May 13, 2016

Nuclear Propelled Australian Submarines (work in progress)



How can Australian submarines, conventional or nuclear propelled, influence the strategic problem of the South China Sea disputes, if at all?  (Map courtesy Mike Nudelman/Business Insider)
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Australia has a wide area of interest. Submarines are often about places where interests are concentrated... "In peacetime, tension and war they can collect intelligence and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, clandestinely and a long way from home - knowledge is power". etc - see http://sea1000.gov.au/submarine-essentials/faqs/
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This is an issue with some comments by readers already made, but the nuclear propulsion issue will always remain unfinished. The fact that the Shortfin concept is based on a soon to be launched  nuclear Barracuda SSN (Suffren in 2017continues to draw nuclear propulsion interest. 

In Australia there will be a five year design phase (about 2017 to 2022) which, for the public will mainly be about discussion, inevitably much on nuclear propulsion. 2029 may see a renewal of discussion as suggested in paragraph 4.29 of the 2016 Defence White Paper (PDF of 10 MB):

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."

SO MANY QUESTIONS ARE RELEVANT - INCLUDING:

1.  What technical problems may occur with Australia and DCNS converting a nuclear submarine (Barracuda SSN) into a conventional diesel-electric submarine (Shortfin SSK)?  

a.  the unusually large scale diesel-electric propulsion for the Collins caused/cause major operational and availability problems. As some of the players may be the same, the unusually large scale diesel-electric propulsion for the Shortfin may again cause major problems.

b.  Australia has chosen in such a way that it may be denied the advanced AIP of TKMS and probably mature, tested Lithium-ion Batteries of the Japanese option. Will the Shortfin be discrete/stealthy enough to face more thickly laid, more sensitive anti-submarine defences? This may not only include China and Russia but nations that recieve improved anti-submarine technology from those countries. 

c.  Submarine Matters is not alone on Question 1. Robert Gottliebsen in The Australian, May 13, 2016 states“…there can be no nuclear option at the moment but if the [Shortfin design conversion goes badly over the 5 year design phase] clearly there could be a nuclear option. I accept that no one talked about the nuclear option in the [Australian] cabinet and during decision-making discussions but I am equally sure it was discussed among defence chiefs. Certainly it should have been.”

2.  What changing strategic conditions (opponents and friends) might drive the Australian Government to consider an SSN?

a.  Improved opposing sensor and weapons improvements are major strategic variables (like 1.b). China has only just begun its South China Sea island/shoal/reef military bastion building program.

b.  the US has naval and air bases (Diego Garcia, Guam, Japan/Okinawa, Hawaii, US West Coast) which are far from Australia. But emerging strategic threats to Australia may be much closer, in a Chinese exploited East Timor and New Caledonia. See more detail in the next Sub Matters article.

c.  Srategic changes can exist in terms of changing threats but also in changing, or declining, alliances. Denial that Trump is really serious and his chance at the Presidency will wane just keeps on rolling as his chances improve. So there may be US alliance instability caused by a President Trump who may strip ANZUS down to "cutting the deal". China may be encouraged by what it perceives to be US isolationism. 

d.  Nuclear Tipping Points in Northeast Asia, caused by US isolationism, the China and North Korea threat, may trigger a proliferation trend (weapons first, propulsion later if relevant) that Australia might be forced to address.  writing in ASPI Strategist, May 13, 2016 has succinctly written [Trump's] "suggestion that Tokyo and Seoul might need to start protecting themselves, via proliferation if necessary, contradict half a century of US foreign policy. Trump’s remarks saw some pundits justifying the value of those commitments and others considering the merits of his argument.

Further questions:

3.  For the above strategic changes does submarine propulsion system matter that much? 

4.  Are surface ships adequate for strategic changes or do they need help from submarines?

5.  In what scenarios might an SSN be advantageous for Australia?

With relevance to Questions 3, 4 and 5 "KQN" (in Comments, 14/5/16 1:59 AM) indicated along the lines.

