September 28, 2017

SSKs then SSNs: Continuing the Australian Future Submarine Debate

In response to many of the points raised in comments on the previous article https://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/report-suggesting-two-future-australian.html:

Basic plan: the Australian solution could be 6 x 3,000 ton SSKs to be built 2030-2040 and 6 x 5,000 ton SSNs after 2040. These SSNs may carry small ballistic missiles - the precursor to a nuclear deterrent.

More Detailed Explanation:

If at least 4 Collins hulls (number of deep dives defines submarines that are too "old") can last until 2035 then I think an interim submarine will effectively become the next generation Future Submarine (FSM) which the Government has decided is the Shortfin SSK.

Alternatives to the Shortfin SSK could be 6 SSKs of at least 3,000 ton (surfaced)) with LIBs and maybe AIP, They might best be one of:

-  an enlarged (more fuel and batteries, AIP) 3,000 ton Scorpene currently known as SMX 3.0 see

-  an enlarged Type 218 (could call it 216) (already has advanced fuel cell AIP)(has time to 
   incorporate LIBs)

-  a Soryu Mark 2 or 3 (which would already be developed for LIBs)

The 6 submarines could also utilize highly developed Autonomous Underwater Vehicles to extend capability into the more dangerous (by then China dominated) waters of the South China Sea and near China's future Indian Ocean naval bases.

A submarine tender ship is probably unviable for Western Australia north of Fleet Base West because of the lack of viable ports:

Exmouth port is only an uneconomic 700nm north of Fleet Base West

-  the Port of Darwin, run by a Chinese company, also has a naval base with tide/channel limitations 
   largely restricting it to small patrol boats and also is only minutes by fast jet or cruise missile from
   likely future Chinese air bases in East Timor

After these 6 SSKs are built in Australia it will be 2040 and by then Australia (to have regionally superior subs) will have needed to buy/build 6 SSNs. This is because regional countries (China, India, Russia already have SSNs) and by 2045 North Korea, South Korea and Japan will likely have developed SSNs, likely mounting SLBMs.

So the Australian solution could be 6 x 3,000 ton SSKs to be built 2030-2040 and 6 x 5,000 ton SSNs after 2040. These SSNs may carry small ballistic missiles - the precursor to a nuclear deterrent.

Scale model of the 3,000 tonne concept submarine, SMX 3.0, on display at the DCNS stand, at Euronaval 2016. The SMX 3.0's external shape seems to owe much to the current DCNS 2,000 tonne Scorpene. More details. (Photo courtesy Navy Recognition)
---

Pete 

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Instead of waiting for a new SSK design Shortfin, building locally an existing design the Rubis Amethyste SSN could be a viable alternative? The design may be dated but all the issues are worked out so you only need to deal with localization. Rubis class SSN successfully engage and overcome USN in 2 separate exercises.
KQN

Peter Coates said...

Hi PUNTER

Grateful if you could find the html or PDF file to which you refer in

"Australians are not serious on maritime issue as Thomas Mahnken pointed out."

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN

Yes, building a modernised Rubis design https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubis-class_submarine might be a solution if:

- France could develop a new reactor that needed fewer refuelings (which would be in France) than the Rubis's K48 (refuelings more frequent than every 7 years?)

- carried more than the Rubis's warload of 14 torpedoes/missile shots (compared to the Collins' 22 shots)

- was not as crowded as the Rubis complement of 70

Regards

Pete

PUNTER said...

Hi, Pete,

In this,
https://www.thecipherbrief.com/canberras-evolving-security-policy-2

"Although girded by the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and possessing a capable navy for part of its history, Australia’s outlook has historically been continental rather than maritime.  Indeed, as the Australian strategic thinker Michael Evans has argued, Australia has historically lacked a maritime consciousness to guide defense policy."

PUNTER said...

Hi, Pete,

This report by Hugh White is really shocking.

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-27/australian-navy-may-not-have-submarines-for-two-decades/8993880?pfmredir=sm

1.) Australia decided lead acid battery for Short fin Barracudas.

