February 20, 2015

Australia Narrows the Future Submarine Bidders to Japan, Germany and France.

On Friday 20, 2015 the Australian Governments decided to select:

- the Government of Japan (effectively including Japanese Ministry of Defence (JMD), MHI and KHI)

- TKMS from Germany, and

- DCNS from France

Sweden was effectively excluded by not being mentioned. The Government stressed that weight was given to the bidders actually building submarines now.

The best succinct mainstream media article, on February 20, 2015, was probably http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-20/japan-france-germany-to-compete-for-submarine-build/6159834

The longest article is http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/at-least-500-jobs-to-come-from-submarine-project-but-no-guarantee-of-local-construction-20150220-13k5c0.html with more on South Australia’s expected negative reaction

For the leadup to the Friday 20, 2015 decision see http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/open-tender-versus-competitive.html particularly about the main Australian workforce involvement being the integration of the US-Australian evolved AN/BYG-1 combat system.

As things stand I would say the Australian Government's favourites are Japan, Germany and France - in that order.


Possible Japanese Submarine Deployment Area

Differing submarine patrol areas strung along China's First Island Chain. Japan's submarine patrol area may be from Kyushu, along the Ryukyu island chain (which includes Okinawa), south to Taiwan, then across the Bashi Channel (Luzon Strait) down to Luzon Island, Philippines.

Part of the "First Island Chain" is what Japan calls the Senkaku Islands. A potential China-Japan-(maybe)Taiwan flashpoint due to undersea oil deposits. These deposits may become economically extractable as oil prices rise and technology permits. 

Below is an interesting snippet which may reflect how Japan's submarine fleet is deployed:

Tetsuo Kotani, U.S.-Japan Allied Maritime Strategy: Balancing the Rise of Maritime China, (Strategic Japan, Japan Chair) Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC, April 2014, pp. 1-15. http://csis.org/files/publication/140422_Kotani_USJapanAlliance.pdf wrote on page 12:

"In addition, the submarine fleet will be increased from 16 to 22. Due to the lack of Chinese ASW capabilities, the expansion of the submarine fleet enhances sea-denial capability vis-à-vis the PLAN. To patrol the waters along southwestern Japan, it is estimated that at least eight submarines are necessary (six for the Okinawa island chain [Japan to Taiwan] and two for the Bashi Channel [also called (Luzon StraitTaiwan to Luzon island, Philippines]. Typically, a [submarine] requires two backups for training and maintenance. Thus a submarine fleet of 24 is ideal, but a fleet of 22 provides more operational flexibility than the current fleet of 16. [35] On the other hand, for the effective use of the reinforced submarine fleet, the JMSDF needs to recruit and train more submariners." 

[35] =  [retired Vice Admiral] Masao Kobayashi, “Sensuikan 22 sekitaiseino Kaijoboei” [Maritime Defense under a 22-Submarine Force], Gunji Kenkyu [Japan Military Review], December 2011. http://gunken.jp/blog/archives/2011/11/10_0000.php


Page 1, 2nd paragraph indicates Japan's submarine deployments may, in part, respond to "Beijing’s attempts to deny access by other maritime powers to its Near Seas (the Yellow Sea and the East and South China Seas), which are enclosed by the first island chain (a chain of islands from Kyushu, Okinawa, to Taiwan and Borneo)." 

Japanese strategy using all forces, including submarines, is partly to provide a blockading force (in time of conflict) to keep China forces and trade bottled up in China's near seas. Japan, its SSK owning allies, and the US SSN force could also block Chinese naval vessels and supplies (such as oil) from reaching China. 

As the CSIS excerpt above indicates Japan's main submarine patrol area would be from the the southern home island of Kyushu, along the Ryukyu island chain (which includes Okinawa), south to Taiwan, then across the Bashi Channel (Luzon Strait) down to Luzon Island, Philippines. 

Countries in the region may make frequent use of undersea arrays (along with future use of UUVs (including wavegliders)), particularly in narrow straits and harbour mouths. Such use would diminish reliance on virtually stationary submarines guarding critical straits and harbour mouths. 

South Korea would monitor movements in all the congested seas and straits near South Korea. In those seas are threats or possible competitors North Korea, China, Russia and Japan itself.

The US with its wide ranging SSNs may guard some straits and narrows but the speed and range of its SSNs allow open ocean (blue water) coverage throughout the Pacific, Indian Oceans and under receding Arctic ice to the Atlantic Ocean. US SSNs can act as backup to the SSK navies (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia) particularly against Russian and Chinese SSNs. All of the allies would directly or indirectly (via the US as the common ally) work together under the blanket term SeaWeb.

Naturally submarines are not the only blockers or monitors and don't work alone. Other platforms (surface warships, surveillance satellites, UAVs, UUVs, patrol aircraft including helicopters, land based missiles and ground stations (deploying radar, intercept and other arrays)) can work with submarines in the whole defence mix


February 19, 2015

Sweden and the Netherlands Replacement Submarine Needs

A Dutch Walrus class submarine. Note the serrated fin - probably for quieting and/or improved hydro-dynamic efficiency.

The issues of the Dutch Walrus class submarine replacement and the future Swedish Saab-Kockums A26 development-construction are relevant to Australia's future submarine selection. This would become more important if the Soryu is not selected for whatever reason, forcing Australia to seriously consider European submarine designs. 

Saab-Damen Agreement

Since mid-late January 2015 there have been several reports that Saab and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group have signed an exclusive teaming agreement. This is  to:

- explore future opportunities in the international submarine market including bidding jointly on submarine procurement programmes, and

- explore development of a potential Walrus-class submarine replacement for the Netherlands. 

Netherlands' Situation

The Netherlands operates 4 teardrop hulled Walrus class submarines which are a development of the Dutch Zwaardvis class (2 Zwaardvis were sold to Taiwan). The Zwaadvis was based on the US teardrop hulled Barbel class (the US's last conventional subs).

Walrus specifications:
- 4 launched 1989-1992
- displacement 2,350 tons (surfaced)
- range 18,500 km at 9 knots (snorting) vs Collins 17,000 km at 10 knots (snorting)
- 20 US weapons Mark 48 torpedos and Harpoon missiles (weapons the same as the Collins. Collins has 22 torpedos) which suggest part use of a US combat system already.
- US heritage
- no reliance (like the Collins) on AIP
- like the Collins it has four combined rudders and diving planes in an "X" configuration
- with most NATO submarine being either nuclear or brown water Baltic the Walrus are considered blue water submarines. 