My view of an SSN is it has an inherent persistent tactical speed (at which it can still detect other silent enemies) that is much higher than any SSK. A higher tactical speed allows shorter silent transits as well as a much more effective underwater search outcome.

A potent naval force with a sustainable presence is essential to enforce one's claims and to make a point (for example FONOP in the South China Sea) against other nations' claims that you may feel to be unjustified. FONOP is not effective at periscope depths, but needs visible naval surface ship and/or aircraft. A potent submarine force keeps the opposition guessing, and guessing can be a good deterrence to war in peace times.

If we look back at the emergence of regional powers or global powers in the past 1000 years, it all started with naval power followed by victories at sea.

6.  How could Australia acquire 4 to 6 nuclear propelled submarines?

CONCLUSIONS

Australia has an abundance of shallow waters to patrol and lots of narrow straits (well suited to SSKs) but it also has long distances requiring fast transit (Fleet Base West to Fleet Base East (Sydney).

I think Australia can only justify nuclear subs in the longer term eg. after 2035 if there is a sufficient intensifying of strategic problems (eg. stronger and more hostile Chinese Navy, with a US Navy declining in relative power).

US SSNs and SSGNs do visit Fleet Base West (Rockingham, near Perth, Western Australia) which is more secure from northern air and cruise missile attack threats. Darwin (as discovered in WWII bombing by Japanese aircraft) is too exposed to air attack and Darwin Port is owned by a Chinese company... There have been talks about more frequent US use of Fleet Base West - a possibility if the US feels it needs to withdraw from more exposed submarine bases at Guam and Japan.

So for the short-medium term (say, until 2035) conventional Aus subs only are justifiable.

Pete

38 comments:

Ztev Konrad said...

Its like a sequel at the movies, they went through all this last time when the selection was considering a number of different types for what became the Collins class.
DCNS only offered a diesel version of its nuclear Rubis class, and the whole issue there was then sidetracked by a possible nuclear option for Australia. DCNS didnt make the short list.
History repeats like bad Hollywood movies.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,
There is a problem with lay person and the term "nuclear submarine". Ordannary men make no difference between a nuclear propulsion or nuclear weapons because in most known cases a submarine is both.

A nuclear propelled submarine will therefor always be recognized as nuclear armed.

It may also make it difficult to visit friends.

I doubt that a nuclear powered submarine will be as cheap as a conventional one. Just think about Japan. They have a lot of nuclear power stations.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...


Hi Pete

Foreign company who does business in Australia is subject to Australian anti-bribery and corruption legislation [8]. Also, Australia and France are signatory counties of Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions [6,7].

Thales, one of major holders of DCNS [2,3] was criticized on two submarine deals [4] with foreign governments (Malayasia [1] and India [5]) . In the case of India, no evidence of corruption in the deal was found [5], but in the case of Malayasia, recently, France started investigation [1].

[1] http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/fab19252-ca85-11e5-be0b-b7ece4e953a0.html#axzz43ql87U37
“France opens probe into ‘bribery’ of Malaysia’s Najib Razak” by Michael Stothard in Paris and Michael Peel in Bangkok, Financial Times, February 4, 2016 1:05 pm.

“Paris prosecutors have launched a formal investigation into whether Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, was paid bribes over a long-contentious $1.2bn arms deal when he was defence minister. A judge will probe whether Bernard Baiocco, former president of French defence group Thales International Asia [2,3], paid illegal kickbacks to Mr Najib via an associate of the prime minister to win a 2002 contract for two submarines[4], according to people close to the case”.

[2] https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/worldwide/press-release/thales-impact-dcns-financial-situation
Thales (Euronext Paris: HO) holds a 35% shareholding (at 23.01.2015) over the past few months DCNS

[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DCNS_(company)
French state holds a 64% stake of DCNS

[4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorp%C3%A8ne-class_submarine
“The Scorpène-class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarines jointly developed by the French DCN and the Spanish company Navantia and now by DCNS.”