2.) "The Suffren itself is not in service and has a long and troubled history," Professor White said.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Building and disposal costs of SSN are much higher than those of SSK. Neglecting disposal cost of SSN is unrealistic cost estimation.

Regard

MHalblaub said...

Hi Pete,
for me the Shortfin is only a red herring. In a few years politicians will claim the Shortfin will be far too expensive compared to a Barracuda submarine.

France will handle the waste an refill do Australia will stay clean with coal.


Regards,
MHalblaub.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 30/9/17 9:55 AM]

Yes SSNs cost much more than SSKs. However almost totally new SSKs, like the Shortfin, seem to cost around twice as much as off the shelf.

If Naval Group heavily utilises the known lessons of the Scorpene for the Shortfin
AND uses the Scorpene's proven MTU diesels on Shortfin
that will reduce risks and costs.

Very true that SSN disposal costs are disregarded - with the UK (quietly) and Russia (with more publicity) storing rusty old SSNs and SSBNs near or at the submarine bases.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi PUNTER

Thanks for https://www.thecipherbrief.com/canberras-evolving-security-policy-2 at your 30/9/17 1:41 AM

I think Australia military history has been less continental - rather most heavily orientated to distant forward naval, land and air defence - in support of major allies. eg. at Gallipoli, Europe Western Front, Middle East in both World Wars and since 1990, also Korean War and Vietnam, you name it.

Thanks for http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-27/australian-navy-may-not-have-submarines-for-two-decades/8993880?pfmredir=sm at your 30/9/17 3:03 AM

There is time for Australia to order LIBs once Japan and Naval Group have had time to test them under operational conditions.

Naval Group needs to test them on testbed Scorpenes or Agostas.

Hugh Wight is not a major expert on subs compared to many others in Australia.

Naval Goup had to change the shape and functions of the Barracuda/Suffren class twice during development:
- with the end of the Cold War (no longer 100s of Russian subs operating) and
- for counter-insurgency monitoring (War on Terror)

hence extended development time.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [2/10/17 6:11 AM]

Yes in 10 years time, while the first Shortfin is being built at high cost, the rapidly rising SSN threat from China (and maybe North Korea) may justify Australia ordering Barracuda/Suffrens SSNs instead.

The Shortfin may indeed end up costing more than Barracuda/Suffren SSNs and Shortfins having far less capability.

Regards

Pete

Tri-ring said...

There is time for Australia to order LIBs once Japan and Naval Group have had time to test them under operational conditions.

If I remember correctly, sub's electrical systems are built based on the electrical voltage the batteries can deliver. In other words if the subs are built on LAB voltage output then you'll need to swap out the electrical system on the entire sub to gain full potential of LIB batteries.

Anonymous said...

With automobiles moving to electric by 2030-2040, will there be enough Li to go around?
KQN

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [at 3/10/17 11:20 AM]

Good question. If Lithium runs short metallurgists, engineers etc will need to cook up other battery types.

BTW Australia seems to be well placed in reserves and production to profit from the LIB boom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_as_an_investment#Global_resources_and_production

Regards

Pete

GhalibKabir said...

Hi Pete

A bath tub admiral's opinion might not count for much, but, imho, A modified Rubis SSN with the K15 reactor and off the shelf purchase of the TKMS 214 or the Scorpene SSKs sounds much more doable even in a 10 year time frame.

The shortfins, well.. likely, they are going to cost a bomb while being less than useful for the money spent... sad to see the collins class lessons have not been absorbed...

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ghalib Kabir [at 3/10/17 7:30 PM]

The K15 reactor was designed to be large enough to power French Triomphant class SSBNs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triomphant-class_submarine . With K15 experience gained and considering France's limited reactor development budget sunk into the K15 the new (Barracuda class) SSN https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Barracuda-class_submarine needed to be large enough to accomodate the K15.