The Netherlands envisages acquiring just 2 submarines to replace the 4 Walruses. Just 2 may mean the Netherlands might want to use/select a common-overlapping design with Sweden. Maybe the Netherlands may settle for modified A26s. 

[As at mid March 2015 the Netherlands' requirements remain unknown.] 

Possible Swedish Role

While Sweden is building its own two A26s Sweden might build the two to four Walrus replacements or at least supply the components for assembly in the Netherlands. 

Sweden's 3 Gotland Class submarines  (launched 1995-96) need replacing by 2025 and 2 Sodermanland class (relaunched 2003) for replacement by 2035(?).

Some extra issues/questions are:

1. How many A26s does Sweden intend to build? Two or five (?) - given the rising Russian threat and the Gotland-Sodermanland two tiered "gap".

2. Will the A26 have the same specifications as provided on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A26_submarine (1900 tons surfaced? A mixture of regular 533mm torpedo tubes and unique 400mm tubes?). Saab-Kockums' own website does not give specifications of diplacement or range. 

3. Will the A26 be built with Lithium-ion batteries?

4. Would there be some technical, industrial and political overlap in the Walrus-class submarine replacement and development and construction of Sweden's future submarine A26?

5. Would the Netherlands find only 2 Walrus replacement submarines an effective number, given the "rule" of three and usefulness to the US alliance experience with the 4 Walruses. 

6. Could the Netherlands continue to justify unusually large SSKs or scale down to the usual European country own use maximum of around 1,900 tons surfaced?


February 18, 2015

US Submarine Campaign from Australia in World War Two

Submarine Matters attempts to present political and technical issues concerning submarines. Less frequently presented is the historical context in which submarines, and their crews, operated.

The following two "Rising to Victory" articles by Edward C. Whitman have been reproduced here to indicate:

- how dependent Australia was on the US in World War Two
- how active US submarines forces were in the Western Pacific-East Asia, and
- especially the heroism and high losses suffered by US submariners.

I hope that the author, Undersea Warfare Magazine, US Navy and US Navy Submarine Force do not mind this extended tribute.

Hyperlinks to submarine classes, some US and Japanese submarines and other subjects added March 2015.


Author is Edward C. Whitman

Reference: Edward C. Whitman, "Rising to Victory: The Pacific Submarine Strategy in World War II Part II: Winning Through" US Navy Undersea Warfare magazine, Summer 2001, Vol. 3, No. 4.

Current Homepage of Undersea Warfare Magazine.

The Pacific Submarine Strategy in World War II 
by Edward C. Whitman
photos courtesy of the Naval Historical Center

Part II: Winning Through

The Man of the Hour 

   Although he was born in Virginia in 1890, Charles Andrews Lockwood, Jr. was raised in Missouri. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1908, joined the Submarine Force two years after graduation, and rose to command the old gasoline-powered A-2 (SS-3) and B-1 (SS-10) in the Philippines during World War I. Later, he led the First Asiatic Submarine Squadron and served as the Assistant Naval Attaché in Tokyo. Subsequently, he commanded the Simon Lake boats G-1(SS-19-1/2) and N-5 (SS-57), took the ex-German submarine minelayer UC-97 into the Great Lakes on a Victory Bond drive, and commissioned R-25 (SS-102), S-14 (SS-119), and V-3 (SS-165). In his varied career, Lockwood also commanded the venerable monitor USS Monadnock(BM-3) and two gunboats on the Yangtse Patrol, served on the U.S. Naval Mission to Brazil, held down both headquarters and naval shipyard jobs, and headed SUBDIV THIRTEEN at San Diego from 1935 to 1937. Before his assignment as COMSUBSOWESPAC at Fremantle, he had been the U.S. Naval Attaché in London from January 1941 until May 1942. Thus, Lockwood's accomplishments were extraordinary even before the untimely death of RADM English brought him to COMSUBPAC in February 1943.

Fremantle and Brisbane - Early 1943

   Two months before Lockwood took up his new position at Pearl Harbor, CAPT James Fife, then a Navy liaison officer at GEN MacArthur's new headquarters at Port Moresby, was ordered to replace the recently-reassigned Ralph Christie at Brisbane. In the aftermath of RADM English's death, however, Christie - now a rear admiral - was hurriedly brought back from the Newport Torpedo Station to replace Lockwood at COMSUBSOWESPAC in Fremantle.

   In response to the demands of the Solomons campaign in late 1942, Brisbane was by then home to three submarine squadrons - some 20 boats and their associated tenders and support facilities. Between the build-up to the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942 and its final pacification in February 1943, the Brisbane boats mounted nearly 60 war patrols, including forays into the Solomon Islands and inter-force transfers to Pearl Harbor by way of Truk and Rabaul. This offensive - largely steered by ULTRA cues into heavily-defended areas - accounted for only two-dozen enemy ships, nearly half of those near Truk. Moreover, three of the five boats that left Brisbane in February were lost to enemy action, leading to an internal investigation of Fife's leadership. In any event, with the Solomons campaign winding down and the war moving north and westward, Fife's command would be reduced to only one squadron by mid-1943.

   During their last several months under Lockwood, the small Fremantle force mounted just over 15 war patrols, but a third of these had been devoted to minelaying off Siam and Indochina, and another third had been associated with transits to Pearl Harbor. Postwar analysis credited 16 enemy ships to this effort, but as the only submarines well positioned to interdict the flow of petroleum - only lightly protected - from the Dutch East Indies to the Japanese operating bases and home islands, the Fremantle boats lost a significant opportunity. With Christie, in the first half of 1943, this pattern began to change, and half of the Fremantle sorties targeted Japanese convoy routes to the north and west. 23 sinkings were eventually confirmed - about one per patrol - but two more boats were lost to the enemy.

Seizing the Initiative
from Pearl Harbor 

   With their failure to retake the eastern Solomons in late 1942, the Japanese turned in 1943 to defending what remained of their earlier conquests. Thus, with new war materiel arriving daily from the United States, the Allies quickly regained the initiative, took back Attu and Kiska in May and August and - under GEN MacArthur - attacked the northern Solomons and "leap-frogged" westerly along the coast of northern New Guinea while isolating and bypassing Rabaul. Late in the year, ADM Nimitz's island-hopping campaign across the central Pacific got under way in earnest with the invasion of Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands in November.

