February 17, 2020

French Future SSN & SSBN Priorities Before Attack class

Following comments of February 15/16, 2020 from Anonymous and Arpit Kanodia

Due to Australian July 2016 Federal election priorities (specifically votes for jobs in South Australian) Australia chose DCNS (now Naval Group), too early as the winner of the submarine competition.

Australia should have retained a two or three way competition (with Japan and/or TKMS/Germany) until at least 2018 when 2 or all 3 had a more complete designs and costings. Delays now mean Naval Group will only "cut steel" on the Attack class in 2023 (and I'd say, more likely, 2024).

So Australia now is relying on French Government owned Naval Group. But the French Government has already ordered Naval Group to tackle 2 major French submarine national security priorities first. That is before Naval Group gets round to doing serious work on the Attack class.

1. France is yet to complete a great deal of development work on the far from operational Barracuda SSN program. France is mindful that its preceding Rubis class SSNs are already up to 41 years old with the Rubis launched in 1979.

2. France has a great deal of work to do on its 15 year replacement SSBN program
    - in order to start replacing the preceding Triomphant class SSBNs by 2033.

So France's replacement SSN and SSBN programs are of higher priority for French Government owned Naval Group management, designers and workers than the Attack class program that Australia cannot walk away from.

The Australian Federal government knows it has nowhere to go now. It would lose too much face (political capital - including votes in South Australia) if it said it was wrong to choose France so early.

I'll write about any Japan option after I see what you readers think.



steve said...

Building a submarine really taxes a countries' industrial base and the market is so small it gives few options. And Australian aspirations to field 12 hulls is astounding to the point of incredulity on the back of the Hunter frigate program and the expansion in OPV's. That blows my mind too how your patrol assets have gone from the tiny Attack class to 1800 tonne OPV's in my life time. That's going to bite the the RAN on the backside too. Then again the one hull to do all jobs brain disease is everywhere as you see it in naval services, in politicians, and surprisingly in the minds of lay supporters of sea power who talk about putting say MCM capability and just dropping it on the back of an 'escort' is a winner. (The other side of one hull to do everything being 'modularity'.......groan.)

Back to submarines. Not many here in the UK grasp how much damage to UK defence and industry was done by Gordon Brown interfering with the SSN production drum beat at Barrow or David Cameron's decision to postpone the initial buy of what is now Dreadnought. Building a good SSN is something only a few countries can manage; it is a more complicated machine than anything else on the planet or indeed off it. Astute in engineering terms is way beyond any space programme. There is lots of support up here for the carriers. And though that project went well (very well really) a carrier is no more complicated in terms of hull and propulsion than a cruise ship and the combat systems installed are innovative. But again to admirals and laity the aeroplane, helicopter, and increasingly the drone are the panacea to our naval problems. Yet we have little of our industrial base committed to making our aircraft, I would substantially less than all the companies that support Barrow. We might win a battle or two in a hypothetical war in the future with F35b off our carriers, but we are losing the real battle in the real war to protect our industrial base not keeping up SSN numbers to 12 and losing that is what will bring about another war because our opponent(s) will know us to be weak. Is Australia building submarines to protect its industrial base, politician's votes, or help contain China and Indonesia?

I keep looking at the SAAB A-26 programme and the Dutch competition to replace Walrus. And I honestly think the RAN would have been better of staying on that path. As I have said to you before 4 of the stretched variants and 8 of the vanilla variant would have suited the RAN best.

Arpit Kanodia said...

Hi Pete,

I think Australia is suffering from the same disease, license manufacturing. India suffered a lot because of it, and we paid almost 50% more amount for the same product if we buy off the shelf.

It is always the same story, that politicians and bureaucrats say(even Indian Navy), that after this project we going for the indigenous submarine. But be it the case of Type 209 or Kilo or Scorpene, and now the similar story is playing with P-75I project. I think Australia too getting into this viscious cycle.

About France, they always hold the upper hand over Koreans or Japnese or whatever, if we see it from the bird-eye view. It is always a possibility of SSN. Japanese or Germans or Koreans, never able to offer such a deal.

There is a conspiracy theory about the Indian nuclear program, that during 2006-07, India's SFC finding it very difficult to operationalize nuclear deterrence because of heavy warhead and RV, also there was the very low prospect of adding MIRV with such heavy warhead.

Then, France transferred warheads designs to India via Israel, also off the record DRDO does reported that the weight of RV declined drastically after 07 (almost 50%). I don't know how much it is true, but the point is, France does deals in nuclear products, they don't shy away like US or UK.
Thales is actually also a subcontractor for the optronics subsystem in the Arihant program.

So, I do think in my humble opinion, that France is the right choice. But if Australia wanted to build a submarine in the homeland, they should go toward SSN right away, and if they want to persist on SSK, then they should buy it off the shelf.

Arpit Kanodia said...

Furthur, Aus tax payers going to ask, if we paying such humongous amount, (btw which make no sense, even the P 75I cost $7 bil for 6 subs), then why not going for SSN directly?

