May 30, 2018

Pick a Number. 100% Rise in Australian Future Sub estimate to $100 Billion

Andrew Tillett for The Australian Financial Review (AFR), May 29, 2018 reports:

“$100 billion babies: Defence reveals true cost of new submarines for taxpayers”  

"Taxpayers will spend $100 billion to build and operate [Australia's future submarines], [Australian] Defence Department officials have revealed for the first time as they also fended off warnings the naval shipbuilding program was at risk of cost blowouts and delays.

While the $50 billion budget to build the 12 French-designed submarines in Adelaide has been known for several years, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut told Senate estimates on [May 29, 2018] the same amount again would be spent on sustaining the submarines throughout their operating life, although he conceded the costs were yet to be finalised..."


How do you count the costs of a submarine program that may stretch to 2080?

A.  In 2018 dollars or 2080 dollars or somewhere in between? 

B.  In Australian Dollars, or factor exchange rate changes in US dollars or, in 20 years time, in Yuan
      World Currency

C.  Recall that we are not just talking Naval Group (was DCNS) or ASC costs in calculations. A
     quarter or a third of the money will go to Lockheed Martin as Combat Systems Integrator.

D.  What do you include? Inclusions are vital. Cost of:
-  building new shipyard sheds, slips and other facilities
-  costs of personnel in Australia's Defence Department, Navy, Army (for some Special Forces) 
-  cost of building 6 to 12 new submarines? As Australia's Defence Department or Navy try out
   higher numbers (say 12, 10 then 8) before settling for 6 (see my 2014 article). Hence 6 Oberons
   then 6 Collins submarines in the past.
-  "sustainment"(?) does that mean regular maintenance and upgrade costs?
-  training costs
-  some operational costs, eg. special skills (eg. US Navy may be Off-the-Books).

E.  Opportunity costs - for:
-  jobs and regional development (outside Adelaide)
-  money that could have been spent on sorely needed hospitals, schools, "green" energy and mass
-  other Airforce, Army and Naval programs (eg. highly developed, future AUVs).

Setting, recording and publishing huge budgets is more a public relations art form than an accounting science.


May 29, 2018

Doc Declassified May 2018, Naval Group's "Australian Industry Plan" LIBs?

Senator Rex Patrick, writing in Australia’s useful website DEFENCE CONNECT, reports “Naval Group’s recently released Australian Industry Plan [1] gave the strongest indication yet that Australia’s Future Submarines will be powered by lithium-ion batteries. One senator has argued such a decision could allow Defence to act as a catalyst for lucrative commercial opportunities...”

All Following by Pete (generally quoting Australian Government or Naval Group) NOT by Rex Patrick or Defence Connect

[1] the declassified on [May 10 2018] Plan (a very large PDF document, about 26 MB. 60 pages, including graphics) need to download whole Plan onto your computer to rotate some of the tables (eg, page 19 and 21) ) was originally Drafted by November 27, 2015 by Naval Group (then DCNS) and maybe Submission “17”. Up until May 9, 2018 it as classified:

Security Caveats

On top of page immediately below Minister for Defence's Cover letter is the crossed out caveats:

Contract DMO/FSP/00419/2015/Clause – 9.5” [or 9.3]

Then on bottom of page:


Pete Comment - it is understandable document was RELeased to AUStralia, FRAnce and USA (a US company (Lockheed Martin chosen) was always to be Combat System Integrator and there was/is US program management advice overall). But why it was released to “GBR”, presumably Great Britain(?), is a mystery.

Much blacked out redacting follows, like

Some interesting pages of the Plan:

Top Cover Letter indicates document was released by Minister for Defence, Marise Payne letterhead, dated “10 May 2018”

page 19 - Australian Maritime College (AMC) Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, may handle “Hydrodynamics, Naval Design and Maritime Engineering”. Summary Students form French naval engineering establishments may spend 3 to 10 months at AMC on internships.
Defence Material Technology Centre (Victoria, Australia) may handle “Materials and processes” like “welding” and “bounding”.
University of Newcastle (NSW, Australia) may handle “Bacterial and microbiological corrosion”

page 21 [needs rotating]
[Pete Comment – The following Declassified details on Lithium-ion Batteries are 
non-committal. The large, blacked out, redacted bits prevent any conclusion.] Section on “Lithium-ion batteries [mostly black line redacted] DCNS has been working on lithium-ion battery technologies for many years with different partners” [big redaction] Many research initiatives are also occurring in Australia both in the defence space and in adjacent industries that could lead to technology breakthrough. The” [big redaction].

page 42 – [list of] “Australian Companies engaged by DCNS” [now Naval Group]

page 50 – [number of jobs created] “Figure 13. Anticipated Employment Outcomes from the FSP [Future Submarine Program]”

Much else is of interest.