   Accordingly, during 1943 the COMSUBPAC submarine force at Pearl Harbor - now under RADM Lockwood - gradually came to predominate over their counterparts in Australia. Because the Solomons action had drawn so many submarines to SOWESPAC, SUBPAC could only muster 28 war patrols for the first three months of 1943, and over half were sent to Truk, Palau, and the Marianas. 

VADM Charles Lockwood. Caption follows.
Chosen as COMSUBPAC after the death of RADM English in January 1943, VADM Charles Lockwood - "Uncle Charlie" - formulated the strategy that won the U.S. Submarine Force their unprecedented undersea victory in the Pacific. Lockwood's extraordinary submarine career had begun with command of A-2 (SS-3) in the Philippines during World War I.
      A notable exception was the first penetration of the Yellow Sea in March by USS Wahoo (SS-238) under "Mush" Morton, with a total bag of nine enemy ships. Unfortunately the other Pearl Harbor patrols for that same period saw only limited success, at least partially because of the high priority placed on hard-to-target enemy capital ships. By mid-spring 1943, however, Lockwood's force had grown to 50 submarines. Between April and August, he was able to send an average of 18 to sea each month for war patrols of 40-50 days, with over half targeted at enemy shipping in Empire waters and the East China Sea. A significant innovation occurred in July, when Lockwood and his brilliant Operations Officer CAPT (later RADM) Richard Voge sent three submarines into the Sea of Japan, entering from the north through the La Pérouse Strait. The three boats only managed to sink three small freighters in four days before withdrawing, and two subsequent patrols the next month - one under "Mush" Morton - did little better. In September, however, Morton returned to the Sea of Japan a second time and apparently sank four ships before Wahoo was lost to a Japanese anti-submarine aircraft in early October while attempting to come back out.

Photos of RADM Ralph Christie left and RADM James Fife right. Caption follows.
In April 1942, RADM Ralph Christie (left) was the first commander of the U.S. Submarine Force at Brisbane, Australia and became COMSUBSOWESPAC at Fremantle in early 1943. RADM James Fife (right) relieved Christie at Brisbane in December 1942 and remained there until March 1944. Then, following an assignment in Washington, Fife relieved RADM Christie again - as COMSUBSOWESPAC in December 1944.

Tackling the Torpedo Problem 

   Much of Lockwood's command attention during 1943 was consumed by several nagging materiel problems that had crippled U.S. submarine effectiveness early in the war. Foremost among these was torpedoes - not only a shortage of numbers, but continuing evidence of the design defects the admiral had already encountered during his tenure as COMSUBSOWESPAC. 

   Lockwood's earlier investigations at Fremantle had established that U.S. torpedoes were running too deeply, but even when this deficiency was corrected, torpedo performance continued to be suspect. Following an increasing number of attacks foiled by premature warhead explosions apparently due to a too-sensitive magnetic influence exploder, Lockwood prevailed on ADM Nimitz in June 1943 to order the magnetic "pistol" disabled on COMSUBPAC torpedoes and to rely solely on the contact exploder. But even with the magnetic feature disabled, Pearl Harbor submarines continued to experience a significant percentage of "duds," and it soon emerged that there were also major defects in the contact exploder. This led Lockwood to a series of careful experiments in Hawaii in which torpedoes were fired against underwater cliffs to determine potential causes of failure. These revealed that the firing pin was too slender to withstand the shock of a 90-degree encounter without buckling and "dudding" the torpedo. When this last piece of the puzzle fell into place in September 1943, performance of the Mark XIV submarine torpedo finally reached acceptability, but it had taken literally half the war to get there. That the problem had to be solved in the field by the operators themselves - and in spite of a technical community that only wanted to minimize the deficiencies - still evokes bitter memories.

   Moreover, the dubious reliability of the H.O.R. main-propulsion engines - apparent from the beginning of the war - became even more critical in May 1943 when the twelve boats of SUBRON TWELVE arrived at Pearl Harbor, all fitted with H.O.R. diesels. In both shakedown cruises and their European service with the Atlantic Fleet, all of the SUBRON TWELVE submarines revealed engine problems. These only became worse under combat conditions in the Pacific, where virtually all the H.O.R. boats were handicapped by catastrophic breakdowns that often required curtailing war patrols and returning to base for repairs. One by one, the H.O.R. submarines were shuttled back to Mare Island for new Winton engines, but it was nearly a year until all had been returned to duty and the H.O.R. maintenance problems eliminated.      

Photo of the Mark XVIII electric torpedo. Caption follows.
The Mark XVIII electric torpedo shown here during loading was slower than the troublesome Mark XIV but left no wake and could be produced in greater quantities. By mid-1944, three-quarters of the standard patrol load-out consisted of Mark XVIIIs.

Japanese Supply Lines - a New Focus

   For the bloody, but successful, invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November, a dozen submarines provided direct support: conducting reconnaissance, landing commandos, performing "lifeguard" duty to pick up downed U.S. pilots, and blockading Truk. During this same period, however, Lockwood and Voge introduced two additional tactical innovations: deploying small, coordinated submarine "wolf-packs" as tactical units; and concentrating more anti-shipping efforts in the Luzon Strait between the northern Philippines and Formosa, where several Japanese north-south convoy routes from the conquered territories converged. The first three three-boat wolf-packs departed Pearl Harbor in September, October, and December - the first for the East China Sea; the others for the Marianas. Results were mixed. The first Marianas effort sank seven ships, but the total score for the other two was only four. Even as tactics and techniques improved, communications and coordination among wolf-pack members at sea remained difficult, and "blue-on-blue" engagements were a worrisome possibility. Nonetheless, in 1944, wolf-packing became increasingly common,
 particularly for commerce-raiding north of Luzon. 

