Replacement of Australia's Collins Class Submarines

jeffb

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Also, excellent point at the end there about Australia having zero nuclear infrastructure. This infrastructure isn't going to appear out of thin air either. It's going to take a number of years and probably more than a decade to stand up properly. And when it does, it will need to do so in a regulatory, legislative and political environment that's still actively hostile to nuclear technology.
If, as likely, the subs Australia selects have lifetime cores provided, then sub production and operation could be done with no nuclear infrastructure.
I don't think that's true. If something goes wrong, you need the ability to correct the problem in Australia. That means some nuclear infrastructure as a minimum. Also, if Australia wants a sovereign capability that isn't reliant on US/UK cooperation...
 

JG87

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If we are going to base strategic bombers in Australia they will need nuclear bombs and missiles. Port calls from US/UK SSN/SSGN/SSBNs and CVNs, are going to happen. Repair facilities in Australia would be key in any future war. That is a project AUKUS should shoulder together. Dry docks 1CVN size, 1 LHD size. 3 DDG, 3-5 frigate, 3 SSN these could be floating dry docks.
Who says we are going to allow the US to base bombers/subs/ships downunder? It would counter over 50 years of policy. We are no longer a "suitable piece of real estate" for the US or anybody to plumb down military hardware on.
NATO has a nuclear load sharing agreement that does not violate Nuclear Nonproliferation Pact. https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/2020/2/pdf/200224-factsheet-nuclear-en.pdf
This is why I think the Australian people should vote on it. Not just the elected party officials. It seems Australia does have referendums. Let the people decide!
 

Rickshaw

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If we are going to base strategic bombers in Australia they will need nuclear bombs and missiles. Port calls from US/UK SSN/SSGN/SSBNs and CVNs, are going to happen. Repair facilities in Australia would be key in any future war. That is a project AUKUS should shoulder together. Dry docks 1CVN size, 1 LHD size. 3 DDG, 3-5 frigate, 3 SSN these could be floating dry docks.
Who says we are going to allow the US to base bombers/subs/ships downunder? It would counter over 50 years of policy. We are no longer a "suitable piece of real estate" for the US or anybody to plumb down military hardware on.
NATO has a nuclear load sharing agreement that does not violate Nuclear Nonproliferation Pact. https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/2020/2/pdf/200224-factsheet-nuclear-en.pdf
This is why I think the Australian people should vote on it. Not just the elected party officials. It seems Australia does have referendums. Let the people decide!
Australia is not a member of NATO. What NATO does is immaterial to Australia. Politicians are always very careful about the questions put to the people. In 1967 a question about whether the Indigenous people of Australia should be counted in the census and be accorded the full rights of citizenship were put to the people. It was considered a nonsense question. Blacks would never be granted full citizenship. A majority of the people and a majority of the states and territories surprised the politicians and voted, yes. Indigenous Australians were accorded full citizenship and the right to vote much to the politicians chagrin. In 1999 the politicians put a question about a Republic to the population. They had learnt their lesson and got the result they wanted by fixing the question, a resounding, no. The people were faced with a choice they didn't like but the PM was happy with. No republic as a consequence. The people won't be offered the choice, they will be given a policy.
 

JG87

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So the politicians get to choose what can and cannot be a National Referendum. I see States and Territories can have referendums. I am just not sure how your government works. If the Northern Territories voted for allowing nuclear weapons. Australian law would prevent that I assume?

AUKUS it seems is headed in a NATO like direction. I am pretty sure there is a new deal for a new US base on Palau. Five bases in the Philippines. A new base in Micronesia. U.S. along with Australia has announced plans to re-establish a presence on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Islands by refurbishing a navy base built during the Second World War.

What NATO does is of immense importance to Australia, if a full on shooting war starts. I hope it never does.
 
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Rickshaw

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Australia is a federation. The states and territories are subordinate to the federal government. If the federal government passes legislation on a topic it supersedes what ever the states or territories might want. The NT can pass what ever legislation it wants but if the federal government says no, then it cannot have what it wants. In 1995 the NT legalised euthanasia the federal government passed legislation to over ride it.

