September 22, 2015

The US Continues to Influence Australia's Future Submarine Selection in Many Ways

The senior member of Australia's future submarine Expert Advisory Panel, former US Secretary of the Navy, Professor Donald C. Winter (former Corporate Vice President Northrop Grumman). The competitive evaluation process (CEP) has apparently already selected the US made combat system. (Photograph courtesy US Navy)
A major challenge for new Defence Minister Payne and Prime Minister Turnbull, concerning the future submarine project, is handling the influence and involvement of the US.

70% of the future submarine may be built in Australia but if Australia accepts the US's pro Japan bid policy then Japan will win. Australia will have to tolerate Japanese inexperience while   Japan attempts to develop the build in Australia project. This may be expensive and risky for Australia.

US influence and involvement issues include:

1.  Australia's on the record preference for the US combat system

the combat system includes all the sensors (many different sonars...periscopes for visual and optronics, passive and active radar), communications, navigation, all the weapons ...and the Tactical Data Handling System where all the information is processed and displayed to the operators (mostly in chairs watching computer screens).

- the combat system may amount to 30% of the cost of the submarine.
-  On February 20, 2015 Defence Minister Andrews declared: "...the Government has endorsed a set of key strategic requirements for our future submarines:...c) The combat system and heavyweight torpedo jointly developed between the United States and Australia as the preferred combat system and main armament." 
-  the US combat system has been modified at high expense then integrated into the Collins
-  see further Australian Ministerial and Defence-DMO support and planning for future use of the US combat system  

2.  Given the highly confidential nature of combat system technology (and its reliance on US SeaWeb sensor infrastructure) it may be effectively up to the US which country such technology can be transferred to.
- US technology transfer powers may limit Australian decision-making and also influence how our future submarines are built.
- It is widely believed in the submarine industry that the US would not wish combat system technology transferred to French submarine builders.
- as the US is believed to have already transferred much of its combat system technology to Japan it is assumed that integration of the combat system into a future Australian submarine designed by Japan would not be a problem.
-  parts of the US combat system have been integrated with some German (TKMS) designed submarines. Such as Lockheed Martin modifying Brazil's Tupi (Type 209) class submarines to use US Mark 48 torpedoes  . So TKMS may stand between Japan and France in terms of ease of integration of the US combat system.
-  perhaps to reinforce that the US combat system will go into the future Australian submarine Lockheed Martin has announced that it is opening up a Combat System for Australia office at Mawson Lakes, Adelaide, in November 2015 "The laboratory is all about risk reduction. It gives us the flexibility to work with the SEA 1000 hull designers and combat subsystem providers in every step of the process" said Raydon Gates [Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Australia].

3.  The US public endorsement of the Japanese Soryu submarine as the best large submarine may be a continuing US policy.
-  Such a US policy my be counter to Australian media and broader public expectations that the German and French bids are clearly stronger.
-  US pressure on Japan to more fully enter alliances has cost the Abe Government in terms of Japanese public popularity. Japan winning Australia's future submarine competition could be seen as  a reward for Abe's trouble.
-  in terms of proconsular imperium Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, reportedly said Oct. 24 [2014] in Tokyo that then-Australian Defence Minister David Johnston was very interested in Japan’s Soryu-class subs. “I talked to him about it four years ago and I said: ‘You want to find the finest diesel-electric submarine made on the planet - it’s made at Kobe works in Japan,’

4.  In terms of the Expert Advisory Panel the US has further influence in the submarine selection process.
-  Of the four Expert Advisory Panellists for the Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) the most senior is an American, Donald C. Winter. He is "senior" by virtue of his position as a former senior politician (US Secretary of the Navy) and former Corporate Vice President Northrop Grumman 
-  This may favour Japan and the US stake in the combat system.

5. The US combat system (known as the AN/BYG-1) is closely integrated with the Collins' current  weapons including: the American made Mark 48 torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles. The combat system is also tailored to the long range US Tomahawk land attack cruise missile system that Australia wishes to mount in the future submarine.

6. There is an argument that integrating the whole US combat system into the winning competitor's submarine design in Australia is more efficient in terms of minimising contractual disputes, commercial-in-confidence problems and US and Australian national security problems.

7. There is a counter argument that greater technical and cost efficiencies can be achieved by integrating the US combat system with the standard systems already used by the three competitors; France (DCNS), Germany (TKMS) and Japan (KHI, MHI and Japanese Government).

Along the lines of 7. - at Submarine Matters' Turnbull Govt New Policy - 70% Future Submarine to Be Built in Australia, September 17, 2015 "MHalblaub" (on behalf of Germany) made some interesting comments on September 21, 2015 8:58 PM along the lines:

Regarding "the combat system I have to mention a few thoughts:
Australia is accustomed to a US system. The US combat system offers inherited access to the US  SeaWeb.
- on the other hand each submarine type offered has a [standard] combat system which is slotted into  other combat systems.

So the question is which way is the better solution?
- fit an US combat system into a submarine or 
- fit features of the US combat system into a [one of the 3 competitors standard] combat systems.

I am under the impression the German ISUS system uses the consoles for either mission related jobs (like sonar tracking) or for submarine system related issues (like monitoring the engines). Each console can do every job. So a US system needs also to operate the whole submarine.

ISUS can already be modified to work with [long range land attack missiles. ISUS already is capable of operating a wide variety of torpedoes including the US Mark 48 torpedo and missiles including the US Harpoon... and other weapon systems.]