"The Submarine Force played a key role in the victory -
  not only by providing crucial sighting reports,
                         but by sinking or heavily damaging six enemy combatants."
      Although both Fremantle and Brisbane maintained a steady level of activity throughout 1943, the latter steadily lost importance as a submarine base in the later stages of the conflict. Early that year, the number of submarines stationed in Australia had been fixed at 20, nominally with 12 at Brisbane under CAPT Fife and eight at Fremantle under RADM Christie. As the war moved up the Solomons chain and westward into New Guinea, the boats were reapportioned in favor of Fremantle, and when the total number of Australia-based submarines was increased to 30 late in the year, Fremantle was allocated 22 and Brisbane the rest. Fife made the best of this disparity by establishing an advance base at Milne Bay, New Guinea, 1,200 miles closer to his operating areas off Truk, Rabaul, and Palau. In the latter half of the year, his 33 war patrols resulted in 29 confirmed sinkings along the supply lines linking the three Japanese bases. During that same period, after Japanese tankers were moved up the priority list, Christie's growing force at Fremantle turned aggressively to attacking the oil traffic from Borneo and Sumatra. Nearly 50 enemy ships were sunk by the Fremantle force between June and December, and a dozen of these were oil tankers.    
1943 - the Year of Transition

   For all of 1943, the Submarine Force was credited with sinking 335 Japanese targets - or 1.5 million tons of shipping - essentially twice the corresponding figures for 1942. More importantly, after diminishing only slightly in 1942, the total tonnage of the Japanese merchant marine (including oil tankers), dropped 16 percent in 1943, despite a vigorous shipbuilding program not yet disrupted by Allied air attacks. Correspondingly, the importation of bulk commodities (not including petroleum products) into Japan had diminished by the end of 1943 to 81 percent of the pre-war level. Surprisingly, though, Japanese tanker tonnage actually increased by nearly 30 percent over the year due to need to transport oil from the East Indies. 

   Starting in mid-1943, the gradual introduction of the Mark XVIII electric torpedo into the theater brought substantial relief from the persistent torpedo shortages of the early war years. Although slower than the Mark XIV by 10 to 15 knots and somewhat limited in range, the Mark XVIII left no tell-tale wake that could give away a submarine's position, and it was much easier to manufacture in quantity. By the middle of 1944, when all their teething problems had been solved, Mark XVIII torpedoes constituted three-quarters of the standard patrol load-out. Despite the large percentage of U.S. war patrols targeted specifically at major Japanese bases or cued against Japanese combatants by ULTRA information, U.S. submarines sank only one major Japanese warship in 1943 - the light aircraft carrier IJS Chuyo. That same year, fifteen U.S. submarines were lost in the Pacific - plus two in the Atlantic. The Japanese lost 23.                

Chart of the percentage of Japanese shipping remaining and the total number of war patrols per month. Caption follows.
As the number of war patrols from Pearl Harbor, Fremantle, and Brisbane mounted in 1943 and 1944, the percentage of Japanese merchant tonnage remaining afloat dropped relentlessly from its pre-war level. Of note is the peak of U.S. submarine activity in May 1942 in preparation for the Battle of Midway.

Thrusting Westward - Early 1944 

   By the time ADM Nimitz's cross-Pacific thrust reached the Marshall Islands at the beginning of 1944, over 60 submarines were assigned to Pearl Harbor and 36 to Australia. Moreover, in recognition of the submarine contribution to the war effort, RADM Lockwood had been promoted to vice admiral just before the turn of the year. He quickly took advantage of the capture of Kwajalein and Majuro in the Marshalls in January 1944 to establish an advance submarine base on the latter in April, which put his Pearl Harbor boats 2,000 miles closer to Japan. Even before the fall of Eniwetok in February, and with Truk coming under increasing carrier-based air attacks, Japanese commander-in-chief ADM Mineichi Koga, had ordered his heavy units to abandon Truk and fall back on the Palaus. Then, under further pressure in late March and early April, Koga ordered a further dispersal of his fleet to Davao and Tawi Tawi (in the southern Philippines), Surabaja, and Singapore. 

   Accordingly, Lockwood's and Christie's submarines at Pearl Harbor and Fremantle were kept busy supporting both the Marshalls campaign and U.S. carrier air strikes. With ULTRA intercepts to give advanced warning of the resulting Japanese withdrawals, numerous attempts were organized to intercept both enemy men-of-war and supply ships. Although a number of Japanese freighters and auxiliaries were sunk, the only major warships destroyed during this period were three light cruisers. Simultaneously, however, Lockwood increased pressure on the Empire, East China Sea, and Kurile Island supply routes, and in March and April sent two more wolf-packs to the Luzon Strait. Only the first of these produced significant results - seven freighters confirmed for about 35,000 tons - but all told, U.S. submarines sank 183 ships or nearly three-quarters of a million tons of shipping in the first four months of 1944.                    

Decision in the Philippine Sea

   In the SOWESPAC area, GEN MacArthur's forces continued their advance westward across New Guinea, and by June 1944 the entire northern coast of the island had been secured. Simultaneously, Nimitz moved on toward the Mariana Islands with the intention of seizing Saipan, Guam, and Tinian as staging bases for the push toward Palau and the Philippines. To soften up those objectives, the 15 carriers of Task Force 58 under RADM Raymond Spruance mounted a series of powerful air strikes, while Lockwood sent a new wave of submarines westward to interdict any Japanese attempts to reinforce the islands and to provide lifeguard services for downed airmen. 

   To defend the Marianas and Palaus, ADM Soemu Toyoda, replacing ADM Koga, had earlier concentrated the Japanese fleet at Tawi Tawi, and he sortied a powerful force under ADM Jisaburo Ozawa on 13 June in an attempt to thwart the gathering attack on the Marianas. The result was the Battle of the Philippine Sea a week later, pitting Spruance's 15 carriers against Ozawa's nine. Subsequently dubbed "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," in which Ozawa lost nearly 350 aircraft without sinking a single American ship, the encounter on 19 and 20 June also cost the Japanese three large aircraft carriers, including two - IJS Taiho and IJS Shokaku - sunk by U.S. submarines. By the time Ozawa broke off the engagement and retreated northward, Japanese naval aviation had suffered a devastating loss that would never be redressed. Instead, Japan began training kamikaze pilots. Meanwhile, Saipan had been invaded on 15 June, to be followed by Guam and Tinian later in the summer. By 10 August, the entire Marianas had been taken, and additional advance submarine bases were promptly established at Saipan and Guam.              

Photo of the USS Proteus (AS-19) and 12 submarines of SUBRON 20. Caption follows.
Present at the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945 were the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) and 12 submarines of SUBRON 20. (Fifteen years later, Proteus was converted to serve as a tender for the first of the Polaris SSBNs and performed in that capacity in both Scotland and Guam until 1982. She was decommissioned less than ten years ago.)

