March 14, 2017

Potential Concerns Over Australia-France Shortfin Cooperation Agreements

Australia wants to avoid weapon supply-intellectual property worries - from subs down to infantry weapons. On the latter a Vietnam veteran recalls The 84mm Carl Gustaf Anti-Tank weapon [above] Manufactured in Sweden, we were unable to use them because the Swedes would not provide ammunition, as they did not support the war in Vietnam. That must have been a good contract.”

In wording as at 11am, March 14, 2017 AAP via Australia’s SBS News began its report:

“Australia must learn from an intellectual property disaster before work starts on a French-designed submarine fleet, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.

An uncertain political landscape in France could pose a risk to Australia's French-designed submarine fleet project.

The [Australian] federal joint [Senate-House] treaties committee is examining the submarine cooperation agreement between France and Australia at a hearing in Canberra on [March 14, 2017].

Government-owned French shipbuilder DCNS won the contract to design Australia's 12 new submarines, which will be built in Adelaide.

The treaty has an out clause of two years notice if France or Australia decide to withdraw, the hearing was told...”  See the WHOLE AAP via SBS ARTICLE now updated as at 12.46pm.

The committee heard witness views from ASPI's Andrew Davies - here is his opening address.  



Anonymous said...

MHalblaub comments:

Dear Pete,

Hugh White seems to share my views about size (March 2017):

I still think even in concert with the US Navy RAN should not bring a kind of Diesel Virginia bass to the play. For nice music you also need violins.

Another one also sees some trouble due to size: see this Hans J. Ohff article:

It really looks like Hugh White thinks in the same way as I do on greater numbers of smaller subs: see White's

24 @ 1,000 t would be pain in the ... of any enemy. Even 24 @ 1,800 t submerged would be cheaper and commissioned in 2025 ;-)

Finally, get rid of the "superior" US command and control system. Only costs will be superior to an inherited system.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

Hugh White's article has also been reprinted in the US's fine publication "National Interest"

I see no reason why Australia should go for the smallest submarine on the market, the 210. This is noting Australia's northern cities Darwin, Townsville and Cairns are unsuitable as even forward submarine ports.

If Australia wanted an in-production TKMS product the 212, 214 or even better a 3m extra stretched 218 are available for Australia's longer range/longer endurance requirements. Crew of 45.

Maybe a TKMS Dolphin 3 for Australia as TKMS are building them for Israel anyway. These 3,000 ton Dolphins could deploy UUVs in there 4 x 650mm torpedo tubes or long range SLCMs.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Collins-subs will be in commission until replacement by Shortfins whose first batch will be in commission in early 2030th. Until full replacement, i.e., late 2030th, some Collins-subs will be in commission by lifetime extension.

As Collins-subs have experienced hull cutting for maintenance of diesel generators, their maximam submerge depth obviously is significantly reduced to that of training sub. Scorpènes for India can submerge much deeper than Colliins-subs. This means Australia and its alliance will have big loophole in defense by submarines for next 20 years. Reality-based submarine strategy is needed to fill the loophole.


MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I mentioned the 1,000 t Type 210 to show the range of options. A fleet of 12 Short Fins would have a total displacement of 60,000 t. According to displacement (and price) it would be 50 Type 210, 30 Type 212, 26 Dolphins or 20 Scorpene 3000.

The point made by Hugh White is the price for being on station or performing a specific task. Is bigger really cheaper? Did RAN run the figures or just set fanciful requirements to get something really big.

Related to this financial problem is retirement of Collins-class. For each year of earlier retirement a huge amount of money will be saved.

For deploying big UUV even a Type 210 could be fitted with a big 1.5 m horizontal lock. A horizontal lock has an access advantage over a vertical tube.

I consider Darwin, Cairns and Townsville more suitable for a submarine base than Eckernförde with its long and shallow way to the shallow Baltic Sea. Even Garden Island is today in reach of Chinese arms.

A big problem is to have three companies building a submarine. That leads to friction and nobody really responsible in the end (forefinger syndrome).

Australia does not need a superior submarine on paper. Australia needs a superior existing submarine fleet.


Josh said...


I don't see how having a much larger of submarines that lack the range to get to a useful area of operations would be an improvement. The 212 would have nothing like the range of Collins or Shorfin. Were it that the RAN needed subs to patrol the area immediately around Australian, those platforms would be more relevant (though I suspect a 212 would have a hard time circumnavigating the continent and spending a useful time on patrol).


MHalblaub said...