May 28, 2018

Excellent Covert Shores Article on Soviet/Russian Submarine Activity

H I Sutton at Covert Shores regularly publishes interesting articles on submarines. For example:

Increase in #Russian Submarine Activity of 22 May 2018

"There have been reports that Russian submarine activity has returned to Cold War levels. This article uses publicly available data to compare recent activity to Cold War levels...." 

Russian Submarine activity

A useful Table courtesy Covert Shores. It indicates the steep decline in Russian submarine numbers since the Cold War years (1947-1991) with over 400 Russian subs in some years) to many less than 100 since 1991 (eg. 66 in 2016). 

What trends do you see in the Table (eg. more than 200 SSKs in 1980)?

May 26, 2018

Doubts about Zircon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile

The Zircon (Graphic courtesy via Russian website.)

I don't know whether the future (late 2020s) Zircon missile proves Russia can solve the heat buildup barrier to sustained hypersonic flight in the dense atmosphere. Maybe it can become hypersonic in its endrun, maybe not. 

India has been talking of a joint Russian hypersonic BrahMos-II (or BrahMos-2) missile project (maybe Indian version of the Zircon?) for years. See Submarine Matters'  2013 article.

Russia's latest submarines may become Zircon capable.

See There are doubts about Zircon's effectivenes. 

Youtube originally uploaded October 11, 2018


May 25, 2018

Collapse of the US - North Korea Talks: Told Ya So!

On May 24, 2016 Trump announced the cancellation of the US - (Denuclearization of) North Korea Summit which was to be held in Singapore on June 12, 2018

2017, page 9 Pentagon analysis (which I've just read) is similar to the May 3, 2018 comment on North Korea relying on its nuclear deterrence to prevent invasion of North Korea and Kim Dynasty regime change: 

"I doubt if the neocon/militant Trump/Pompeo/Bolton would accept total withdrawal from South Korea - especially of THAAD, US aircraft and US SSN and SSGN visits to SK ports.

I think it unlikely Kim would make substantial and verifiable de-nuclearisation efforts. With timing and Devil in the Detail

If NK denuclearised it would leave itself open to "peaceful" democratic occupation by a much more attr[a]ctive wealthy SK

or the risk of a return of overwelming SK and US forces - remembering the fates of disarmed-regime changed Hussein/Iraq and Gaddafi/Libya. 

Also Kim Jong-un (III) would forsake his "dynastic duty" of handing down the grim NK regime to what ever Crown Prince, Kim IV is next.”


It was hoped the Summit could be a positive outcome of Trump's hardline negotiating style against North Korea. But now the opportunity has been dashed. The world remains stuck with the Trump Administration's aggressively negative approach on most things. 

See earlier Submarine Matters' article North Korea's Nuclear Deterrent Totally Justified of 
May 24, 2018, on North Korea's deterrent preventing a recurrence of its history of being invaded. 


May 24, 2018

North Korea's Nuclear Deterrent Totally Justified

Causes, effects and doctrines are subtle. 

Before the sure handed statesman Trump and Kim meet or don't meet in Singapore on June 12, 2018 history needs recalling. 

Historical mentions of Korea are overlaid by simple moral assumptions: 

-  North Korea BAD

-  South Korea GOOD.

From the North Korean point of view, its status as the most invaded country in the world justifies a nuclear deterrent to prevent regime change and merely conventional destruction. Would Kim disarm on the word of such statesman as Trump and his neocon Pompeo noting the "Libyan solution"
 Bolton and Pence? What would stop them?

North Korea Most Invaded?

The territory that is now North Korea has been invaded by the Chinese many times, by Mongolians, Manchus twice, Japanese several times, Russians several times, the US three times, by UN forces (including Australians and British) twice and South Korea twice.

North Korea has a nervous relationship with China and 
Russia rather than friendly alliances. North Korea realizes it cannot rely on a nuclear protection guarantee from China. 

[see an excellent article What does China Really Think of North Korea? of May 25, 2018 from The Diplomat]

South Korea was no peace-loving democracy before North Korea invaded it in the 1949 (beginning the Korean War). The invasion followed frequent South Korea vs North Korean border clashes since 1945.

South Korea's leader, the authoritarian Syngman Rhee, killed between 14,000 and 30,000 of his own people during the Jeju uprising in 1948-49 just before the Korean War [1].

In 1950 Rhee had between 
100,000 and 200,000 South Korean Bodo League prisoners murdered [2].

North Korea's capital, Pyongyang was bombed flat by the US Air Force during the Korea War. 
"By the time of the armistice, 75 percent of Pyongyang's area was destroyed by the conventional bombing campaign, which was part of a broader U.S. bombing effort throughout the country costing" the lives of between one and three million North Koreans by the time the war ended [3].

Nuclear disarming North Korea, which is China's buffer zone, could bring on World War Three like nothing else.