The emphasis on attacking Japanese shipping continued to grow. An analysis of submarine patrol assignments from the beginning of 1944 until the end of the war shows a steady increase in the percentage targeted at Japanese supply lines - rising from approximately 40 percent at the beginning of that period to more than double that by August 1945. Consequently, Lockwood began sending wolf-packs into the Luzon Strait on a regular basis, redirecting a group of three boats that had participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and dispatching three more wolf-packs by mid-July. All told, these four efforts netted 17 enemy ships. Additionally, COMSUBPAC increased his emphasis on the East China Sea and also established a series of so-called "polar routes" that vectored submarines northward past the Aleutians and westward to the Kurile Islands and the Sea of Okhotsk, where they could prey on Japanese fishing fleets and coastal traders before slipping southward to patrol off Hokkaido and Tokyo Bay.

   With Brisbane's importance steadily diminishing in early 1944, CAPT Fife was re-assigned to staff duty in Washington, and overall command of the Australia-based submarines devolved on RADM Christie. Meanwhile, the Fremantle operation was approaching a peak of activity in September and October, when a total of 38 boats - most in wolf-packs - joined patrols against the Japanese oil "pipeline" from Sumatra and Borneo and enemy attempts to shore up the defenses of the Philippines. These COMSUBSOWESPAC operations were facilitated by establishing two new advance bases north of New Guinea in mid-year: at Manus in the Admiralty Islands, and at Mios Woendi, just east of Biak. In July through October alone, Christie's boats sank nearly 100 enemy ships, joining over 150 more destroyed by their counterparts at Pearl Harbor. Exacerbated by the growing toll exacted by air attacks, the effect on the Japanese war effort was catastrophic. Total Japanese importation of bulk commodities for 1944 was half the pre-war level, and by the end of the year, their merchant tonnage (again including tankers) had dropped to 47 percent of the pre-war figure.                 

Map of Japanese submarine trail. Caption follows.
The trail of submarine advance bases established by COMSUBPAC westward from Pearl Harbor - and by COMSUBSOWESPAC northward from Australia - clearly marks the convergence of the Allied offensive on the Japanese homeland in the last years of the war. Japanese defeats in the Battles of the Philippine Sea and the Leyte Gulf marked the beginning of the end.

The Beginning of the End

   In preparation for the ensuing invasion of the Philippine Islands, GEN MacArthur's forces invaded the island of Morotai, northwest of New Guinea, in September 1944, and ADM Nimitz moved on Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau group. When U.S. troops came ashore on eastern Leyte on 20 October, however, ADM Toyoda had already initiated a series of countermoves. His overall plan was to bring VADM Ozawa's carriers down from Japan to lure VADM William Halsey's Task Force 38 away from Leyte Gulf so that a powerful surface fleet, including the super-battleships IJSYamato and IJS Musashi, could come up from Singapore, penetrate the San Bernardino and Surigao Straits, and catch the invasion forces at Leyte Gulf in lethal pincers. The result was the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, 23-25 October 1944, perhaps the largest naval encounter ever fought. 

   To support the U.S. invasion, RADM Christie positioned a dozen submarines southwest of Luzon to interdict Japanese forces coming up from the south, while VADM Lockwood deployed over twenty boats off Japan's Inland Sea and near the Luzon Strait to counter enemy moves from the north. Christie's submarines drew first blood early on the morning of 23 October by sinking two Japanese heavy cruisers and severely damaging two others west of Palawan. Then, on the 24th, U.S. carrier aircraft badly mauled the enemy surface forces in the San Bernardino and Surigao Straits - sinking Musashi - and then turned northward to find Ozawa's carriers. In subsequent surface actions, VADM Thomas Kinkaid annihilated the Surigao Strait force, but found himself badly outmatched at the San Bernardino Strait to the north, where the debouching Japanese battleships sank two escort carriers, two destroyers, and a destroyer-escort before withdrawing - inexplicably - without attacking the landing force. 

   Then, on the morning of the 25th, Halsey found the approaching Japanese carriers and sank all four of them, leaving only two hybrid carrier-battleships, IJS Ise and Hyuga, and their escorts to run a gauntlet back to Japan through several scouting lines of U.S. submarines deployed to intercept the "cripples." Among these, the U.S. boats managed to pick off a light cruiser and a destroyer. In addition to guaranteeing the successful invasion of the Philippines, the Battle of the Leyte Gulf reduced the Japanese Navy to a mere remnant of its former self, almost entirely bereft of carrier aviation. The Submarine Force played a key role in the victory - not only by providing crucial sighting reports, but by sinking or heavily damaging six enemy combatants.

   The re-conquest of the Philippines continued with the invasions of Mindoro and Luzon in December 1944 and January 1945, leading to the recapture of Manila in early February. Meanwhile, with the remains of the enemy war fleet withdrawn into home waters, U.S. submarines were free to concentrate almost entirely on Japanese shipping. During all of 1944, more than 600 Japanese ships - or 2.7 million tons - were eventually credited to the U.S. boats, including a battleship, seven aircraft carriers, nine cruisers, and numerous smaller combatants. In the same period, the Pacific boats rescued 117 downed airmen from the sea in lifeguard missions. On the negative side, 19 U.S. submarines were lost to enemy action during 1944 - plus one sunk in a training accident - but in contrast, the Japanese sacrificed 56.

Final Victory in the Pacific 

   1944's anti-shipping campaign was so successful that by the beginning of 1945, virtually nothing was left to sink. Few enemy targets remained outside the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and narrow coastal lanes plied only by day. Nonetheless, U.S. submarines pursued their remaining quarry wherever it could be found, patrolling up and down the Japanese coast and often penetrating deep into their harbors, while performing lifeguard duty in support of a crescendo of air attacks on mainland targets by both carrier-based and long-range bombers. In February, the Australia-based Submarine Force - now under newly-promoted RADM James Fife - established another advance submarine base at Subic Bay north of Manila, and within a few months, VADM Lockwood had moved his own headquarters forward to Guam. By then, more than 120 U.S. submarines were operating in the Pacific.

   By the time of the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in February and April 1945, Japan's war-making capacity had been virtually eliminated, and continuing air-raids on the major cities and military complexes were wreaking horrendous destruction on the civil and industrial infrastructure. Although detailed planning had begun for a massive invasion of the Japanese home island of Kyushu in November 1945, the unleashing of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August brought a merciful end to the conflict on the 14th of that month. The formal surrender instrument was signed on the deck of USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay on 2 September. Appropriately, VADM Lockwood participated in the ceremony, and a dozen submarines and the tender USS Proteus (AS-19) were anchored nearby. 