[5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpene_deal_scam
“The Scorpene deal scam was an Indian bribery scandal, in which Rs. 500 crores (about USD 10 million) were alleged to have been paid to government decision makers by Thales. Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had approved a deal to build Scorpene-class submarines worth Rs 19,000 crore with Thales in October 2005. The investigating agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), found no evidence of corruption in the deal in 2008. Scorpene submarines are now being built in India under a technology transfer agreement that was part of that contract.”

To be continued

Anonymous said...

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OECD_Anti-Bribery_Convention
“The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (officially Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions) is a convention of the OECD aimed at reducing corruption in developing countries by encouraging sanctions against bribery in international business transactions carried out by companies based in the Convention member countries. Its goal is to create a truly level playing field in today's international business environment.”

Australia and France belongs to signatory countries. Malaysia has participated as observers in the Working Group.

[7]”Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions” adopted by the Negotiating Conference on 21 November 1997,

Article 1 The Offence of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials
2. Each Party shall take any measures necessary to establish that complicity in, including incitement, aiding and abetting, or authorisation of an act of bribery of a foreign public official shall be a criminal offence. Attempt and conspiracy to bribe a foreign public official shall be criminal offences to the same extent as attempt and conspiracy to bribe a public official of that Party.

Article 3 Sanctions
1. The bribery of a foreign public official shall be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. The range of penalties shall be comparable to that applicable to the bribery of the Party‟s own public officials and shall, in the case of natural persons, include deprivation of liberty sufficient to enable effective mutual legal assistance and extradition.

[8]http://www.claytonutz.com/publications/edition/27_november_2014/20141127/doing_business_in_australia_anti-bribery.page “Doing Business in Australia: Anti-bribery” by Greg Williams and Tobin Meagher.

Regards
S

Peter Coates said...

Hi S

Thats no good at all. Australia has a comparitively good reputation, of ex or current government officials, not receiving money from arms companies.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

True that many confuse nuclear propulsion with nuclear weapons. But the difference become obscured in the case of the Virginia's, which rely on a reactor that happens to be over 90% HEU.

I've added many more arguments against nuclear propulsion for Australia in the text.

The 2016 Defence White Paper has, after all, promised "regionally superior" future submarines. Though inferior to nuclear propelled SSNs that ply the region - including those in the Chinese, Russian and still-friendly, Indian, navies.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

All nuclear submarines use HEU beyond what is allowed in the non proliferation treaty. The reason is nuclear reactor in submarines are no where as efficient as those nuclear power plants.

Even in the submarine business in Pakistan, there was corruption. Something the French called "retro commission". There were plenty of court cases on it. And then there was corruption in the case of the Frigate sales to Taiwan. The Malaysian and Taiwan cases will be fit for a spy thriller movie.
KQN

Anonymous said...

Production of the 1st of class Barracuda is going pretty well actually. Cost and timelines have increased by less than 10%, so although there were some surprises along the way, no show stoppers. For example, by mid-2013, delays were only 6 months... after 6 years of production. Delays/costs haven't increased noticeably since then.

The real reason for the slow production rate is simple - to keep an even production drumbeat with only 10 hulls (4 SSBNs + 6 SSNs). As it is, DCNS's submarine production capacity is only at 70% utilization, so they have to rely on exports (Brazil, India etc) to cover the rest.

HK



Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN

The French K15 reactor that the Barracuda (Suffren class) SSNs are likely to use may well operate on a LEU level way lower than the 20% LEU/HEU borderline. see http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/non-power-nuclear-applications/transport/nuclear-powered-ships.aspx

"...the enrichment level for newer French naval fuel has been dropped to 7.5% U-235, the fuel being known as 'caramel', which needs to be changed every ten years or so. This avoids the need for a specific military enrichment line, and some reactors will be smaller versions of those on the Charles de Gaulle [carrier]. In 2006 the Defence Ministry announced that Barracuda class subs would use fuel with "civilian enrichment, identical to that of EdF power plants," which may be an exaggeration but certainly marks a major change there."

Yes much submarine selling may go on in the developing world where "commissions" to facilitate contracts constitute an expected "fee" for doing business. This can get so intense that it may frustrate long term efficiency programs - like submarine building.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

We should validate meaning of one’ word by his behavior, or we will be tricked and sometimes lose money.