Australia is not a member of NATO. What every NATO does is immaterial to Australia. Australia is governed by different laws to NATO countries. AUKUSA might be headed in a similar fashion to NATO but there is no guarantee that if a war involves one member, all members are automatically at war. The US has regretted that clause since the signing of the NATO treaty in 1948. It was offered the chance for a similar clause in the A**US treaty in 1951. It baulked at it because of the criticism it received in 1948. I cannot see the White House seeking one now.
 
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Josh_TN

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It seems likely fuel and US weapons-or perhaps US/Aus weapons, since there’s a lot of overlap-will be stockpiled at Australian bases as part of AUKUS. There were construction projects in this direction even before it was announced.

However it seems unlikely there will be permanent US basing in Australia, both because of local sentiments and because the US has a new policy of not explicitly rotating its bombers out of specific bases on a predetermined schedule, up to and including US territory (Guam). Nuclear weapons are off the table for political reasons, and practically basing them there would offer few advantages in any case.
 

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jeffb

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Collins boats upgraded under the planned Life-of-Type Extension (LOTE) program will be fitted with German MTU 4000-series diesel engines, Jeumont and Schneider combined systems with a permanent magnet AC motor, and Wartsila Euroatlas power conversion and distribution systems.

The MTU diesels will replace the original Swedish Hedemora diesel engines.

Honestly surprised that this didn't happen waaay earlier. The Hedermora diesels did not enjoy a fantastic reputation. My hat goes off to the engineers who would strip them down and fix them insitu. Like rebuilding your car's engine in a phone booth - that already has two other engines in it. :D
 

Foo Fighter

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The engineers on submarines come across as bloody marvels. Been reading about submarine operations since I was a teenager and they pull off miraculous feats to keep their boats going. Hats off to them.
 
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Rhinocrates

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A summary of Australia's options.

Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead, RAN has said “It is our intention that when we start the build program, the design will be mature and there will be a production run already in existence”.

However...

'Surplus' boats are not a realistic option - None of the growing collection of decommissioned hulks could be returned to service with all the funds and will in the world. Their nuclear fuel is spent and they would need colossally expensive refits and refueling but more critically, the submarine has a finite hull life. Every dive, especially to greater depths, fatigues the pressure hull and pipework to a point where it the safe diving becomes severely restricted or the boat becomes unseaworthy. Older boats also become increasingly hard to maintain and struggle to retain their all-important minimal acoustic signature.

It points out that on paper Astutes are preferable - price, quality, crew numbers - but not practical: there simply isn't the shipyard capacity (certainly not with the Dreadnoughts coming up), nor skilled personnel to build or crew them. Moreover, the reactors are going out of production as the design no longer meets safety standards and in any case, reactors have lead times greater than the boats themselves.

Virginia's have similar problems, maybe not quite as severe, or a different mix, but they're also more expensive and require larger crews.

Not yet being in production, US SSN(X) and UK SSN(R) aren't under consideration.

The article concludes, A couple of elderly SSNs might be available for lease in the 2030s but realistically it will be the 2040s before the RAN has sufficient SSNs to exert a strategic effect.

It looks like they'll have to decide between least unacceptable and least impossible and wait a long time either way. I suppose asking the French about SSNs is out of the question?

It's said that the art of diplomacy is saying 'Nice doggy' while looking for a large rock.

 

UpForce

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I suppose asking the French about SSNs is out of the question?

Didn't dare to pose that question myself but surmised someone, somehow would eventually bring the discussion back around to this. As to the answer to that question, I have no idea, perhaps save for a sudden bout of pragmatism.
 

uk 75

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The problem for the French is that the RAN has much more experience of working with the US and UK.
France has only built a modest number of SSNs and has nowhere near the experience of the US and UK in operating them. Only the UK has used them in a war.
 

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I can't see Australia doing a 180 degree turn again. Just want to remind that Attacks were non-nuclear Barracudas... but that train has now left the station.

Australia should go for Astutes, TBH. Great Britain's RN is as cash-strapped as the French Navy, and thus unlike the USN these two navies SSN can't afford to be "gold plated" like Seawolf.