   Reflecting how completely the Japanese merchant marine had been swept from the seas, U.S. submarines sank only 190 enemy ships - most of them quite small - in the seven and one-half wartime months of 1945, equivalent to half the monthly average achieved in 1944. Since 1941, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force had sunk over 1,300 enemy vessels - or 5.3 million tons of shipping - approximately 55 percent of all Japanese ships lost during the conflict. (The remainder was lost to aircraft, mines, and other causes.) 

   Although this destruction was wrought by less than two percent of U.S. Navy personnel, our undersea victory in the Pacific exacted a heavy toll of ships and men. A total of 52 U.S. submarines were lost in World War II, most with all hands. Over 3,500 officers and enlisted men sacrificed their lives - 22 percent of those who went on patrol - the highest casualty rate in the U.S. armed forces. Lest we forget.

"There is a port of no return, where ships
May ride at anchor for a little space
And then, some starless night, the cable slips,
Leaving and eddy at the mooring place…
Gulls, veer no longer. Sailor, rest your oar.
No tangled wreckage will be washed ashore."
                                                   - Leslie Nelson Jennings
 ("Lost Harbor")

Bibliography. Most useful among the many references consulted in the preparation of this article and its predecessor have been: 

Alden, John D., 
The Fleet Submarine in the U.S. Navy, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1979.
Alden, John D., U.S. Submarine Attacks During World War II, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1989.
Blair, Clay, Silent Victory, the U.S. Submarine War Against Japan, Lippincott, New York, 1975.
Liddell Hart, B.H., History of The Second World War, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1971.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II, 15 volumes, Little, Brown, Boston, 1947-62.
Roscoe, Theodore, United States Submarine Operations in World War II, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1949.

February 17, 2015

Costs for the Soryu - As there is no Competition

Pricing is a major part of selection. But what if there is no competition to the Soryu? Diagram courtesy of The Australian.


When researching the Saab-Damen submarine development  agreement two interesting bits of information on Australia future submarine selection came to light. Marc Brandt, a Brussels-based industry analyst made two significant comments, probably in late January 2015 -  http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/submarines/2015/02/01/damen-saab-sweden-subs-deal/22535665/ : 

1.  "…I understand that there is a general acceptance within Saab, and government circles in Sweden, that Australia's preference for the Japanese Soryu-class sub has put this program effectively out of reach..."

2.  "...the AUS $17 billion (US $13.7 billion) Collins-class submarine replacement program..." .


The first statement supports the increasing belief that Australia's Federal (Abbott) Government has chosen Japan's Soryu. If Saab believes the Soryu is a done deal then the Australian Government's claim that there is genuine "Competitive Evaluation Process" is not being accepted by key players.

The second statement supports indications that Australia is no longer after 12 submarines - just 6, 7 or 8. Choosing as little as 6 submarines is a wise move considering the serious limitations of available Australian funds. Six is also a recognition that Australia has only been able to crew about 2.5 existing Collins at most.

Australia's previous submarine purchases also show a steady reduction in numbers. The numbers of UK built Oberon class submarines (in the Australian Navy 1967-1999) proposed for Australia shrank from 8 to 6 The proposed number of the Collins (operating 1996 – present) went from 10, to 8, to 6). 

The cost of 6, 7 or 8 may be for a "discount" of around US $14 Billion, ie. "discounted" from the original figures of US$20 to 30 Billion. Of course figures are academic until the last submarine has been launched, commissioned and paid for.

Japan's pricing for Australia, which will be Japan's first major defence customer in 77 years, will be a highly political matter. Japan sold 4 Matchanu class submarines to Thailand in 1938 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matchanu-class_submarine .

Part of Japan's estimate might take into account:

1. how much is Australia (as a new junior ally to Japan) prepared to pay? and

2. how much of the cost of Japan's decade's old submarine development program, including the new  Lithium-ion battery (LIB) Soryu, can be transferred to Australia?

Japan, can only transfer some of its submarines development costs to one country, Australia. This is unlike Germany's TKMS which can, and has, spread the development cost load among 17 customer countries.


February 12, 2015

Technical issues and the Soryu - Lithium-ion batteries no AIP

A bank of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) for marine use. LIBs are being developed and offered for future Japanese, German, French and probably Swedish submarines.

The new batch of around 6 Soryus being built for the Japanese Navy (known as Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF)) over the next 8 years will be built around Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). LIBs represent a very significant technical departure from the existing lead acid batteries. This influences the structure of the submarine's entire electrical system (wires etc) not just the batteries themselves.

Use of LIBs may allow a submarine to stay submerged for a longer time than lead acid batterries as long as the submarine is not driven too quickly for too long as this runs the batteries flat.

Air independent propulsion (AIP)

Some confusion has been created that LIBs are some separate component replacing  air independent propulsion (AIP). This is basically untrue. LIBs are replacing lead acid batteries in new submarines to be built from around 2015. LIBs cannot be retrofitted to replace lead acid batteries in individual submarines already operating. Any battery, LIB or lead acid, will almost always rely on regular recharging from a submarine's air dependent diesel engines. Some AIP technologies can charge batteries - but there are downsides-tradeoffs. The relatively few subs in the Asia-Pacific region that have AIP (none are Australian) might still use AIP even if they are in future built with LIBs. Those that use AIP might typically want their subs capable of a close to shore (closed shallow waters, littorals, straits and harbour mouths etc) near motionless, defensive missions of up to 3 weeks submerged.

AIP, unlike batteries, cannot be recharged during a mission.

AIP has been compared (by submarine sales teams and the mainstream media) to nuclear propulsion. This is not true. AIP might allow a submarine to move at 20+ knots for 5+ hours while a nuclear reactor can run at 30+ knots for 3 months or until a crew's food runs out.

Australia decided not to use AIP in the Collins class due to Australian submarine mission profiles which need much diesel for long range rapid transit. This is even though Australia bought its subs from Kockums who are AIP experts. I haven't heard of any Australian interest in AIP for the future submarine. It is unclear whether Singapore's two HDW 218SG's on order will use AIP (but likely) and LIBs (maybe). Some Chinese subs are believed to use AIP, most likely mainly in defensive mode, not far offshore.

AIP is basically a 200 ton plug in the submarine for inclusion of a small engine and storage of extra fuel, alcohol or hydrogen and an oxidiser. The first batch of 6 to 7 Soryus (up to SS-507?) do operate with Swedish designed Stirling engine AIP technology. The next 6 Soryu will most probably use LIBs.