DCNS and its two major holders, i.e., French state (stakes of 64%) and Thales (25%) express a kind of commitment on ethics and compliance [1, 2, 3], but submarine selling scandals are repeated [4, 5]. In the case of India, no evidence of corruption in the deal was found [5], but in the case of Malaysia, recently, France started investigation [4].

US is neutral to the submarine tender, but is extremely nervous at treatment of highly classified information on its combat system. The contender should ensure its confidentiality by proven behavior for compliance. A hundred words does not always prove confidentiality.

[1] http://en.dcnsgroup.com/group/company-social-responsability/compliance/introduction/
COMPANY SOCIAL RESONSIBILITY
“Ethics and Compliance are a cornerstone of integrity and constitute a strategic imperative to which DCNS attaches the utmost importance. Ethics and Compliance contribute to the Group’s performance and its sustainability. Transparency and the strengthening of these rules and procedures are therefore among the Group’s priorities. Acting with integrity and respect is a powerful competitive advantage that enhances employee engagement towards the Company and thus their motivation to develop its business.”

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OECD_Anti-Bribery_Convention
France is signatory country of “The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (officially Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions)”.

[3]https://www.thalesgroup.com/sites/default/files/asset/document/thales_-_corruption_risk_prevention_policy_-_eng_rev01_2014_0_0.pdf
1. DOCUMENT OVERVIEW AND SCOPE
“For companies in which Thales owns less than 50% of shares (minority-owned joint ventures), the
Group works with the other shareholders to ensure that the basic elements of a corruption risk
prevention policy are included in the company's compliance policy.”
2. THE CODE OF ETHICS: THE BACKBONE OF THE ANTI-CORRUPTION
POLICY
“Since the early 2000s, Thales corporate management has consistently reaffirmed the principle of “zero tolerance” for all forms
of bribery and corruption.”

[4] http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/fab19252-ca85-11e5-be0b-b7ece4e953a0.html#axzz43ql87U37
“France opens probe into ‘bribery’ of Malaysia’s Najib Razak”

[5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpene_deal_scam

Regards
S

Peter Coates said...

Hi HK

Thanks for your 26/3/16 9:32AM comment.

As its very relevant to the new article [ http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/the-future-french-ssn-and-ssbn-programs.html of March 27 2016] I've written on the DCNS new SSN and SSBN programs - I've moved your comment over there.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

A potent naval force with a sustainable presence is essential to enforce one's claims and to make a point (for example FONOP) against other nations' claims that you may feel to be unjustified. FONOP is not effective at periscope depths, but a potent submarine force keeps the opposition guessing, and guessing can be a good deterrence to war in peace times.

If we look back at the emergence of regional powers or global powers in the past 1000 years, it all started with naval power followed by victories at sea.

My view of an SSN is it has an inherent persistent tactical speed (at which it can still detect other silent enemies) that is much higher than any SSK. A higher tactical speed allows shorter silent transits as well as a much more effective underwater search outcome.
KQN

Robin said...

Peter, I wonder why Austrialia would pursue nuclear submarines. I have been out of that game for a long time so my information could be terribly dated, but nuclear boats are noisier than modern diesel electric boats, aren't they. I myself am a little dismayed that the U.S. has not started to build some of these newer, ultra quiet boats. Your part of the world can really benefit from a picket strategy. You have an abundance of shallow waters to patrol, lots of narrow straits and such. Seems to me the right strategy for Australia would be to provide a home port for an American SSN squadron in Darwin and concentrate your defense dollars on conventionals.

BK said...

Pete,

Because it is repeated many many times, but has not been defined yet - or at least not publicly: how is a regional superior submarine defined??

I think this is a very important questions at this time, and IWonder qhat the community has to aay about this..

Regards,

BK

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Just a question, if SSK are so better than SSN as every ones here implied, why all mightiest navies like US, Russia, France, UK and China use SSN instead?


Regards,
HDG

Anonymous said...