How about a non-nuclear Astute ? (nah, just kidding).
 

jeffb

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The single biggest factor will probably be just how much the US government is willing to prioritise industrial assistance to the RAN at the expense of growing and supporting its own submarine fleet. The US has only ever exported nuclear technologies to Britain will also have to amend its laws to do the same for Australia.
You could argue, given how closely the US and Australian militaries already work together, that growing the RAN fleet would effectively be supplementing the USN fleet in the Pacific as well.
 

jeffb

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I can't see Australia doing a 180 degree turn again. Just want to remind that Attacks were non-nuclear Barracudas... but that train has now left the station.

Australia should go for Astutes, TBH. Great Britain's RN is as cash-strapped as the French Navy, and thus unlike the USN these two navies SSN can't afford to be "gold plated" like Seawolf.

How about a non-nuclear Astute ? (nah, just kidding).

The more you look at it, the more the AUKUS SSN 180 degree turn just seems crazy. Consider: all of the considerations of the sub type and design had already been dealt with, decisions made, plans put in train. The project had already been running for years, was on schedule and within budget. Everything was on track, workforce participation, building the skill base in Australia, transferring the technology, all had been worked out and was progressing, according to the Australian Dept of Defence, to plan.

Then, suddenly, all the work that has been done has just been thrown out the window and they're back to square one.

It strikes me very much that the decision to move to SSNs and especially the decision to drop the French contract, weren't thought through very carefully at all.
 

uk 75

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I think the UK may yet spring a surprise and offer an Astute from the RN on permanent detachment/transfer to the RAN.
There are more than enough NATO assets to deal with Putin's still moth eaten fleet. A reduction in Astute numbers would be more than offset by the practical and political benefits.
 

Volkodav

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Collins boats upgraded under the planned Life-of-Type Extension (LOTE) program will be fitted with German MTU 4000-series diesel engines, Jeumont and Schneider combined systems with a permanent magnet AC motor, and Wartsila Euroatlas power conversion and distribution systems.

The MTU diesels will replace the original Swedish Hedemora diesel engines.

Honestly surprised that this didn't happen waaay earlier. The Hedermora diesels did not enjoy a fantastic reputation. My hat goes off to the engineers who would strip them down and fix them insitu. Like rebuilding your car's engine in a phone booth - that already has two other engines in it. :D
ASC wanted to cut the hull and pull the diesels out to work on them for years but were never allowed to. In comes a succession of overseas experts and a new CEO from the UK saying the same thing then it happens.
 
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starviking

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It looks like they'll have to decide between least unacceptable and least impossible and wait a long time either way. I suppose asking the French about SSNs is out of the question?
The problem with French SSNs is that they use low-enrichment uranium (LEU), requiring refueling every decade-or-so. That either requires a significant infrastructure in Oz to handle the refueling, or reliance on France for a vital asset.
 

starviking

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I think the UK may yet spring a surprise and offer an Astute from the RN on permanent detachment/transfer to the RAN.
There are more than enough NATO assets to deal with Putin's still moth eaten fleet. A reduction in Astute numbers would be more than offset by the practical and political benefits.
Makes a lot of sense - and would show that the UK is committed to the Indo-Pacific for a long time to come. Might even get Oz to come in on the UK SSN replacement programme, and who knows - if the UK is committed, maybe British kit will become acceptable again?
 

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I think the UK may yet spring a surprise and offer an Astute from the RN on permanent detachment/transfer to the RAN.
There are more than enough NATO assets to deal with Putin's still moth eaten fleet. A reduction in Astute numbers would be more than offset by the practical and political benefits.
Very unlike. Not enough Astutes to cover all the roles required of them as it is.
 