The downsides of using AIP include: dangerous highly flamable oxidiser, heavy moving parts that need maintenance, less effective in warm seas, 3rd party contractual issues, technical advances including LIBs partly bypassing AIP, have persuaded the Japanese Navy that AIP is not worth including in their future Soryus. The 200 tons might be better used for more diesel or batteries. Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia have not used AIP in their submarines due to AIP's marginal worth.

More on LIBs

Returning to LIBs - LIBs are reputedly lighter (than the traditional lead acid batteries they are replacing). LIBs carry more charge (greater energy density) translating into more speed or a longer period the submarine can submerge. LIBs should take less time to recharge, so there is less "indiscretion" time when the submarine has to snorting-snorkel near the surface. The increased capability of anti-submarine sensors, including those mounted on satellites and UAVs, mean that  submarines in near surface snorting mode are becoming more vulnerable.

LIBs involve potential technical risks. LIBs may be more prone to catch fire (based on experience with the 787 aircraft LIBs). LIB use for submarines may be becoming safer than aircraft use due to heavier submarine LIBs with the extra mass more able to absorb heat. This should mean submarine LIBs do not get as hot as aircraft LIBs - hence submarine LIBs should be less prone to catching fire.
A second major difference is that aircraft LIBs have (or had) no dedicated fire suppressant systems while such systems should be built around submarine LIBs. Overall the experience of ironing out bugs on aircraft and car LIBs is valuable in the development of submarine LIBs.

New technology always involves some uncertainty. Lead acid batteries for submarine have a record of use since 1888 (hence their characteristics are more predictable) while LIBs probably have no operational use on submarines. The replacement cycle for submarine LIBs is also hard to predict.

Before Australia operates Soryus Japanese Navy Soryus will most probably have had several years experiece of using LIBs - hopefully ironing out all the bugs. Australia may be better placed if there is an option of deciding on LIBs or lead acid batteries before Soryus earmarked for Australia begin to be built.

Germany, and France are also developing and beginning to offer LIBs for submarine use. Presumably Sweden, South Korea and the US (for backup batteries) are also developing submarine LIBs.

Life Cyle Differences

One additional issue is that the Japanese Navy has been running its submarines with the assumption the service life is 15-20 years while Australia assumes submarines should be in service for at least 30 yours. This may or may not be a problem. After 15-20 years moving parts may or may not start to wear out. This may be most significant in the submarine's diesel engines and the very large electrical motor. Changing engines-motors is very heavy maintenance involving cutting into the submarine hull. This might only be possible in Japan for the Soryu? Maintenance realities may or may not be a problem.

If all these issues prove too hard over the next 5 years there are submarines operated by Germany,  France and Sweden (all of around 2,000+ tons surfaced) that may be adequate for what Australia needs. This is particularly under limitations in funds for purchase and crew availability problems.


February 11, 2015

"Open tender" versus "Competitive evaluation process" makes little difference

The removal of "open tender", promised by Prime Minister Abbott on February 8-9, 2015, and its replacement on February 10, 2015 with "competitive evaluation proces" underlines that Australia's selection of a future submarine:

- involves political considerations at the level of Prime Minister that are paramount

- therefore decisions are being made at the level of Prime Minister, his subordinate Prime Minister's Office and his subordinate Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. These (mostly) men have already drawn advice from many Departments including Defence

- put another way the hundreds of technical considerations that would have been considered important in a tender are less important or have already been decided on

- there is no room left for submarine experts in the Navy, DMO or broader Defence Department to imagine that the now obsolete term "tender" could contradict the decision of the Prime Minister

- the Prime Minister level decision probably has been made with Japanese Prime Minister Abe - that Australia will buy the Soryu. Abbott probably made a Captain's Pick of the Soryu

- the Soryu decision is made for political, economic and strategic reasons. Those reasons include:

  : the US wants Japan to supply the submarine for US reasons (economic, alliance dynamics, political, technical etc). Those reasons include the US preference that Japan's submarine sale serves as a source of income and encouragement for an expanded Japanese defence budget and to help Japan build an alliance system. The US is also selective as to which nations it will supply the its highly sensitive submarine combat system

  : the Soryu involves less technical and economic risk compared to the unbuilt competing bids (HDW 216, DCNS SMX Ocean and Saab-Kockums 4,000 ton Type 61)

  : a deal with Japan is because Japan (not Germany, Sweden and France) is an important Australian  regional ally that can offer many future benefits in strategic support, information sharing and broader trade areas.

  : buying the 3,000 ton (surfaced) Soryu should involve lower price and shorter lead-times than
buying the competing 4,000 ton (surfaced) drawing board only competitors.

Basically, whether the selection is called "open tender" or "competitive evaluation", the same person, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is making the same decision for the same reasons. Due to US (and to a lesser extent Japanese) preferences those reasons would apply to any Coalition Prime Minister that might replace Tony Abbott.

A Labor Prime Minister may or may not be swayed by some Build in Australia (union, ideological, electoral) reasons. As Labor Opposition Leader Shorten completely supported Australia following the US back into Iraq it is very likely that Shorten would also adhere to the US policy on Austrralia choosing the Soryu.

It is unknown whether Japan (including Mitsubishi and Kawasaki) would be prepared to resolve many Australia public misgivings, by agreeing to do much of the Soryu build in Australia. I already take is as given that the major Australian industrial input will be ASC doing some work on the evolved AN/BYG-1 combat system - also Australia making some of the submarine steel.

I would say the only way to defeat the Soryu "bid" would be to appreciate Australia's budget crisis. This is to respond by offering a submarine at vastly lower price. That could not be achieved with a 4,000 ton (surfaced) design. Only modifications of existing submarines (around 2,000+ tons) have a chance of beating the existing Soryu submarine.


February 10, 2015

Australian Nuclear Submarine Option - Virginia SSNs

Largest diagram of Virginia SSN. Click to expand. Note the 12 vertical launch tubes near the bow will be replaced with Virginia Payload Tubes (VPT) at the mid-section for various uses (28 missiles, divers, autonomous underwater vehicles  (AUVs). Also see huge diagram.


If Australia is considering paying $2 to 3 Billion per Soryu and per 4,000 ton (surfaced) competitors then Virginia (nuclear propelled attack submarines) SSNs should also be an option.

However I think the political considerations make SSNs a remote buy. There would need to be a major threat, amounting to a strategic need, for SSNs. Domestic opposition is, at present, too great. There is too much opposition at the political left and even the center in Australia. 