Oh dear lord. I'm loving it.

A small 20m country which has constant problems crewing its six conventional subs wants to buy twelve to operate as far as South China Sea and counter China and perhaps even turn them into SSNs to do it better!

Either someone here is really stupid or someone here has a small penis complex!

Either way Australia is done for with this approach.

MHalblaub said...

There reason are the SSNB. You still need a nuclear propelled submarine to position your balistic missiles for months somewhere in the oceans.

The only way to find these SSNB is to follow them right from their horbour. Therefor a SSN is required.

Another reason is to protected a big battle group with an as fast submarine as the surface ships.

There the illogic starts. The SSK just waits for the loud and fast SSN. With electric torpedoes the SSN will not even hear something until it is to late.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [at 14/5/16 1:59 AM]

Thanks. I'll work your response into the text under questions 3, 4 and 5.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Robin [at 14/5/16 7:34 AM]

I think Australia can only justify nuclear subs in the longer term eg. after 2035 if there is a sufficient intensifying of strategic problems (eg. stronger and more hostile Chinese Navy, with a US Navy declining in relative power).

At lower speeds nuclear subs are reputedly noiser than SSKs. US cessation of SSK building appears to be for many strategic + tactical + technical reasons, but also for political, career and economic (including profit) reasons.

Australia indeed has "an abundance of shallow waters to patrol, lots of narrow straits and such" but also long distances requiring fast transit (eg. Fleet Base West to Fleet Base East (Sydney).

US SSNs and SSGNs do visit Fleet Base West (Rockingham, near Perth, Western Australia) which, due to distance, is more secure from air and cruise missile attack. Darwin, as discovered with Japanese bombing in WWII, is too exposed to air attack and Darwin Port is owned by a Chinese company... There have been talks about more frequent US use of Fleet Base West - a possibility if Trump permits.

So for the short-medium term conventional Aus subs only are justifiable.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi BK [14/5/16 11:56AM]

"a regional superior submarine" is certainly not an SSK. This is because SSNs are superior in discretion at the mid-higher speed ranges that Aus subs will increasingly be called on to attain. A Shortfin will also carry far fewer heavyweight shots (especially land attack cruise missiles) compared to Russian and Chinese (and maybe Indian) SSNs and SSGNs that will more frequently ply the Indo-Pacific.

"a regional superior submarine" may be code for Lets buy a batch of SSNs as opposition subs become more formidable.

"the community" (especially in Adelaide") want the Federal Government to spend as much money for SSK sub building JOBS in Adelaide as possible. It would be more difficult for France, UK or US to justify SSN building in Australia for political, security, safety and economies of scale reasons.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi HDG

No serious scholars of subs see SSKs as superior (I reckon).

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [15/5/16 8:10 AM]

Yes countries with a truly autonomous defence force need SSBNs or at least Israeli-style SSGKs with nuclear tipped missiles.

SSNs protect SSBNs but apart from that only SSNs can fight other SSNs on equivalent terms.

And only an SSN can Discretely protect a battle group that is moving at normal speeds (say, 15 knots) or more.

If an SSK is in an obvious chokepoint or, at least in front of an SSN, it may well be able to torpedo the SSN. But the difficulty of an SSK sitting behind from chasing an SSN may frequently/usually put an SSK at a disadvantage.

Regards

Pete

BK said...

Hi Pete,

by the "community" I was thinkingn more about the people in this forum...

But thanks for this explanation. I am surprised that during the last 15 months, nobody picked up on this line of Australian Government officials. No one even tried to explain this term, no one even tried to discuss it - at least not that I have heard that. Maybe someone else has a reference?

If regional superior submarine means SSN, why is the GOvernment even considering other options? And of this definition is true, I would almost go as far to say that the whole CEP is therefor at least questionable.

In another issue, I found some references in the last two weeks saying that two former US admirals and the RAND cooperation have reviewed the CEP bids. I always thought that the decision was a pure Australian one - that could be questioned now, right?

Regards,
BK

Peter Coates said...