Dear Josh,

Can you imagine that the drive train of Collins-class is far less efficient compared to Type 212/214?
It starts with the ancient Hedemore Garden Island and ends with the electric engine. Old Type 209 has about 1,000 nm less range than Collins-class at 9,000 nm snorkeling. Add the AIP capability of a Type 212 traveling from Europe to the US submerged. That submarine is called Type 214. Therefore I even doubt that Collins-class has more range than Type 214. Wikipedia is rather useless because all German submarines have quite the same range. Impossible according to engine improvements.

Traveling around Australia in a submarine is a useless effort without any military reason except to show "we can do it". Instead of traveling around (to get back in the yard after each journey) several submarines could be stationed around Australia and protect the country in case an undetected fleet appears (like the Russian one). Not even a nuclear powered submarine is as fast as a submarine already in place.

Range of a single submarine is not much interesting. The range of the active fleet is interesting. It is quite a difference to have 2 or 3 operational submarines out of 12 or 6 or 8 out of 24. The Shortfin will be a less reliable orphan class compared to Scorpene or Type 212/214/218.

Time on station is interesting in case of a working submarine.


karthik said...

@Mhaul... And Pete, very valid points on cost, availability and technology. I would like to break it down if I may

1. Inner EEZ level defense: as M points out fleet strength matters along with "on station" time. Here as rightly pointed out 20-25 odd type 210 or any decent 1000-1400 ton submarine backed up with decent ASW and LRMR assets would take care of unwanted visitors like PLAN vessels from breaching EEZ of nations

2. Ocean going or beyond outer EEZ: I think this is where a fleet of Scorpenes or Dolphins or Type 218 might be very useful complementing large surface assets as part of a CBG etc esp say 1000-2000 from shoreline they can also be useful in deploying UUVs etc

3. Farther distances and Projection of power: This is SSN territory, no amount of superb AIP equipped subs can sustain without extensive supply infra incl on foreign shores (thereby opening themselves to attack by air assets), plus the cost of maintaining such an SSK incl wasted trips to home base for maintenance etc would push life time costs of a single SSK to near SSN levels of 2-3 bil dollars... A single SSN can do the work of 3-4 SSKs in real deep ocean ( say PLAN in East Africa)

I think my takeaway as a navy esp in Asia would be that a 3 tier sub force might be necessary, for my country India this could be

1. 7000 ton category power proj/ fleet escort: 6 SSNs ensuring at least one is available for the 2 CBGs each and 2 others supporting SSBNs and 2 for dockside training / maintenance

2. 2000-3500 ton category ocean going: 12 ocean going SSKS- mix of Scorpenes and Kilos and Type 218 ( if chosen under 75i)

3. 1500 ton and below for Inner EEZ: 12-15 Combo of Type 209 And/or type 210

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 16/3/17 10:24 AM] and Karthik [16/3/17 3:54 PM]

Small-Medium powers like the Netherlands, Australia up to Japan choose and/or produce just one type of sub at a time. This is for a whole host of training, manning, maintenance, repair and upgrade reasons.

Australia needs long range/lengthy endurance quite slow moving SSKs hence larger crews in larger subs. The combat system (can't get around it) needs lots of hotel power.

Undesirable/vulnerable northern bases (ie. Darwin, Exmouth, Cairns, Townville) means long distance. Australia, unlike Germany, has a choice of not choosing bases that could be attacked by missile or fast jet in 10 Russian minutes. Australia looks to China manning bases in future Indonesia/East Timor as a 20-30 minute missile/jet warning time threat.

So our fleet, hence submarine bases, are in Sydney and just south of Perth. This protection by distance involves maybe 2,000nm each way transits to mission.

On numbers of subs. It is highly likely Australia will revert to 6 Shortfins as happened with the 6 Oberons and 6 Collins (after higher numbers were entertained by the Submarine-Lobby in the RAN).

Manpower realities work against 12 subs at once or even larger numbers. Australia has trouble retaining 6 active submarine Commanders so 12, 18, 24 are fantasies.

Just 6 Shortfins may imply 6 follow-on Barracuda SSNs maybe in-service from the 2040s.

Large long distance UUVs are probably the big variable, force extenders, discussed too little.


karthik said...

True, manpower along with maintenance costs are real constraints. Likely that Australia goes with 6 French boats and that's it. I hope it invests in both P-8 LRMRs and P-1 type MPAs in good numbers to play defense well.

I agree that UUVs are a potential force multiplier and dangerous ones at that. China seems to be playing a well crafted strategic game in terms of visualizing the role of armed UUVs and Surveillance UUVs in future power projections. I think of UUVs as " mini wolf packs" which could technically be used in both ambush role and also in 'swarms' if needed. ditto role for armed UAVs as part of a CBG... This space will get lethal as time passes...

MHalblaub said...