[1] and subsequent massacre by South Korean troops.

May 22, 2018

Chinese Bombers Threatening Because they Are highly Visible

Pete's Comments

So China has publicized the ability of its H-6K bombers to very temporarily operate (ie. land and takeoff) from Woody Island is more symbolic of visible power projection into the South China Sea (SCS) than a fundamentally new threat. 

The whole SCS and surrounding nations can already be hit with more stealth and surprise by Chinese missiles from other platforms, including MRBMs, IRBMs, SLBMs and extended range SLCMs. Chinese surface ships, air-refueled jet fighters and land based cruise missiles on the islands themselves could already fire missiles at some or all of these SCS targets. 

It is highly public threats, even from mainly old technology, very unstealthy, bombers, like the H-6K, that can cause anxiety in nations that have only modest anti-aircraft capabilities and generally no 
anti-missile capabilities. The H-6Ks very visibility represent public and political threats. This is similar to the highly visible threat from US aircraft carrier groups when compared to the invisible and more potent threat from cruise and ballistic missile carrying US submarines.


I've added links to useful comments on May 22, 2018 from:

KQN: “China is gradually enforcing its claim on the SCS. The Nine-Dash Line has morphed into a solid line. It is a well thought out strategy, reinforcing your territorial claims with less than subtle threats to neighboring countries, achieving your strategic goals while avoiding open conflicts (which would threaten the economic well being of all). We can already predict H-6K's will be landing next in the Spratly's. Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs all haveclass A runways, as long as the one on Woody. [See Airport Table below]. Several reinforced hangars there are large enough for them. That will put Northern Australia and Guam within range.” [see map below].


Josh “The H-6K is aerodynamically similar to previous H-6s and Tu-16s, but the use of modern turbofans (of Russian manufacture - the Soloviev D-30s) give it a much greater range and payload. That said it is still a regional bomber, not an intercontinental one. Australia for instance would be out of practical range of even cruise missiles without midair refueling.”

The upper set of blue-black dots are potential H-6K bomber Paracel Island takeoff points, including Woody Island Air Base [see Table below]. These points put all of the South China Sea, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore within the "combat radii" of the bombers' once the bombers land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles are fired.
(Map courtesy CSIS

The lower set of dots represent H-6K bombers launched from China's Spratly Island air bases (see Table below) with combat radii extended by cruise missiles (and mid-air refueling) are able to hit all of Indonesia as well as Darwin, Australia 

AIR BASES TABLE for Spratly Islands (source) and Woody Island (in Paracel Islands)

Occupied by
1,200 m (est.)
Military use only. No refuel facilities. [1]
Dual-use concrete airport.
3,300m (est.)
Dual-use concrete airport.
3,300m (est.)
Dual-use concrete airport.
2,700m (est.)
Dual-use concrete airport.
1,300m (est.)
Spratly Island (Trường Sa) on Spratly Islands
1,200 m (est.)
Military use only.

Even in aerial bomber capabilities symbolism counts.

Pete, KQN and Josh

May 21, 2018

Chinese Bomber(s) Land on South China Sea Island: US Feigns Surprise


China has gone one more step in indicating it can deploy bomber power, in a theatrical way, deep into the South China Sea. This puts some more Western ships and Southeast Asian capitals, like Manila and Hanoi, into range of the cruise missiles Chinese H-6K bombers can carry. These capitals were already in range of more easily disguised land based, surface ship based and submarine based Chinese cruise missiles, not to mention IRBMs.

Like the much larger B-52s (in service 1955) the H-6Ks (airframe in service as the Russian Tu-16 in 1954) derive from very old airframes. But it is electronic countermeasures frequently updated in the B-52 and H-6K as well as their reliance on standoff cruise missiles that reduced their vulnerabilities. Their missiles keep them relevant in warfare against moderately armed enemies and they can also drop free fall bombs on less well armed insurgents or "terrorists".


Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported May 19, 2018:

"China angers US after landing warplanes, including H-6K bomber, on South China Sea reef
Pentagon condemns military activity as ‘raising tensions and destabilising the region’

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force strategic bomber landed for the first time on [Woody Island] in the South China Sea.

...The Chinese air force said in a statement on its website that several bombers, including the H-6K, its most advanced [but deployed by Russia 60 years ago!], had conducted take-off and landing training on an island reef, though it did not specify which one.

Hong Kong-based military observer Song Zhongping [who is really a semi-official spokesman and graduate of the PLA's Second Artillery Engineering University, no less] said the aircraft landed on Woody Island – or Yongxing in Mandarin – the largest of the Paracel group and southernmost of the islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed waterway.

The aim of the exercise was to strengthen China’s military presence in the region, after the US air force flew B-52 bombers there during a so-called routine training mission in April [2018], which Beijing described as “provocative move”, Song said.