Hi BK [15/5/16 5:37 PM]

"Regionally superior" was most bandied about in the February 26, 2016's Defence White Paper

I concentrated on this in an article 2 days later:

"Australia's high cost, less than "regionally superior" Future Submarines", February 28, 2016 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/australias-high-cost-less-than.html with the comment:

The Turnbull Government's 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP) (PDF 10MB) includes breathtaking dollar figures calculated to win votes for the imminent Election. But unfortunately the submarines will not be “regionally superior” (claimed on DWP pages 19, 21, 90, 91 and 115). They will, however, be the most expensive conventional submarine in world history.

It is unfortunate that the upfront cost of Australia’s 12 Future Submarines will be unusually high for mere conventional diesel-electric submarines, at A$55 Billion or more (see Table below). As they will be conventional they will not be “regionally superior.” The "superior" accolade goes to the nuclear propelled attack submarines (SSNs) belonging to China, Russia, (in future India), France, UK and the US that frequent or at least transit the Asia-Pacific (frequently called "Indo-Pacific") Region.

In terms of China - perhaps the most likely future enemy - China’s Type 093 SSNs will remain superior in the critical areas of range, speed and fully submerged (not loud diesel) operation. China's future Type 095 SSNs (likely to be launched before 2030 (long PDF 10MB, December 2015, CRS Report RL33153 to Congress, page 87)) will be even more regionally superior than Australia’s shorter range, slower, noisier (when on diesel) and more vulnerable (when snorting) Future Submarines. Friendly India is also planning to build SSNs before 2030. So Australia's "regionally superior" claim will turn out even more wide of the mark."

The US was copied in on the CEP because:

1. the US, unlike Australia, has a long history of successful submarine building (including SSKs and nuclear) so the US has assessment experience to share,

2. the US is providing the most sensitive part of the sub - the Combat System, so will need to know the winning design intimately anyway.

There is a shrewd Australian and US development strategy to all this, which I cannot reveal.

Regards

Pete

Froggy said...

Hi pete,

This is a DCNS chairman interview :

http://www.lepoint.fr/editos-du-point/jean-guisnel/herve-guillou-dcns-les-industriels-sont-galvanises-car-le-drian-s-engage-personnellement-11-05-2016-2038527_53.php#xtatc=INT-500

Le point : There are rare country where france accept tu sale a SSN, Australia is one, why this option wasn't discuss ?
Herve Guillou : From 2011, the australian request is a SSK, so we don't pitch the nuclear option.

Le point : Have you proposed AIP ?
Herve Guillou : In the beginning we discussed AIP, but australians want long range patrolls. It's better to have 1000t fuel than a 1000t AIP system which permit slow speed, in the end you decrease the range.

F

Anonymous said...

If Australia is going an SSN route, then one does wonder why an interim SSK, the best approach is to lease one 688i SSN class from the USN. USN is putting into storage 688i SSN with more than 60% of life left in the product cycle. Then after that learning period, one can slide seamlessly into a number of Virgina SSN at $2B a piece with the provision that Australia can return them to the US for decommissioning at the end of product cycle so there is no need to set up and deal with recycling nuclear waste. One can work the maintenance issues in with USN.

Frankly, whether SSK or SSN, no weapon system can truly influence the issues in the SCS outside of a political solution.

The western world, and Australia never had to deal with a strong Imperial China in previous centuries and in their histories. In the coming decades and centuries, we will all have to live with and deal with that. And it does pay to be able to negotiate from a position of relative strength. In any negotiations, you always need bargaining chips that matter (to the other side at the table) and may be you will be left alone. In this regard, the SSN option carries strategic weight.

Another way to look at it, is the region is increasingly militarized and going nuclear is already here to stay, whether with China or India. I would not even be surprised if a Kilo with a nuclear AIP option shows up one day. Then others will join the fray.

And then there is the issue of global warming. If the agreements set at COP21 are to be in place, the vast majority of the fossil fuel reserves must stay put. It is also possible that a greater number of electric cars can unsettle the oil economy and drive up diesel prices (there was an interesting article on Bloomberg recently on this). Then what, after all we cannot look back at sails for warships.
KQN

BK said...