So what would be easier? Implement some SeaWeb features into an existing system with the Australian knowledge of the US combat system or implement all the other things into an US system?

It was also a wrong strategy to chose the US System without any competition. I can imagine the price..."


Just some of the components of the US made AN/BYG-1 Combat System. The AN/BYG-1 will very likely be integrated into Australia's Future Submarine.


Australia needs to do more than just look at the US combat system in response to US influence, Collins carryover or due to Australian defence sector conservatism.

Non-US options or options that can be plugged into US hardware include:

-  France's SUBTICS  

-  The Japanese combat system may be too immersed in Japanese language-culture to be reasonably transferable – see this link to the Soryu’s combat system “Equipment” (right-click mouse to translate into English). 



Joe Black said...

Whether the US system is the best not is one question. But to go into this massive risky project with no plan B is ridiculous. Learn from the mistakes of the Collins class sub. Although we might have an agreement now with the US, a lot can change in 11 years. There should be an option in the contract to utilise the shipbuilders system at a known cost. If the future goes according to plan then that option is not excercised, if we need the shipbuilders system at least they can't screw us over.

Nicky said...

Hi Pete

I think the US will always influence Australia on the Submarine buy

Check out this video

DaffyD said...

Concur with Joe. Australian usage of the term Combat system CONSTANTLY seems at odds with USN usage. That can be deduced from the RCS diagram in your post(which includes significant non-BYG changes if you look at the Tender records) AND USN system descriptions in open literature(eg your pop up in the article) it is a TCS (for tactical picture building from all the sensor and nav inputs) and a WCS (weapons control system) and does NOT include sensors nor sensor control - why this distinction isn't clear in any Defence based releases annoys me - is it simply that the customer can't make the distinction? Not knowing stuff seems to be what Senator Xenophon exposed in his line of question earlier this year. One simply has to ask how one fits a 8000 tonne submarine set of sensors onto a 5000 tonne boat - don't fit so THERE is a clue. That explanation is all in the open literature as well but no-one seems to care too much about sensors - so it always seems to be ignored. Apart from that if one looks at US submarine sensors they are heavily skewed up fore and aft axis because of the way they behave and all the diesel boats mix it up with a serious athwartships fit as well because of the way THEY behave - if you don't know how to convert/modify an SSN oriented sensor picture to a diesel one to create a coherent tactical picture for the type of boat you are in you don't need a Plan B you need a Funeral Plan. I'd be watching afternoon tellie for a deal from Paul Mercurio.

Peter Coates said...

Thanks Joe Black

I probably don't make plain enough that Australia needs to do more than just look at the US combat system in response to US influence or Australian defence sector conservatism.

One Plan B is Germany's ISUS as mentioned in the text.

Another Plan B is France's SUBTICS

The Japanese combat system may be too immersed in Japanese language-culture to be reasonably transferable.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky


You're right.

As Australia relies on and contributes to US SeaWeb "the US will always influence Australia on the Submarine buy" and also during the operational life of the Collins and future submarine.

It may be that Australia relies on US bases in the region for replenishment during long missions.



Peter Coates said...

Hi DaffyD(uck?)

Thanks for all your views.

Note "the US combat system (which is a submarine's sensor-database-weapons package)" already in the text.



Anonymous said...

One key to 21st century warfare is "networking". The submarine combat system is only one pawn within a much larger chess game.
In any network, there is going to be complex and tight integration, a lot of it. Open networks like Internet takes decades for international standard bodies to develop inter-operability and to iron out issues. Even then there is still a lot of hard work especially at the Operations level, which is a critical element in war. Of course, you can choose to be a stand alone or lone wolf, but then you choose to operate without knowing the big picture.
Nearly all defense networks are highly proprietary and so to fit such a network, you are going to have to choose one, for better or for worse. There is zero inter-operability.
You need to build the submarine as a system around one set of system engineering requirements. There is no such thing as having 2 different sets of system engineering requirements to based one final product upon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

You have missed one major advantage of American combat system: the cost of future upgrade and maintenance. JMSDF will build 11 Soryu (and more "evolved Soryu"), AN/BYG-1 has been installed on nearly 100 SSN/SSGN in USN. How many Collins replacement are we going to build? 8 and 4 optional.

If we use the same/similar suit as the Japanese sensors (on Soryu) and Americans combat system (as on Viginia class), all cost and risk for future upgrades and spare parts pool will be mostly shared with our allies.

If we are developing "one of the kind" integration such as a hybrid US - German/French combat systems and sensor suite, Australia will have to pay for the all cost of development and take all potential risk (project delay, IP issue and security issues) by ourselves.

We have been participating the spiral development and upgrade for AN/BYG-1 for our Collins fleet (so can fit into a 3000tonne SSK) for more than a decade. And we are going to abandon all the skill, expertise and compatibility on a proven, working good American combat system and go for another European one?

Nicky said...

HI pete,
Here's the Video Link

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at Sept 23, 2015 12:58PM]

The strength of your arguments and of those of Anonymous next to you (in the Comments thread) rates a seperate article, which I will write next week.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at Sept 23, 2015 2:13PM]

The strength of your arguments and those of Anonymous next to you (in the Comments thread) rate a seperate article on Combat Systems, which I shall write next week.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky [at Sept 24, 2015 12:50AM]

Thanks for Video . It will go well with an update on DCNS Shortfin bid issues, which I'm writing tomorrow.