When the US raised in February 2012 selling or leasing Virgina SSNs to Australia Australian concerns may have also been:

- the complete infrastructure and basing costs and issues seemed too expensive financially and politically. For example any nuclear submarine facilities could be nowhere near the current Fleet Base East which is in Sydney. Public opposition and separation safety standards may have meant a whole new base would need to be built on Australia's east coast for temporary or emergency uses. Note that Australia moved its submarine base at from the Sydney Harbour Fleet Base East area specifically HMAS Platypus (for subs) from the 1980s to Fleet Base West HMAS Stirling (Fremantle, Western Australia). There were several reasons for Australia's decision including the desire to host nuclear submarines of Australia's allies away from a major city. Implicitly Frematle also offered the option of being the base for Australian nuclear submarines.

- the degree of US sincerity that it was a real offer may not have convinced Australia. Australia would have had to rely on much US influence in placating Australia's neighbours.

-  the crew number requirements of a Virginia are daunting. Crew may be 115-135 or even around 250+ if there are alternating Blue-Gold crews (2 x 115 to 135). This means the Australian submarine service, as it is, would not have the money to pay, train and maintain such large crews. Decades of training in reactor maintenance and safety is required. SSNs mean an extra national effort would be needed - hence strategic would need to be major. 

Australia and the US would also be concerned about igniting a nuclear propelled arms race in the wider region (eg. from such nuclear knowledgeable countries as Japan and South Korea). There might also be increased acceleration in the current SSN building programs in India and China.

Australia's near neighbour Indonesia can also increasingly afford nuclear technology (with Indonesia's GDP now passing Australia's by some measures). So Australia didn't/doesn't not want an arms race so close to home.

Accepting Australia's current budgetary worries, but leaving some room for escalation to SSNs, my ideal Australian submarine buying plan would be a low-then-high mix:

- 6 medium size SSKs within next 10-15 years (each less than $1Billion). With crews of around 30 so at least 4 could be crewed at any one time.

4 Virginia SSNs (or the US follow-on SSN at that time) at some point in future, and based on strategic need, 

Note - A little over a month after I published Australian Nuclear Submarine Option - Virginia SSNs an article in the Australian Financial Review, March 23, 2015 "Nuclear submarine option pushed by industry" also raised the (or my?) idea of buying 6 conventional submarines first then perhaps a number of nuclear submarines sometime later. Fair is fair given my partial use of an AFR article below :-)   

SSNs have major advantages in less-or-no indiscretion time (fully submerged so cannot be seen by Chinese or Russian satellites), much more range, speed (great for the 3,000 km transit gap) and much greater operational availability.

In terms of possible threat - China is likely to be pragmatic over an Australian purchase of future (conventional) submarine even if that submarine is likely to be superior to any Chinese conventional submarine. China would recognize that such an Australian submarine will be a second rate submarine compared to China's increasing numbers of SSNs. China would be much more concerned if Australia bought superior submarines, that is SSNs from the US, UK or France.

The SSN option was raised by the US Ambassador to Australia in early 2012.


To read the whole article see the Australian Financial Review (AFR) of February 22, 2012  http://www.afr.com/p/national/us_floats_nuclear_subs_option_uPMgRrev3KjNwBLfFxpdeO

"US floats nuclear subs option - 22 Feb 2012 [following written by John Kerin]


  • Type: Attack submarine
  • Cost: $2.5 billion
  • Displacement: 7900 metric tonnes (submerged)
  • Length: 240 metres
  • Beam: 10 metres
  • Propulsion: S9G reactor
  • Speed: 25+ knots (46km/h)
  • Range: unlimited
  • Crew: 135
  • Armament: 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 4 533mm torpedo tubes
  • Built: 2000 - present
  • Active: 8
  • Planned: 30
  • Ships in class include: Virginia, Texas, Hawaii, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Missouri, California, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, John Warner
The United States has indicated for the first time it would be willing to lease or sell a nuclear submarine to Australia in a move that will inflame tensions with China and force the Coalition to declare its policy on ­bolstering regional defence.
US Ambassador to Australia ­Jeffrey Bleich told The Australian Financial Review yesterday that whichever option Canberra pursued as a replacement for its Collins class submarines, Washington viewed ­Australia’s subs program as crucial to security in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Decisions about the design of the Australian submarine are up to Australia’s leaders, including whether they pursue diesel power or nuclear power,” Mr Bleich said. “Whatever they decide the US is willing to help.’’
His comments suggest the US would be open to discussing nuclear submarine technologies with Australia at a time of severe budget constraints here and in the US, despite Defence Minister Stephen Smith restating Labor’s opposition to any nuclear submarine purchase. But Australian sources maintain they have been told by opposition figures that Coalition leader Tony Abbott will consider the nuclear option if he wins an election due in 2013.
Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston has gone as far as saying the Coalition would support Labor if it sought to examine the nuclear submarine option. Neither Mr Abbott’s office nor Mr Johnston were prepared to comment on Mr Bleich’s intervention last night
But leading defence analysts, including former Liberal minister Peter Reith, have urged both sides of politics to consider nuclear subs.
A senior Defence source said ­Australia would probably be able to buy a 7500 tonne Virginia Class submarine for around $2.5 billion, but because it would come off a mature production line its price would reduce over time.
Labor has been considering the purchase of 12 conventional submarines to replace the Collins, with an Australian designed and built option costing up to $36 billion, or $3 billion each." 
To read the whole article see the Australian Financial Review  http://www.afr.com/p/national/us_floats_nuclear_subs_option_uPMgRrev3KjNwBLfFxpdeO

Further Reading 

See http://navyleague.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/nuclear-powered-submarine-paper-nov-2010.pdf This is a more learned discussion of the cost and benefits of nuclear submarines for Australia. Title is NUCLEAR-POWERED SUBMARINES FOR AUSTRALIA November 2010, carried by The Navy League of Australia. It is based on a presentation of “Three members of the Navy League of Australia, Rear Admiral Andrew Robertson AO DSC RAN (Retd.), Rear Admiral David Holthouse AO RAN (Retd.) and Rear Admiral Chris Wood RN (Retd.) gave a presentation in late November 2010 on Nuclear Powered Submarines to the Nuclear Engineering Panel of Engineers Australia (Sydney Branch).” http://navyleague.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/nuclear-powered-submarine-paper-nov-2010.pdf (pages 1 then 9 to 17 may be the most relevant).

ANU’s Stephan Fruehling wrote in ASPI Strategist a most interesting article on this:  Nuclear propulsion and the future of Australia’s submarine force of March 11, 2016