KQN, Froggy,

taking your points, can you define Regional Superior Submarine? After what Pete has said, regional superiority only makes sense with a SSN.

Regards,
BK

Peter Coates said...

Hi F [16/5/16 2:03 AM]

Thanks for the article.

Much as I suspected, particularly on Australia's lack of interest in AIP.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

BK
That is a political statement and the answer depends on how you define the "Region".

Quite a few multinational corporations define Australia to be part of Oceania (which also includes NZ, all the way to the Marquesas) from a business P&L, separate from ASEAN, China, North Asia and South Asia.

If we lump all the above in 1 region, then I agree with Pete, SSN.

But this why none of us are politicians.
KQN

BK said...

KQN,

clearly, and in the context of the CEP, "Region" is defined as the Indo-Pacific Region.
That said, it leaves us with a SSN. But my question is if that's what the Australian politicians have in mind when they talk about a regional superior submarine? Clearly, they must have been given advice on what a superior submarine needs to be capable of. And obviously, the French bid was and is, according to the Australian PM, the only one to guarantee that superiority.
So where is the benchmark?

Regards,

BK

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [16/5/16 4:50 AM]

I'm interested in Los Angeles of Virginia class leasing.

What websites mention "USN is putting into storage 688i SSN with more than 60% of life left in the product cycle."? Is that just one 688i or several?

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN and BK

On "regionally superior submarine" the first use of that wording I can see was September 8, 2014's

https://www.aspi.org.au/publications/the-submarine-choice-perspectives-on-australias-most-complex-defence-project/Strategy_submarine_choice.pdf

page 10: "regionally dominant superior conventional submarine capability"
page 18: "regionally superior conventional submarine capability, principally enabled through
continued access to sensitive American and British technologies"

Interestingly mention of "conventional" was dropped from the "regionally superior" phrase from the February 2016 Defence White Paper onwards - and continued to be absent in Turnbull's April 26, 2016 (DCNS has won) announcement.

I think dropping "conventional" allows in the possibility of nuclear submarines in future Australian Government decision making, doesn't it?

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

Getting into the nuke vs conventional noise argument just slightly (a book could easily be written).

Concerning self noise generation, the nuke definitely has several types of plant noise it generates that the D/E does not have to deal with, and it generally always has to be making this noise as opposed to a D/E operating solely on batteries. However as to whether this make it 'noisier', that depends on 1). whether the plant noise is the loudest thing on the boat in its current state - ie, transients, flow noise, and propulsor noise are more minor contributions to the boat's sound signature in its current maneuver and environment and 2). the degree to which effort has been made the silence said noise (noise generation versus *radiated* noise).

Clearly there is some break away point where the nuke isn't putting more noise into the water than a diesel depending on the two boats being compared - is a Virginia more noisy than Type VIIC on battery? The USN uses a number of suppression techniques to quiet its boats of which we know of rafting and the rather misnamed anechoic coatings. We can probably safely assume several other sound insulation technologies along with active noise cancellation, the later being particularly effective with constant frequency noise like turbines. Pump noise has been solved in Ohio class boats using free circulation; its not clear if any SSNs use this technique but it seems likely some other roughly equivalently quiet method is used, or else free circulation would likely be employed in SSNs despite the size and complexity penalty.

So ignoring the tactical advantages (higher dash speed, available higher patrol speed, no indiscretion time, unlimited hotel power) and the strategic advantages (shorter transit times, longer patrol times, less forward infrastructure, no reliance on tenders, fewer boats needed), it is not clear that a particular model of nuke boat compared to a particular model of D/E necessarily results in the D/E being quieter, particularly at any speed above patrol, while maneuvering, or changing depth (conditions where the plant noise often isn't the strongest self generated noise to begin with).

That said I think it would be very challenging for the RAN to acquire nuclear boats for political and cost reasons. I don't think it is a realistic goal at this time.


Cheers,
Josh

Anonymous said...