GTX

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I would love to see the following scenario:

  1. USN and/or RN start using Australia as a forward base for their USNs - in next year;
  2. RAN submariners start doing increased rotations/exchanges with RN and USN and start building up appropriate skills in SSNs ops with particular emphasis on reactor operations and requirements for commanding (maybe emphasising not running into things...just joking;)) - starting immediately and ramping up in 2022;
  3. USN and/or RN lease 1 boat to RAN (my preference would be an Astute - say HMS Agamemnon when she commissions). This could still have a mixed RAN and with either USN or RN crew (reverse exchanges). Such a boat could enter service later this decade and essentially be used as a training boat to accelerate RAN experience base;
  4. A joint US/UK/AU new design (someone mentioned the "Alliance class" - great name!) as a replacement/supplement for Astutes/Virginias (thus addressing both SSNR and SSN(X) requirements) with the resulting design built and able to be maintained in 3 locations and allowing greater commonality. This perhaps entering service mid 2030s.
 

kaiserd

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The RN doesn’t have a spare Astute to loan and if it did all involved from a UK perspective should be asking (and made to answer) very serious questions of why they had too many Astutes in the first place.

The RN submarine force has its hands full much closer to home and references to allies picking up their slack (French SSNs being asked to effectively take its place and protect the UK nuclear deterrent, in particular this context?) so the UK can loan out massively expensive military equipment that they themselves badly require, doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny or thought.

And frankly, all else considered and being equal, isn’t it far more likely that the Australians themselves would strongly prefer and favour a US Virgina class solution (loan or no loan).
 
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uk 75

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So basically the RN Astute force should devote its efforts to defending the EU from its main natural gas supplier and we should rip up our part of Aukus.
As it happens its not our call. The USN and RAN do work closely together. A loan of a US Virginia would be excellent for both navies.
One snag, its the RN that supplied an Oberon to help out the RAN and Canadians and a Daring destroyer too if I recall right.
Moreover a Royal Navy Astute permanently assigned to the RAN is merely a rebasing since both are Commonwealth navies. A closer bond than with our EU neighbours.
 

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(French SSNs being asked to effectively take its place and protect the UK nuclear deterrent, in particular this context?)

The French SSN fleet is currently starting a delicate transition from 30 years+ Rubis to expensive Barracudas.
It didn't helped (at all) that MN Perle BBQed itself, USS Bonhomme Richard style - except it was a bit luckier and could shamelessly steal one half of its retired siblings to return to service.
 

jeffb

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There are no spare boats to loan. We've heard this from multiple sources repeatedly, we should stop pretending that it's an option.

The US is ramping up, at significant cost, their own production lines to allow construction of three instead of two Virginia class boats a year, all just to meet their own SSN requirements ie they can't make enough boats for their own needs let alone a couple of 'loaners' for the RAN!

The UK is working hard to replace the now old Trafalgar class boats. They have neither the capacity nor the inventory to loan boats to or build boats for Australia.

And Australia doesn't want boats made for it anyway, it wants to make its own boats!

Speculation about a UK naval pivot to the pacific with a single Astute SSN seem fanciful given they don't have enough boats at home to cover their duties there (currently only 3/4 SSNs available out of 6).

The only country that apparently has the technological capability and the capacity to build Australian spec SSKs (or SSNs) at the moment - is France!
 

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The RN doesn’t have a spare Astute to loan and if it did all involved from a UK perspective should be asking (and made to answer) very serious questions of why they had too many Astutes in the first place.

The RN submarine force has its hands full much closer to home and references to allies picking up their slack (French SSNs being asked to effectively take its place and protect the UK nuclear deterrent, in particular this context?) so the UK can loan out massively expensive military equipment that they themselves badly require, doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny or thought.

And frankly, all else considered and being equal, isn’t it far more likely that the Australians themselves would strongly prefer and favour a US Virgina class solution (loan or no loan).
There are lots of ex RN personnel in the RAN now, I have yet to meet a single ex USN member who came over. There are already engineer and seaman branch officers in the RAN who came off Vanguards and Trafalgars, for all I know there may already be ex Astute class submariners in the ADF.

