15 that's brilliant.
Now all we have to do is integrate the LRASM & JASSAM-ER on the P8's and you have one potent strike asset. (oh yes and make sure it's ASW is up to scratch too :)_)

Ok I know they (The Govt.) may change their minds on this one and possibly cut back the order but Boeing has good track record of delivering on time and budget so that's why I'm hopeful.

Look forward to your views on the DWP.
Let's Hope the Country has the money to pay for it.

Peter Coates said...

Hi ONeil Padilla

Thanks. I keep extended hours.

If time permits I'll do a Defence White Paper (DWP) article on anti-submarine mentions, today - including P-8As of course.

The web is currently awash with snap analyses of the DWP.

I'm extracting sections, in detail, by subject, as an aid/record that will be useful to researchers long after this weeks' snap analyses are forgotten.


The vulnerability of P-8s to SAMs including head-on means that P-8s (with Anti-Ship missiles) are useful in warfare against lower resourced enemies but far less so China.

P-8s are probably most useful in ASW, signals collection (on land and sea), search n rescue and finding Refugee Boats (a major issue for Australia).



Peter Coates said...

Hi GA [at 26/2/16 8:35 AM] Shortfin is no SSK with SSN capabilities.

Thanks. It is true that only DCNS can offer an evolution project from 6 x SSKs in the 2020s/30s to a second build 6 x SSNs in the 2040s.

Re "From all the proposals, the Shortfin Barracuda B1a is the only sub which can be at the level of China's SSNs."

Assuming Shortfin Barracuda B1a is a large SSK it will be inferior to Chinese SSNs on critical range/speed + whole of transit/mission discretion.

The key advantages of SSNs to Australia would be the ability to complete Fully Submerged the whole transit from Fleet Base West 6 weeks operation "up north" and transit back still fully submerged - all up 2 months with no snorting.

Fully submerged (no snorting so no diesel running) discretion is what an Australian submarine should be able to do. Average speed through all that of 16 knots would be ideal.

No SSK from any country, now or projected, can move fully (ie. no snorting) submerged at 16 knots for 2 months.

Vendor claims that the Shortfin SSK has the "capabilities of an SSN" fall short of this website's usual standards.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev Konrad [26/2/16 7:35 AM]

Very true.

I'll do a post on that this arvo.



Peter Coates said...

Hi S [at 26/2/16 3:56 AM]

You raise some good questions. The problems still have not been resolved.

Japan should be particulary aware that Australia has recently dissolved the expert weapons (including submarine) buying organisation know as the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO). The end of DMO means there will be many future problems for the Australian Government's Defence White Paper buying plans.

The Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), which become associated with many failures of the Collins, has shown that its failures continue. This is still being seen in the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) project which is $Billions overbudget (200% over world prices) and years late.

Unresolved issues with the Collins include:
- unreliable diesels for the long range, high transit speeds required,
- probably too much salt in the fuel tanks when they take on seawater ballast,
- continuing personnel management problems including problems retaining enough submarine Commanders/Captains and key crew positions.
- lack of continuous-rolling builds right now which means many experienced sustainers are being sacked or leaving before they have to go.

Australia has no powerful equivalent of Japan's Board of Audit and no clear chain of responsibility. Also too many new Prime Ministers and Defence Ministers.

Escaping to become contractors, corporate Presidents/CEOs ("arms company" Australia) or Ambassadors is instead the goal of too many public and political officials.

So methodical Japan should be careful selling to its launch submarine customer (Australia).



subdriver said...

Hi Pete,

I enjoyed reading your analysis. The problem with White papers outlining ambitious plans over a two decade period often are too ambitious to be realistic in implementation. The rapidly evolving dynamic of the Indo-Asia-Pacific precludes a two decade planning process. I think much will change before even the first boat begins construction. Secondly. the design and operational philosophies of Japanese and European submarines are quite different - so Australia will have to take a very well-informed decision where politics should actually take backstage. The CEP's eventual recommendation will be interesting to observe and thereafter the issues of in-country build, ToT, weapon and sensor integration etc etc will kick in. I agree with 4.29 - Australia might have to seriously start looking at a SSN capability within the next decade or so. As for the Shortfin Barracuda, its still only a concept - dealing with the French is not easy as Malaysia has discovered and even in India despite going in for a proven design (Scorpene), it will be 11 years by the time the first boat is commissioned hopefully by the end of this year. There may be valuable lessons to be learnt from the Indian programme.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Anil

The two decade sweep of White Papers also allows governments to say changed circumstances and mismanagement by previous opposition parties means grand plans cannot be honoured. Especially competing expenses (health, education, welfare, need for nuclear weapons or DF-21D like missiles?) might intercede.

A typical dynamic for Australian submarines is for the Government to state that 10 are needed, then 8 then the standard 6 (as for the 6 Oberons then 6 Collins). It seems that the high up front costs and maybe the expense of finding sufficient crews makes Governments see reality. This will be even more true of the Future submarines being 50% heavier than the Collins (with proportionate higher upfront costs).

Yes Paragraph 4.29 is important:

"During the long life of the new submarines, the rapid rate of technological change and ongoing evolution of Australia’s strategic circumstances will continue. As part of the rolling acquisition program, a review based on strategic circumstances at the time, 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."

Certainly transitioning to 6 Barracuda SSNs would be facilitated by first choosing 6 Shortfins.

Hopefully a Australian Defence or Naval Attache in Delhi is talking to the Indian Navy about the in and outs of French provision.



Anonymous said...

Operating an SSK is very different from operating an SSN. The support logisitcs for a nuclear reactor is very different. French nuclear reactors used in their SSN and their CDG are based on a commercial design so it needs to be refueled. Refueling is not a trivial $B task and it takes a long time. Their CDG will enter dry dock next year for a refueling which will last at least 1.5 years if all things go well.

In my view an SSN choice s totaly a different choice and program than this SSK decision. Do not fell into the endless feature creep.

I find it rather puzzling the claim of parity with Chinese SSNs. The latter are hardly the reference standard in SSN.

Peter Coates said...


Yes "regionally superior" over Chinese SSNs is a spurious Turnbull claim.

Your observations on the 1.5+ year refueling requirements for Barracuda SSN's are very useful.

Refueling means it cannot be done in Australia. Instead France's nuclear fuel facilities and routine-expert refuelers would have to do it. Australian Barracudas having longer than French average mission transits would probably mean more frequent refueling more often. French SSNs apparently rarely visit France's distant South Pacific areas.

This probably also means other heavy maintenance work for Australian Barracudas would more logically take place in France. France is a long way from Australia. So this may rule out Barracudas as a viable SSN option for Australia.

The Astutes have had build and major performance problems (including low (for SSNs) maximum speed) meaning Australia should be wary of Astutes.

So we are back to looking at the Virginias as a "regionally superior" submarine. No major build problems, don't need refueling, US range-transit patterns would be similar to Australia's, heavy maintenance maybe possible at comparatively nearby Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard http://www.public.navy.mil/subfor/underseawarfaremagazine/Issues/Archives/issue_52/PearlHarborShipyard.html