These larger Barracuda SSNs were also designed for capabilities greater than the too small, old K48 reactor powered inadequate Rubis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubis-class_submarine .

This was considering the Rubis's inadequate:
- 14 heavyweight torpedo/missile shots. This is noting even Collins has 22 shots. Hard to modify a Rubis design for 22+ shota!
- overcrowded, too small Rubis accomodation, too little food, especially when 10 Special Forces need to be bunked/catered for.

France, UK and US wouldn't supply their $multi-billion SSN and reactor industrial and national security secrets with TKMS. But a customer willing to pay $50 Billion!

Barracuda SSNs have benefitted from many of the lessons of the Scorpenes and the French-Brazilian SN-BR design.

I agree Australia will eventually choose to buy Barracudas once the US sphere shrinks in the Pacific, while China's sphere expands.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

pete -

'Exmouth'

Was the first base for WW2 Operation Potshot but was too rough for the US subs to tie up safely to their tender so shifted to Freo. The WA Liberal Party is lobbying furiously for a reactivation of Exmouth as a Naval Base. Should the UK lose Diego Garcia in the courts the US may find Exmouth attractive once again.

'Darwin...has a naval base with tide/channel limitations largely restricting it to small patrol boats..'

The move from Stokes Hill to Larrakeyah was not a good idea. At least patrol boats can now crash into the wharf without public embarrassment, an option that wasn't available to Navy at Stokes Hill. There are plenty of better sites in Darwin Harbour but a new base in Gove would be far better for security and for the Gove economy and community.

'Future Chinese air bases in East Timor'

Baucau in the east of E.Timor is the only airport suitable for a military air base and the PRC won't get it.

Anonymous said...

'If Lithium runs short'

It won't. It's everywhere in WA, some reserves of spodumene and petalite extend to such a depth extraction would become uneconomic before they're exhausted.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 4/10/17 8:29PM] on Exmouth and Baucau

The inappropriatness of Exmouth as a secure naval base, even for a tender, is very true. The US, UK and Australian Navies in WW2 quickly came to the conclusion that moving the tender and subs south to Fremantle (near Perth) made much more sense.

Here's a useful website http://www.ozatwar.com/usnavy/exmouth01.htm :
"The US Submarine Tender, USS Pelias, spent some time [in May 1943] at Exmouth Gulf tending submarines that used Exmouth Gulf as a temporary base." [also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Pelias_(AS-14)#World_War_II ]

But "After two Japanese [air] raids on Exmouth Gulf on 20 and 21 May 1943, the US Navy decided to abandon their Submarine Base at Exmouth Gulf and move down to Fremantle. The base was also open to damage from the cyclones that hit the coast at that time of the year. The RAAF maintained their airfields at Learmonth and Yanrey after the US Navy left the area."

On East Timor

- yes as China would have noted - Baucau (already catering for airliners) has much more
room to grow an airbase than Dili's limited airport.

- But Dili Harbour has value supporting a small Chinese forward naval base (in around 10-15 years).

Cheers

Pete

Anonymous said...

pete. thanks for your reply. here's mine.

'Dili Harbour has value supporting a small Chinese forward naval base (in around 10-15 years)'

The 'China threat' - bluff - used by Gusmao as leverage in border negotiations will be discarded now the dispute has been settled. The parties will soon publicise the details, they're still arguing over whether Aust must compensate E.Timor for oil extracted under the previous CMATS.

Some in Dili may still want to keep the bluff around to extract aid and access to our economy for their workforce, but allowing China such a use of their territory would be burning bridges and wreck the chances of what they may need from us - and from Jakarta - in a protracted and sadly uncertain future.

Anonymous said...

The 'China threat' bluff from ET is just that. They know that if they actually tried it, Indoneasia would be straight back if Australia doesn't beat them to it (to save them from an Indoneasion invasion of course).

It is similar throughout the South Pacific. The major South Pacific powers (Australia, New Zealand, USA, France, Chile) will not allow any chance of a North Korea type situation to develop.