Considering the common backgrounds and experience I would suggest the RAN is either platform agnostic or maybe favoring the British option.
 

uk 75

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I am puzzled by the extreme reaction from some here to my suggestion that an RN Astute would deploy full time to Australia under some arrangement with the RAN.
As I understand it the RN aims to have 7 Astutes in service eventually and has begun developing a successor option.
Allowing for the need to have one vessel assigned to protect the SSBN arrival and departure route and a second to escort a carrier task group there will still be one free for out of NATO area operations.
At some point this will be possible. Assigning a joint RN/RAN crew is well within the experience of both navies.
This of course does not force the RAN to buy an Astute. Other options have been discussed here in detail.
The US offered Skipjacks or their technology to various allies. Was the RAN also interested back in the 60s?
 
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starviking

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I think the UK may yet spring a surprise and offer an Astute from the RN on permanent detachment/transfer to the RAN.
There are more than enough NATO assets to deal with Putin's still moth eaten fleet. A reduction in Astute numbers would be more than offset by the practical and political benefits.
Very unlike. Not enough Astutes to cover all the roles required of them as it is.
If some form of Red Team/Blue Team crewing can be instituted for some of the Astutes, as I believe is being done for the overseas-deployed Rivers, that could provide more patrol time to them. France has double-crews for their SSNs, and achieves impressive deployment times because of it.

Info from H_K in the French Nuclear Submarines thread.
 

Hood

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I wouldn't rule out an Astute lease as impossible but its very unlikely, until at least Agamemnon commissions in 2024 when Triumph retires as the last Trafalgar.
At the moment we have 3 Astute operational, 1 Astute working up, 1 Trafalgar, 1 Trafalgar winding down to decommission in 2022 and 1 Trafalgar gone by the end of this year.
In 2023 we'll have 4 Astute and 1 Trafalgar [this year also marks Astute's halfway through her 25 year service life]
In 2024 we'll have 4 Astute, 1 Astute working up and 1 Trafalgar decommissioning
In 2025 we'll have 5 Astute and 1 Astute working up
In 2026 we'll have 6 Astute and 1 Astute working up (if Agincourt really is completed on schedule) [this year also marks Ambush's halfway through her 25 year service life]

So for the best part of the next 5 years we're down to 5 SSNs with probably at least one or more in refit at any one time plus with training commitments we're probably looking at 3 at sea at any one time.
We are actually at a peak right now, things are going to look less rosy in another 24 months time.

Sure one these could be in the Far East with a joint RN/RAN crew but that leaves 2 for NATO and SSBN screening plus there is no Australian base yet and there doesn't seem to be a plan to park SSNs in Bahrain so that's still a long transit there and back. Even if we could tie up at an Australian dock the logistics chain for parts still has a long trail back to Rosyth/Barrow.

This ain't the 1960s... those Oberons were out east then to train the RAN in ASW techniques (same as the boats sent to Canada). They were not forward deployed strike assets or intended to escort convoys of vital materials around the Chinese bastions via the Coral Sea and the Western Pacific like the RAN SSNs will be.
 

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I am puzzled by the extreme reaction from some here to my suggestion that an RN Astute would deploy full time to Australia under some arrangement with the RAN.
As I understand it the RN aims to have 7 Astutes in service eventually and has begun developing a successor option.
Allowing for the need to have one vessel assigned to protect the SSBN arrival and departure route and a second to escort a carrier task group there will still be one free for out of NATO area operations.
At some point this will be possible. Assigning a joint RN/RAN crew is well within the experience of both navies.
This of course does not force the RAN to buy an Astute. Other options have been discussed here in detail.
The US offered Skipjacks or their technology to various allies. Was the RAN also interested back in the 60s?

Yes, in 1962 - part of a move by the two Deans (Archeson and Rusk "Europeanist" faction) to strangle the nascent Force de Frappe along the British nuclear deterrent, and impose NATO MLF "Polaris on surface ships" instead.
De Gaulle reaction was a resounding NO (how surprising !).
 

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It will take a fair while to train crews in shore bases and universities to be capable of engineering ops in a sub of this type. Meanwhile build up shore facilities for support and crews on rotation in UK/US boats.

Meanwhile, get in at the bottom level on the new boats which would preferably be common to all three services and get an economy of scale.

Save money, train folk and get better boats in time.
 