Mr. Kowalski said...

I fail to see why AUS would pay billions of dollars for submarines which may not enter service until 2030s. Maybe I'm missing something, but cant AUS simply ask the Japanese to modify the Soryu's for extra range and buy it from them outright for $600mln each ? It may not be a perfect solution, but six xtra range Soryu's delivered before 2032 at half the price of the French ones seems to be the obvious choice.

Pete said...

Hi steve

Buying someone else's tailormade design for one's submarine needs costs much more than an "off the shelf" standard design.

So Australia's idea of Naval Group transforming a Barracuda SSN design into a conventional submarine design involves so many changes that:

- development, testing and risk money costs extra. So twice

- as much as a large extra-long distance (say 2,300 ton, US$1.2 Billion each) Naval Group Scorpene design.

I think the RAN desire for 12 subs is an attempt to get 8 in the end. That is 2 more than the 6 UK built Oberons we had 1970-2000 and 6 Collins 1993 - present.

Australia's new Canberra class LHDs, Hobart class destroyers, Hunter frigates and Arufura class OPVs will create RAN crew, maintenance/overhaul, and RAN manning desks shortages which will precude 12 new subs.

Australia also suffers political decisions. In Australia's case politics dictated the Attack class will be built in relatively inefficient Adelaide rather than the efficient Williamstown shipyard, Melbourne - which just happens to be a Labor heartland.

Interesting that the top job of Astutes are to protect the SSBNs (when travelling to/from the SSBN Faslane base) that Jeremy Corbyn so despises. Also that UK Labour MPs in shipbuilding electorates treasure nuclear submarine builds.

"Is Australia building submarines to protect its industrial base, politician's votes, or help contain China" All three.

Australia's technically and (especially unpopular with voters) politically fraught experience with Sweden to build the Collins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collins-class_submarine#Problems_during_construction_and_trials

were major reasons putting politicians off Sweden's A26s for the Attack class submarine.

Also in early days when Australia was making up the future submarine shortlist not even the Swedish Navy had ordered A26s.

ghalibkabir said...


It is usual for conventional payments to have 'strategic consulting charges' padded in. So it is very highly likely the P-75I includes non-reactor SSN design consulting from DCNS included. that way even if another consortium walks away with the SSK deal, the French get the consulting funds as it is already appropriated under other 'heads'.

(SSN is a bigger engineering challenge than SSBN. You need 'sprint' ability while controlling noise profile at the same time... the reactor is a harder thing to perfect compared to the SSBN where 20-22 knots is still ok... the SSN needs to do north of 30 kn many a time and needs much better combat suites)

Similarly for the Chakra SSN deals... no way one is paying US$ 3 billion for an old sub lease. it is very highly likely the Russians are providing some form of 'reactor engineering' consultation for the SSN..

So the deal is clear, non-reactor SSN inputs from DCNS & SSN reactor consulting from RU.

It is also safe to assume warhead miniaturization for MIRVing did not happen overnight and 'some help' came from 'somewhere'. You are quite open about the FR-IL-IN channel..though I would not like to quote it so openly myself..it is however a strong possibility similar to the direct RU-IN channel... fair enough, considering the nitwits next door shop 24x7 from a Chinese nuclear Walmart.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

In Japan, 3000t-class submarines (29SS, 30SS, 31SS), successors of Soryu-class or next submarines are under building. According to formal report by MoD the lead ship (29SS) of 3000t-class is used as a test submarine for various researches. 30SS and 31SS will be operationally deployed. The data from 29SS is used for next-next submarine whose basic design is considered/conducted. Though shape and dimension of 3000t-class are same as Soryu, those of next-next submarine will be reviewed.


MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I still believe that these 4,000 t submarine is far too big for Australia. Even a 2,000 t submarine is too big. A 1,000 t submarine like Ula-class would have been perfect. Range? You don't need range in case you can station many submarines around Australia. Just like South Korea bought the license for Type 209 submarines Australia could have bought the rights to produce type 210 submarines.

The range is shorter but therefore you RAN could have attracted more sailers for this type of duty.

Due to size and prize Australia could have produced a steady stream of one submarine per year. This would have been a very efficient way to steadily improve the submarine fleet. New submarines get the latest gear while the old ones could be refitted with this gear at mayor overhauls. Also the workforce would get more and more experienced over time and no gap would occur.

Fun fact: price for a Ula-class submarine was US$ 84.6 million in 1988.


Anonymous said...

The problem with short ranged subs for Australia is that most northern possible bases are not really sub suitable. The depth is too shallow on leaving & everyone has a fair idea where your going. From southern bases, sub heads out to sea straight into deap water. Where you go after that is anyone’s guess. Could have gone north towards SE Asia, or could be patrolling the Indian Ocean, or headed for the East coast or Pacific.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Anonymous, February 19, 2020

you can scale a submarines price according to displacement: 4 times displacement 4 times the price. Australia would get 24 instead of 6 submarines. With about 2 big subs or 8 small subs ready all the time.