Pete,

This site talks about the Los Angeles class and the age of respective SSN at retirement.

http://navy-matters.blogspot.fr/2015/08/los-angeles-class-overhauls-and.html

I am off a bit, the average retirement age is 21 years out of a cycle life of 34 years (although an overhaul can stretch this to 40+ years). Still Australia can choose to lease an SSN with a mere 17 years of service so there is still 1/2 life left, and with an overhaul prior to lease, 60% of its life left.

KQN

MHalblaub said...


Dear Pete,

I found a nice picture about the Brazilian SSN use:
http://visualoop.com/media/2015/04/The-first-nuclear-submarine-built-in-Brazil.jpg

Interesting is the small picture top left. 3 SSNs will patrol about 500 nm before the coast covering a span of about 4,000 nm span.
SSN: Crew 95; speed ~36 kn
Brazilian Scorpéne: Crew 66; speed 20 kn

Lets have a look to Australia.
Three SSN out of 6 would have to cover about a distance of 7,500 nm. Due to the fact that Australia is an "island" the 3 SSN could always be spaced 2,500 nm
Worst case distance 1,250 nm

6 big SSK spaced 1,250 nm
Worst case distance 625 nm

10 small SSK spaced 750 nm
Worst case distance 375 nm

Time to target:
3SSN @ 36 kn: 35 hours
6 SSK @ 12 kn: 52 hours
10 SSK @ 12 kn: 31 hours

At 36 kn a pump jet will not prevent the rest of the submarine to be silent. At such speeds there will be turbulence around e.g. the sail.

An enemy will hear a fast SSN coming especially in the silent waste of sea around Australia. Speed kills.

You may remember that the Type 210mod just needs 21 crewmen for a three watch system: 210 crewmen

Big SSK: 360 men + women
SSN (F): 285
SSN (US): 390

As long as Australia has no nukes an SSN makes no sense just like a big SSK.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

I believe latest generation of SSNs are all capable of turning off their pumps and rely on free circulation, including the Virginias, and even the Russian Yasen.
KQN

Anonymous said...

The SSN-SSK analysis assumes distributed basing which is not the case today in Australia.

And then Australia's strategy (Pete can correct me if I am off) is not to protect its coast lines, it is protecting its far flung approaches to its sea lanes and to collect intelligence at the outer edges, so whether SSK or SSN, they all have to make first a long transit before they can reach their patrol area.

KQN

MHalblaub said...

Dear KQN,

the assumption was the Brazilian tactic to deploy SSN and that small SSK could do the job better with less men.

The not distributed basing is a big tactical an strategic Australian fault.

Sydney and Perth a nowadays within reach of Australia's big opponents. Distributed basing makes preemptive strikes harder to coordinate and to be successful. Some tender would also useful.

It is also an advance to have bases all other Australia to refuel an rearm submarines and ships.

Christmas Island to Jakarta: 300 nm
Christmas Island to Lombok Straight: 600 nm
Darwin to Hong Kong: 2,500 nm
Darwin to Tianjin: 3,500 nm
Guam to Hong Kong: 2,000 nm
Guam to Tianjin: 2,000 nm
Diego Garcia to Sri Lanka: 1,000 nm
Australia may ask its allies for bases before buying far to big submarines.

Small submarines are also far better for intelligence gathering. Would you rather risk a $250 million submarine with a crew of 21 or $2 billion SSN with 125 men close to the shores? With an US SSN you probably would need clearance for every mission.

Missions with a duration of more than 30 days are delicate due to crew requirement. With sorter turns the Australian submarines could be more attractive for sailors.

You may remember this:
http://www.news.com.au/national/russian-warships-show-how-exposed-australia-is-and-raise-china-issue/news-story/26213cfda80cf65c26a8a859274c2ed1

Even an SSN would need 4 days from Perth to Coral Sea. From Brisbane 1 and 1/2 days with SSK.

In may opinion Australia needs many submarines and not a big few. This would also be cheaper and easier to maintain a constant submarine production. Finally Australia could protect the seas around itself.

Regards,
MHalblaub