September 27, 2017

Report Suggesting Two Future Australian Submarine Types

A most interesting report commissioned by businesman GaryJohnston has been released today (September 27, 2017).

The report Australia’s Future Submarine Getting This Key Capability Right (September 2017) (Media Release and whole Report(PDF 12MB)) was written by Australia’s Insight Economics consultancy.

The report was launched by ANU Professor Hugh White and also by Michael Keating (former Head of the Australian Public Service) at the National Press Club, Canberra ((September 27, 2017). A transcript of the Press Club launch may follow tomorrow.

Some central issues in the report include:

1.  capability gap - any midlife upgrade of the 6 Collins subs might only make them useful until 
     around 2030. But the future submarine "Shortfin" may only be operational in 2040. Hence
     Australia may lack submarines for 10 years.


2.  rather than extend Collins, take urgent steps to acquire 6 off-the-shelf submarines, modified to
     extend their range and built in Adelaide. At the National Press Club it was suggested 2 submarine
     builders be asked to submit interim (but already operating) submarine designs. They are Germany
maybe TKMS’s Type 212s/214s/218s/Dolphin 2s) and France (Naval Group’s Scorpenes) 

3.  because of the long transits to the Navy’s areas of operations, acquire a submarine tender (ship)
     forward based in Australian waters.

4.  the 6 interim subs and tender might cost under $10 billion.

5.  hold a review on whether Australia should either acquire more off the shelf 
     submarines; or build the Shortfins; or acquire nuclear subs [eg. Barracudas]


Suggestions that Australia's interim and/or future submarines have Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) could delay either build by 10 years. AIP is less problematic. 

An order of 6 interim submarine Scorpenes with AIP, built in Adelaide, would make the most sense as:

-  legal problems of already signed agreements (with Naval Group) would be minimised

 many Scorpene submarine parts, supply chains, personnel and operating methods would be
   common to the later Shortfins

-  engineering and legal continuity with Lockheed Martin integrating the combat systems into
could more easily carry over to the Shortfins 

-  Naval Group is the only Western supplier that can offer both (conventional) SSKs and then
   6 (nuclear) SSNs. That is if Australia genuinely wants "regionally superior" attack submarines
   by the 2040s.



Tri-ring said...

This must be a joke.
Well Australia can also acquire second hand subs from Japan. I believe there be many Oyashio-class subs that will be going off line at that point.

In any case a classic scenario of penny wise, pound foolish situation.

Anonymous said...

2040? may be SSN is needed since even ROK is thinking (and probably already developing) SSN. Besides, from the Paris climate accord, are we not supposed to cut back on fossil based products.

ONeil Padilla said...

Hi Pete,
I can see your reasons for going with the Scorpene but the Soryu is out of the question?
I know politically they would have to be built here but we can get a couple off a hot production line surely?
QUESTION: Take away the whole future SNN sub from the equation and if we had to buy a Conventional
Sub off the shelf from a overseas ship yard which one would it be? Dolphin 2, Soryu, Scorpene or something else?
If the LIB's are the way to go aren't the Japanese almost there or are they too early in their development cycle for us to consider?
Type 212 have a pretty decent range (yes I know refuelling it would be a bitch) but can we manage that?
Curious to hear your thoughts on a 'What if our future wasn't tied to the French?' question........

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Maintenance of regional superiority is quite expensive, because submarines should be regularly updated. Currently, there are two updating strategys of submarine technology. European countries export submarines and obtain capital for deplopment of new submarine. Japan develops new submarine through batch building scheme thanks to its huge defence budget. Unfornunately, Australia can not adopt these updating strategys, because it lacks technology for export and budget for batch building.

If Australia did not stick to domestic submarine building and tried to borrow latest submarines in long term from Japan, situation would have completedly changed. As Japan-made submarines are much lower in cost and better in quality than AUS-made ones, Australia could pay enough compensation to its submarine related sector. Also, Australia would have obtained new submarines until middle of 2020th. Anyway, these are all in the past.


Ztev Konrad said...

The issue raised is possible 2040 operational date. That doesnt seem likely ( thats 22 years away). An operational date of 12 years from now should be the aim point and would be achievable if the contractor is held to their commitments. After all the hull and combat systems are at launch point now.
Remember back in 2006 a 6 sub order for €7.9 bill was placed for the nuclear powered version by the French navy. I think they are 2 years behind and Suffren will be delivered next year.
For cost and production reasons its better to get say 3 Shortfins in the water before 2030, based on technology that is available and proven now rather than another interim type built in Australia. Later versions could have higher tech which could be refitted on the first boats. This approach has worked for the surface ships of the RAN.
Having a submarine tender seems to negate the reasons for having a larger longer ranged submarine to start with. If you require some forward basing put some facilities in Darwin for a quicker turn around. Even Singapore Navy's facilities could be available for smaller issues ( they have their own submarines ) and crew changes which could be flown in. A tender doesnt get a sub out of the water unless its a submersible lifting ship - now theres an idea? And where would it be based - Guam? Surely shore facilities with a small Australian contingent would be better for that location.