The [Chinese] air force said the latest exercise had elevated its abilities of “reaching its full territory, assaulting in full time and space, and striking in full scope”. 

Song...said the next mission for the long-range H-6K strategic bomber, which is reported to have a combat range of up to 3,500km, might be to land on China’s furthest outlying artificial islands.

 “To boost China’s military presence and give the PLA better control in the region, it’s possible the H-6K will fly further in the future, to the airstrips on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs [in the Spratly Islands],” [Song] said.

Each of the three reefs features an airstrip, high-frequency radar and other monitoring equipment, and lighthouses.

“In the future, the air force will conduct regular landings on Woody and the man-made islands, although they are not yet developed enough to be permanent military bases,” Song said..."


Woody Island with its now extended bomber capable airport (Photo courtesy AMTI.CSIS.ORG via CNN Philippines)

The H-6K has a claimed combat radius of 3,500 km (2,200 miles) and can carry up  to six YJ-12 anti-ship missiles and 6 or 7 CJ-10 nuclear or conventional warhead land attack cruise missiles


In this part unrelated Chinese propaganda video the H-6K appears at:
-  5 secs    taking off possibly from Woody Island airport
-  17s        two H-6Ks flying close
-  25s        H-6K dropping flares as decoys against heat seeking anti-aircraft missiles
-  47s        H-6K flying with J-11s?
-  53s        flying towards Mischief Reef (?) but then perhaps landing on Woody Island(?)

Tomorrow I'll write how the "Woody bomber" ties into China's wider power projection geography. 


May 18, 2018

Chinese Navy's New J-15Ds Can Shoot Down US & Australian Aircraft

The photo at top may be the J-15D Chinese carrier aircraft or the very similar J-16D Chinese airforce aircraft. These perform electronic attack or jamming an art first perfected by the UK and then US (Photo courtesy China's Daily Express


Just as the or electronic attack EA-18G "Growler" provides electronic warfare/jamming support to  enhance the stealth capabilities of US aircraft China is also developing the J-15D and J-16D EA fast jets to obscure not yet fully developed Chinese J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters.

China's EA aircraft are just two examples of China using the world's second highest defense budget (SIPRI estimates US$228 Billion for 2017) to build the essential military backup capabilities for a formidable defence force. In contrast Russia conventional defence posture may be more threat and propaganda because Russia only has a $66 Billion budget. 

There are many synonyms for Electronic Attack including 
-  Electronic Countermeasures (ECM)
-  Electronic Warfare (EW)
-  "Jamming" and "Electronic Decoys" and "Window or Chaff" may be the oldest
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term becoming more popular.


The information below mainly draws from China's Daily Express article of April 24, 2018, on the  new EA J-15D:

A New Carrier Aircraft With Electronic Attack Capabilities Appears

The Chinese navy (PLAN) has acquired a new type of carrier aircraft, the J-15D. The J-15D is a carrier-based aircraft that mounts electronic attack pods on the tips of its wings, underwings and perhaps centerline. The Chinese navy J-15D is similar to the Chinese Airforce J-16D (introduced in 2015). 

The J-15Ds and J-16Ds serve the same purpose as the EA-18G Growler electronic fighter now deployed in the US and Australian defence forces.  

[Pete Comment: For other Western countries to get full value out of their F-35s they may well need to purchase equally high priced Growlers!]

[Pete comment: The main difference between the naval carrier J-15D and the airforce J-16D is the 
J-15D would have a tail arrestor hook, stronger shock absorbers and some airframe hardening for the "controlled crash" arrested recovery operations. The naval variant J-15D would have also been developed due to commonalities of parts, systems and regular upgrades with China's common carrier jet the J-15.]

The J-15D is a two-seater (pilot and EW officer) fast jet. It carries a variety of new types of pods for reconnaissance, attack/interference and self-defense and can carry Eagle-Strike YJ-91
anti-radiation missiles ARMs. These new pods provide powerful EW capabilities for land based and carrier fighter squadrons.


The J-15D with wingtip and underwing electronic pods shown above. Also an underwing Eagle-Strike YJ-91 anti-radiation missile (ARM) is probably displayed. The YJ-91 would certainly have an air-to-surface capability. The YJ-91, or similar ARMs, have an air-to-air capability against large slow aircraft putting out emissions. This would enable J-15D's using YJ-91s to hit Western Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft at long range (100+ km) (eg. E-2s, E-3s,  Australian E-7A Wedgetails and surveillance aircraft like Australian AP-3C Orions). (Photo from China's Daily Express ) 

Israel has also developed an effective electronic attack capability. Submarine Matters' recounted Israel's 2007 use of Suter Electronic Jamming for Israel's successful Operation Orchid/Out of the Box airstrike against a Syrian nuclear reactor site - see