The big subs leave the southern harbors and everybody knows where they can't be within 10 days. So few submarines are too predictable. These submarine are no threat. With 4 small submarines in the north a submarine can always be anywhere. With a big submarine fleet your enemy may run across over one of your submarines at any time.

Australia could operate from small bases like Christmas Island or Lizard Island. Germany and other nations operate submarines in the Baltic Sea so shallow waters are no excuse.


Ztev Konrad said...

The depth of the water 'around the bases' only has to be deep enough for the max diving depth. The oceans may be very deep overall but submarines can only travel in the upper levels. The idea that 'everyone can see where you are going' doesnt match with reality, once you are under the waves, effectively you have disappeared from onshore and satellite observations. Vessels with sonar will of course track you no matter the underlying depth - if they know where to look.
Its often forgotten , but there is a deep water channel through the Indonesian archipelago, Lombok Str is 250m deep. Its the same location for the 'Wallace Line' a known barrier for flora and fauna and extends up the the island of Luzon

Pete said...

Hi Anonymous [at February 19, 2020 at 7:00 AM]

Thankyou for the information on new Japanese submarines.

I am intending to publish a new, draft, Soryu Table next week.

I suspect Japan will soon backdate the New Class to 27SS.

Reasons for that are:

- 27SS is the first submarine with LIBs

- 26SS is the 10th Soryu and Japan's standard class size does not exceed 10 subs

- and 27SS will be the first submarine commissioned since Japanese Emperor Naruhito acceded to the throne on 1 May 2019 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruhito



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Research and protype on hull form of submarine for reduction in hydrodynamic noise is put in practice by MoD to provide extreme noise reduction and maintain an edge against threat in 2030th. Protype and test are conducted in FY2017-2018 and FY2019-2022.

I believe optimization of hull form is conducted to reduce bubble noise, flow noise, flow induced vibration noise and propulsor noise [1,2], scale model (protype) is built and various testing is conducted in large naval tank (length 247m, width 12.5m, depth 7m) of Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). The findings in this research together with other research findings are reflected to next-next submarine.

According to NDS, diagram of submarine speed vs output of propulsion motor, the one of most important information on submarine is based on various data including actual data, simulation and testing by using scale model. Then, shape of 29SS is nearly same as Soryu-class, because simulation and testing by using scale model is yet conducted for 29SS.

[1] “Terminology for underwater acoustics – Phenomena (Y0011B)” by Standard for Ministry of Defense (NDS), page 22, terminology number 1561.
“Definition of hydrodynamic noise: noise caused by hydrodynamics.”

[2] ibid, page 67, “Classification Table”
Hydrodynamic noise is classified into i) bubble noise (1562, noise caused by generation, vibration or collapse of bubbles underwater), ii) flow noise (1564, noise caused by turbulence flow such as turbulence flow boundary, separating flow and wake), iii) flow induced vibration noise (1568, noise caused by vibration of structure or part of it which is induced by water flow), iv) wave-breaking noise (1569, noise caused by collapse of wave) and v) propulsor noise (1571, noise caused by propulsor*1-2).
*1 Propulsor includes propellers, water jets, etc.
*2 Causes of propulsor noise are such as cavitation, wing vibration by lift fluctuation, local vibration of wing induced by tailing vortex.


Pete said...

Hi Anonymous [at February 21, 2020 at 11:44 AM]

Thanks for those extra details on Japanese subs.

I'll use the details next week.



Pete said...

Hi Mr. Kowalski [at February 18, 2020 at 8:56 AM]

After Australia broke its Australian Prime Ministerial promise, in 2016, to Japanese Prime Minister Abe that Australia would buy modified Soryus the Japanese are likely unwilling to consider selling to Australia again.

Also Soryus are now being built with Lithium-ion batteries rather than the standard older Lead-acid batteries that Australia appears to require.

On pricing, a large submarine with the Soryu's high specs might export cost US$1.2 Billion each. But with the extensive modifications needed to boost the Soryu's range from 6,000nm to Australia's 12,000nm requirement may cost more like US$1.5 Billion each.



Anonymous said...


The words I used is they have a fair idea of where your going. A sub leaving Darwin is likely heading north. If it’s a short ranged sub, then it’s definitely heading north (as you don’t have the range to go anywhere else). Darwin to Jakarta is around 1,500nm in a straight line. So there & back is around 3,000nm & you haven’t done any patrolling. It’s 1,800nm from Darwin to Singapore in a straight line. That’s just the short range stuff. That’s why Collins has the range it does.

Most of the Arafura sea is less than 80m in depth. A fair part of the Timor sea is less than 200m. Darwin harbour is 30m near the mouth. You can base submarines there, but you loose a certain amount of stealth & if attacked eg MPA, you will have some avoidance limitations till you hit greater depths. Submarines do visit occasionally I believe, they are just not based there.