Dear Karthik,
in my opinion UUVs are overrated and hyped like UAVs but the big difference is control and feedback.

An UAV does not operate autonomously. Most of time it is controlled directly by operators. Like we have seen it in the Ukraine UAVs are vulnerable to potent enemies with right technology.

UUVs are hard to control submerged. An UUV would need the experience of a submarine commander to operate smart.

There is only one type of working UUV solution right now. It is a wire guided one called torpedo.


karthik said...

Dear M, do pardon my bathtub admiral moment. To clarify my thought process, I was considering UUVs with preprogrammed enemy vessel identification libraries controlled by minimal VLF communications from a mother ship. That was the wolf pack idea. I understand the practical difficulties with ambush such as prepositioning or with with a swarm attack are likely to be considerable.

Still these things could be useful in detection, mine laying etc though...

Thank you for your lucid explanation. I enjoy your comments always.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I don't think that large UUVs have to be transported inside a submarine. Small UUVs may need to come back to recharge but some smart engineer may find a solution to recharge also big UUVs on the outside.

"Protection by distance" failed in case of Pearl Harbor. Get ride of such nonsense. A prepared raider will strike you on every harbor especially your enemy plays Go. Garden Island turkey shooting?

There is also a big difference between peace time scenarios for intelligence gathering without risk losing a forward base and war time.

There is an intelligence problem with just one or two submarines ready. It is quite easy for anyone to guess where these submarines could not be.

During war time replenishing at sea is a big asset. Traveling back all the way down to Garden Island just to reload torpedoes is a waste of time.

The lack of enthusiasm for submarines could be related to prolonged submarine journeys and prolonged times of unemployment. Shorter trips may interest more people to join the submarine force. Lack of enthusiasm may also linked to the Collins-class desaster in public mind.

C.c.: Australia should use the aboriginal combat system and not force a system preferred by some cronies. Special add ons are always possible but a working submarine should be first priority. See F-35 development...


Peter Coates said...

Hi karthik

Australia (like India) has been wise enough to buy P-8 MPAs with the first delivered in November 2016

Australia is also likely to buy some Triton large UAVs to fill a longer range surveillance and search role



Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [16/3/17 8:50 PM]

Countries that aren't in Western Europe have successfully used and frequently still rely on "Protection by distance" .

You talk of different geography, different times, and a lower level of early warning technology.

Pearl Harbor was an island base almost halfway between the US and Japan. The lack of satellites and of SOSUS in 1941 permitted the Japanese fleet to move (covered by a storm) within strike range of Pearl Harbour.

Meanwhile America's bases on its Pacific West coast have never been threatened - even throughout WWII. Equally Australia's former and current Fleet Base West at Fremantle-Rockingham throughout WWII was never threated.

Luckily Australia didn't build a naval base in Darwin for WWII because it was often heavily bombed with most ships in harbour sunk.

Even with slow moving, fairly short ranged Japanese bombers in WWII Australia's northern ports were bombed (Darwin, Broome, Townsville). Since WWII jets and cruise missiles are much quicker and longer ranged,_1942%E2%80%9343

Also Darwin Harbour is not much good as an Aussie submarine forward base because a Chinese military related company owns Darwin port:
- viwing every movement and preparation in the port.

The ultimate threat of Chinese SSBNs or nuclear tipped SLCMs are beyond Australia's independent ability to deter. Which is why we have an alliance with the nuclear armed US - just like Germany.



MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

China is capable to take out the sitting ducks in Garden Island or elsewhere from a submarine without using nukes.

In case of an emerging tensions submarines have to leave the port or does Australia operate some bunkers for submarines?

It is a very accurate weather forecast to predict the weather will be the same tomorrow as it is today. For strategic military planning it is not. "[...] current Fleet Base West at Fremantle-Rockingham throughout WWII was never threated."

It is better to have many small bases than one big target. Your enemy can only guess in which harbor a submarine will enter. The Chinese are located in Darwin? I guess they are also some at Fremantle-Rockingham. Today an enemy can expect an Australian submarine at very view harbors.

I also consider it the deep waters around Garden Island more as a threat than an advantage. Within the shallow waters near Darwin an enemy submarine is far more easily to detect. A P-8 can clear the way so a submarine can leave undetected from Beagle Gulf into Timor Sea. An enemy submarine can hide itself in deep waters right before Perth.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Multi-diesel generators are desirable in the view of failure and three shift working sustem is better than two shift system in work efficiency or sudden vacancy.

Uncertainty of machine and work environment should be considered to achieve efficient operation and to establish effective manpower planning.

4500t-class submarine is reaosnble requirement, but, unset of price limit is silly procurement.