April 27, 2018

Tipping Britain's Type 26 to Win Future Frigate Decision - Some Diplomatic Groundwork

Britain is pushing its Pacific Power line, in terms of a sudden increase in warships in the Pacific and via future High Commissions in very small places. Britain is looking for increased non-European trade opportunities before and after post-Brexit.

Essential morning reading is Matangi Tonga Online, of course. To that end its April 23-24, 2018 edition reported: "The announcement by Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on 19 April that the UK will be opening up diplomatic mission in...Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu."


One could theorise that Britain’s sudden interest in establishing High Commissions in tiny Pacific islands represents a sudden burst of humanitarianism, consular care or even to counter a rising China presence. As a devotee of the realist school, I'd say countering China is a piece of the puzzle, but there is more.

I sense a more important commercial motive, which is Britain wanting to paint itself as a returned Pacific power in order to increase its chances of selling its Type 26 Future Frigates to Australia. The sale is worth AU$35 Billion, so the incremental step of opening 3 very small, low cost, High Commissions is a good diplomatic-commercial move. Britain can claim this is one part of its return to Pacific strategy and the Australian Government can use this "we are not alone against China" line on the Australian public

I hear you scoff!

International political arguments appeal to the politicians of Australia's National Secuty Committee of Cabinet, who will choose the winner, as much as complex weapons system capability comparisons.

Remember France repeatedly reminded Australia of France’s Pacific power status on the way to selling the 12 French DCNS (now Naval Group) Submarine Project in 2016, worth AU$50 Billion. See Submarine Matter’s article 2016 Defence White Paper - Comparing Australia's relations with the 3 Submarine Contender countries of March 3, 2016 - a White Paper released just before Australia’s April 26, 2016 Buy French Submarine decision.

Avid readers of the Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper will note the mentions of France's Pacific presence in Section 5.83 (in red and bolded here).

This British diplomatic groundwork is nicely timed, given Australia may well make the Future Frigate decision (Britain vs Italy vs Spain) before July 1, 2018. (see "Government to announce Prime [Future Frigate] Contractor" in 2nd Quarter 2018 in the Australian Defence Department’s own  “Achieved/Forecast” column.

So news of the UK upgrading its Pacific presence (even in small ways) can be seen as a ship sale booster. 

See a good Andrew Tillett, Australian Financial Review article, of  March 26, 2018 on Future Frigate at Frigate program decision crucial for local industryand government policy.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

About other country's wanting to "sell" their hardware, I was wondering where they actually make their money, given Australia wants to build it in Australia, and not their parent country it was designed. Is it just for bragging rights, because the licencing fees can't be very much, as a % of the ship.

eg a frigate costs AUD$1.2 per ship, mostly built in Adelaide- say...10% goes to Europe (all designs are European). x9 ships = under AUD$1bn. As an amount for a western country, that's not much money.

Kind regards,


Peter Coates said...

Hi Adrian

Most of Australia's Future Submarine's major components (and costly intellectual property designs) are likely to come from France. France would also make money from the "Australian made" pressure hull steel which relies on French alloy formulas and French supervision.

Much more than "10%". More like 40% of the Australian budget for the Future Submarine would go to France's Naval Group (was DCNS) in France and Naval Group's Australian subsidiary as well as to French diesel and motor propulsion companies.

Also most people forget that US company Lockeed Martin (as the officially selected Combat System integrator) stands to receives around 30% of the cost of the Future Submarine.



ONeil Padilla said...

Hi Pete,
‘Diplomatic groundwork’ will have nothing to do wth it, if anything BAe’s deep political roots will probably get it over the line. Fincantieri offering to build cruise ship blocks here may be the one thing that might turn the tables, plus the FREMM has good range, speed, CODLAG, is low risk and has relatively well know production costs.
I’m rooting for the Italians on this one.

Peter Coates said...

Hi ONeil Padilla

Yes Australia's Future Frigate is a difficult to guess, wide open competition. With considerations like:

- Australian defence industry sales (unlikey excepth 2 late production liners for NZ, like the ANZAC frigates)

- reliable FREMM older design

- vs proven Navantia AWD hulls, supply chains and Australian satisfaction with Navantia's AWD job

- vs a paper, hence higher risk, more modern BAe design. But maybe Brexit uncertainty leading Britain to "quote" (always a risk) the most competive low price.

Maybe all revealed before 1 July 2018.



Peter Coates said...

See The Australian's May 7, 2018 article "Brexit to help tighten UK defence ties with Australia, says minister"
at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/brexit-to-help-tighten-uk-defence-ties-with-australia-says-minister/news-story/efbc1e772b08275d42c9113c0ee75982 which in part states:

[UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson] "was speaking in support of the bid by British company BAE to win the $35 billion contract to build Australia’s nine new anti-submarine warfare frigates.

“If you look at the Type 26 (BAE frigate), this will be the finest anti-submarine frigate in the world, but also pack one of the most powerful punches on the sea to be able to do other tasks,’’ Mr Williamson said

...the Type 26 was disadvantaged by not yet being a finished ship"

See whole article (one free view then paysite) at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/brexit-to-help-tighten-uk-defence-ties-with-australia-says-minister/news-story/efbc1e772b08275d42c9113c0ee75982

Anonymous said...

I very much doubt that NZ will go for Australian SEA-5000 choice. They are just too big & too expensive. They would be better off with something smaller but 3 of, rather than bigger but 2 of. There are possabilities of smaller versions of Australia's choice that we may still be competative at. eg say F310 rather than F5000 (both are F100 derived designs), 5,300t rather than 7,000t, 16VLS rather than 48VLS, fit CEA radar & SAAB 9LV - quite a capable setup. In fact Australia could quite likely do with a few itself (too much gap between the planned OPV & planned FFG). A build class of 6 very usable & economic ANZAC (FFH) replacements.