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It’s very clear from the debate in Australia that this is about RAN buying US designed boats. For example, there are not Brits on the expert advisory committee. There are several Americans. The UK is a bit part player in this. It’s consent is needed under the US/UK Mutual Defence Agreement for the transfer of certain technology that is UK in origin - e.g. some silencing stuff and pump jet propulsor design - and it’s been included for that reason and pretty much that reason alone. The US is by a very big distance Australia’s key defence industrial partner - F-18, F-35, Wedgetail, P-8, Abrams etc. It’s highly unlikely to be any different for these subs - if they ever get built at all.
 

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If we can all get something out of this that works well for everyone, whatever it is, win-win.
 

JG87

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I wouldn't rule out an Astute lease as impossible but its very unlikely, until at least Agamemnon commissions in 2024 when Triumph retires as the last Trafalgar.
At the moment we have 3 Astute operational, 1 Astute working up, 1 Trafalgar, 1 Trafalgar winding down to decommission in 2022 and 1 Trafalgar gone by the end of this year.
In 2023 we'll have 4 Astute and 1 Trafalgar [this year also marks Astute's halfway through her 25 year service life]
In 2024 we'll have 4 Astute, 1 Astute working up and 1 Trafalgar decommissioning
In 2025 we'll have 5 Astute and 1 Astute working up
In 2026 we'll have 6 Astute and 1 Astute working up (if Agincourt really is completed on schedule) [this year also marks Ambush's halfway through her 25 year service life]

So for the best part of the next 5 years we're down to 5 SSNs with probably at least one or more in refit at any one time plus with training commitments we're probably looking at 3 at sea at any one time.
We are actually at a peak right now, things are going to look less rosy in another 24 months time.

Sure one these could be in the Far East with a joint RN/RAN crew but that leaves 2 for NATO and SSBN screening plus there is no Australian base yet and there doesn't seem to be a plan to park SSNs in Bahrain so that's still a long transit there and back. Even if we could tie up at an Australian dock the logistics chain for parts still has a long trail back to Rosyth/Barrow.

This ain't the 1960s... those Oberons were out east then to train the RAN in ASW techniques (same as the boats sent to Canada). They were not forward deployed strike assets or intended to escort convoys of vital materials around the Chinese bastions via the Coral Sea and the Western Pacific like the RAN SSNs will be.
Diego Garcia?
 

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It’s very clear from the debate in Australia that this is about RAN buying US designed boats. For example, there are not Brits on the expert advisory committee. There are several Americans. The UK is a bit part player in this. It’s consent is needed under the US/UK Mutual Defence Agreement for the transfer of certain technology that is UK in origin - e.g. some silencing stuff and pump jet propulsor design - and it’s been included for that reason and pretty much that reason alone. The US is by a very big distance Australia’s key defence industrial partner - F-18, F-35, Wedgetail, P-8, Abrams etc. It’s highly unlikely to be any different for these subs - if they ever get built at all.
Pretty much no one, including myself, though the French would be selected over the Japanese and Germans and we were all proven wrong. Most seemed to think Australia would go for the Gibbs and Cox International Frigate over the F-100 for the DDG program, failing that just buy Burkes, again they were surprised.
 

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It’s very clear from the debate in Australia that this is about RAN buying US designed boats. For example, there are not Brits on the expert advisory committee. There are several Americans. The UK is a bit part player in this. It’s consent is needed under the US/UK Mutual Defence Agreement for the transfer of certain technology that is UK in origin - e.g. some silencing stuff and pump jet propulsor design - and it’s been included for that reason and pretty much that reason alone. The US is by a very big distance Australia’s key defence industrial partner - F-18, F-35, Wedgetail, P-8, Abrams etc. It’s highly unlikely to be any different for these subs - if they ever get built at all.
Pretty much no one, including myself, though the French would be selected over the Japanese and Germans and we were all proven wrong. Most seemed to think Australia would go for the Gibbs and Cox International Frigate over the F-100 for the DDG program, failing that just buy Burkes, again they were surprised.
Yep. Spin the wheel, nobody knows where it'll stop! Everyone's a winner!
 

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