It just seems a clever way to re open the initial contract by talking about an off the shelf buy to be built in Australia right away.

Anonymous said...


I would point out that the Collins class hull is in pretty good shape for its age. This is due primarily to all of its early problems & lack of crews. This has meant a far lower dive cycle than would be expected. Technology can be upgraded or replaced (I believe upgraded sonar has been anounced) as can other components. The hull itself is the limiting factor (you push a surface hull too far & you might head for the lifeboats, you push a sub hull too far & you might head for the ocean floor).

Studies have shown (2012) that the Collins can handle an additional (beyond original design life) deap maintenance cycle without too many problems (adds about 7 years taking the last boat out to around 2040). It may even be possible for an additional one on top of that on a case by case basis. It is also not clear when they are expecting to increase the number of subs beyond 6 (ie will they start retiring Collins 1 for 1 as Shortfins come on line or something like 1 for 2). I expect nobody will really know until the first Shortfin arrives.


daza said...

Daza, interested novice.
Japan has a very capable submersible record going back over 70 years.
Another question asked during the Press Club event was 'why can't we request a
new sub modified to suit Australian requirements?'
To my thinking, that's' not such a silly idea. Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, have considerable
advantages for a custom sub. They have the ability to pump-out 6 of type AU, most probably, faster than either the Fr or GB builders.
Politicial advantages too.

NTT (Not thought Through)

PUNTER said...

Shortfin may be operational from 2040.
In 2040, Japan will have post-post-post-Soryu class subs in operation.
Seems, Australians are not serious on maritime issue as Thomas Mahnken pointed out.

Tri-ring said...

I would point out that the Collins class hull is in pretty good shape for its age. This is due primarily to all of its early problems & lack of crews. This has meant a far lower dive cycle than would be expected. Technology can be upgraded or replaced (I believe upgraded sonar has been anounced) as can other components. The hull itself is the limiting factor (you push a surface hull too far & you might head for the lifeboats, you push a sub hull too far & you might head for the ocean floor).

I don't know about this.
Although the Collins may not have been out to sea that much, they certainly taken some brutal incisions into the hull to make various repairs which will ultimately take it's toll in warping the hull as much as deep diving.
Japan's protocol is not to cut the hull to ensure maximum diving depth.

PUNTER said...

Japan should give decommissioned Oyashio and Soryu and post-Soryu-class subs to Philippines and Indonesia every year as military aid. But, never give any subs to Australia. In 2040 or even later, Australia will have first Shortfin Barracuda with lead acid battery without AIP built in Adelaide. Then Australians may learn something.

Peter Coates said...

Hi PUNTER [ 1/10/17 3:33 AM ]

Regarding any used Oyashios or Soryus for the Philippines

Overall second hand submarines are of limited value if the sub's pressures hulls dive deeply too often. Deep diving appears to be standard Japanese Navy practice. Metal fatigue is guaranteed after repeated diving contractions then expansions.

Also Japan wants to grow its submarine fleet - so wants to retain all its Oyashios and Soryus.

More specifically the Philippines has no experience with submarines, hasn't asked anyone for large submarines, couldn't pay even for used ones and Duterte seems to adopt a "thanks for nothing" attitude with Western democracies bearing gifts.



GhalibKabir said...

Making in australia will take too much time and treasure.

As the PLAN forays into Indian and Pacific oceans, I think Australia is gonna need ocean patrolling SSNs/SSGNs and upto outer EEZ patrol capable SSKs

I remember you told me about resource constraints, however the emerging scenario might warrant at least 5 SSNs (3 on station at any given time), 6 large SSKs (2000 ton plus)...

a parallel approach to get some subs at short notice while starting to make in Australia will likely make way more sense if the available financial resources are allotted logically.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ghalib Kabir

Obtaining interim submarines "6 large SSKs (2000 ton plus)" would always been difficult due to:

- satisfying the inefficiencies of budgeting/political/legal requirements in the peacetime democracy of Australia and

- also the sheer logistics - meaning, besides in a war it takes 7 or 8 years to produce the First slightly larger sub (note timings for the Type 214 + 300 tons = 218SG) - ordered in December 2013 and first delivery in 2021 . Singapore is a highly efficient, decisive, customer compared to Australia and India.

France wouldn't supply Australia with Barracuda SSNs if we reneged on the Shortfin deal (or, at least, if we didn't buy large Scorpenes.

But still, the French sub assembly line is fully taken up completing the first 3 Barracudas for the French Navy. So it would be a extremely unlikely and an extremely expensive rush if Naval Grroup dropped their design and production schedule to satisfy a rush 6 submarine Australian order.

"logic" may equal the bottomless financial pit (superpower budget) of rushed US WWII and Cold War submarine building.