Replacement of Australia's Collins Class Submarines

H_K

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Here’s a rather good read… like a Cluedo board game mystery.

Who killed the Attack-class?​

By Ewen Levick | Melbourne | 10 May 2022
www.australiandefence.com.au/news/who-killed-the-attack-class

In hindsight, two pictures emerge: one of significant American influence in Australia’s defence capability decision-making; and another of an effort from within the Morrison government to undermine its own program.
This goes far beyond submarines. The death of the Attack-class fits a pattern of behaviour (pre-dating the Morrison government) that was also evident in the replacement of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, the MRH 90 Taipans and the Elbit (ELSA) Battle Management System (BMS).

The pattern is simple: generate negative press about a platform, then pin the blame on defence industry for a costly replacement.
On August 27 2021 – around the time VADM Mead was in Washington – Greg Sammut, General Manager Submarines for CASG, sent an email to Moriarty that has since been obtained by the media under FOI. Sammut said: “The schedule forecasts delivery of the first Attack class submarine within the window August 2033 to February 2035 at a confidence level of 80 per cent.

“The updated program cost estimate is $46.4 billion in 2016 constant dollars, which remains within the original acquisition cost estimate of $50 billion in 2016 constant dollars announced at the outset.

“Naval Group work collaboratively with Defence since then to achieve substantial progress, and there are no extreme program strategic risks.”

On 31 August, Moriarty responded: “[This] is a reflection of… the good working relationship that you and your team has established with Naval Group and LMA. I will ensure that the good progress to date is part of the advice we take to Government »
 

Archibald

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However, that same year Naval Group’s chief Herve Guillou said Australia could have a nuclear submarine; one of the reasons the French submarines were chosen was their ability to switch to nuclear propulsion from 2030; and ADM understands the French offered to switch the Attack class to nuclear propulsion and were turned down.
Fuuuuuck !!! (sorry for the swearing). How many times did I suggested that in that thread ? that Attack was an "entry door" toward Barracuda ? And yet the Australians turned down that very option. Frack.

The media began reporting on sensitive details of the Attack class and two key issues began to surface: a purported $40 billion cost blow-out – since revealed to be inaccurate – and whether Naval Group would sign up to 60 per cent Australian Industry Content (AIC) target.

According to sources close to the talks, Morrison refused to meet Pommellet, and Reynolds insisted on a contract change that would oblige Naval Group to meet its offer of a 60 per cent target or face termination for breach. Pommellet, under pressure from negative headlines, agreed to what sources describe as a ‘fair deal’ with Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty – but the damage to Naval Group’s public reputation was already done.

Frack again. I'm not saying naval group or the french governments were innocent lambs - they may have been assholes enough to irritates the Australians and perhaps they deserved the final result.

This point well noted, the above two paragraphs are significant. It is understandable why Australia wanted 60% of the subs to have "local" content. But the way they blackmailed that Pommellet is quite ugly.

And then there is... this.


This goes far beyond submarines. The death of the Attack-class fits a pattern of behaviour (pre-dating the Morrison government) that was also evident in the replacement of the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, the MRH 90 Taipans and the Elbit (ELSA) Battle Management System (BMS).


The pattern is simple: generate negative press about a platform, then pin the blame on defence industry for a costly replacement.


For example, in 2018, editor Nigel Pittaway reported: “Someone in Defence or Government, or both, is actively suppressing any good news stories regarding Tiger.

Ha ! You know we have a proverb in french "qui veut noyer son bon chien, l'accuse d'avoir la rage" - it is a favorite of mine, to my girlfriend delight, because I often applies it to my complicated job career. Whatever.

"Who wants to drown a faithfull dog... pretends it has rabbies".

----

"Honey, I threw the dog into the river. It is dead.

"What ? it was a good dog. What's wrong with you ?

"It had rabbies. It had to be killed.

"How do you knew it had rabbies ? It looked healthy to me."

"Thrust me, it had rabbies, and whatever- even if he hadn't, better not to take any risk. So I killed him preventively."

"Talk about a flawed reasonning..."


“Tiger was singled out in the 2016 Defence White Paper for criticism, the only platform to be treated in this manner, and it was also the subject of an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report in September 2016… that listed no fewer than 76 ‘deficiencies’ which, according to informed sources, were actually capabilities not specified in the original ARH requirements.”

The drip feed of negative stories around Tiger continued, prompting Airbus Australia’s then-CEO Andrew Mathewson to publicly call for an ‘open competition’ to replace the platform amid media reports that Defence was negotiating a sole source foreign military sales acquisition of the Boeing Apache – which is, of course, what ended up happening in early 2021.

In another example, Defence grounded its fleet of MRH 90 Taipan helicopters in July 2021, which prompted media stories quoting anonymous Army aviators alleging the helicopters are “no longer safe to fly” following “potentially catastrophic” maintenance issues. These turned out to involve the Army’s own software (the computerised maintenance system) that was unable to adequately track flight hours logged by components that had swapped between aircraft.

A further investigation by ADM revealed that the components in question were not critical to flight safety and the decision to ground the fleet was made suddenly, even though Army’s ‘faulty’ software had been used for years.

Six months later, Minister Dutton announced the government was negotiating to buy up to 40 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk battlefield mobility helicopters to replace the Taipans.
 
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jeffb

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However, that same year Naval Group’s chief Herve Guillou said Australia could have a nuclear submarine; one of the reasons the French submarines were chosen was their ability to switch to nuclear propulsion from 2030; and ADM understands the French offered to switch the Attack class to nuclear propulsion and were turned down.
Fuuuuuck !!! (sorry for the swearing). How many times did I suggested that in that thread ? that Attack was an "entry door" toward Barracuda ? And yet the Australians turned down that very option. Frack.

The media began reporting on sensitive details of the Attack class and two key issues began to surface: a purported $40 billion cost blow-out – since revealed to be inaccurate – and whether Naval Group would sign up to 60 per cent Australian Industry Content (AIC) target.
According to sources close to the talks, Morrison refused to meet Pommellet, and Reynolds insisted on a contract change that would oblige Naval Group to meet its offer of a 60 per cent target or face termination for breach. Pommellet, under pressure from negative headlines, agreed to what sources describe as a ‘fair deal’ with Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty – but the damage to Naval Group’s public reputation was already done.

Frack again. I'm not saying naval group or the french governments were innocent lambs - they may have been assholes enough to irritates the Australians and perhaps they deserved the final result.

The question is why they rejected the Barracuda option, apparently out of hand. A fair bit is made of the friction between the Australian govt and Naval, but there would have had to have been massive differences to warrant throwing away the work done already (at substantial cost). There was plenty of friction between Kockums and the Australian govt back in the day, they managed to get through that alright.
 

Archibald

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From reading the whole thing it seems to be a case of the USA infiltrating and influencing the Australian MoD against European military gear. Like it or not (I'm french and european, after all) truth is: they certainly suceeded.
- Tiger down, Apache won
- NH90 down, Blackhawk prevails
- Attack / Barracuda screwed, Virginia a winner.

My feelings about it
- Australia quite logically has leant to the American side since the early 1960s (after GB influence on them waned)
- European procurements are thus more exception than the norm
- Not easy to win against Uncle Sam, including in the long term
- Big arm deals between Gvts and contractors are not for angels nor teletubbies
- those things happen: see Tornado ADV vs F-15 vs Mirage 4000, Saudi Arabia circa 1988. We all know the winners and losers of that big game.

Bottom line: I'm not really surprised the US government helps its military aerospace giants winning contracts by using the influence gained over Australia since the 1960s.

France has done the same for Dassault; countless times, to export 2000 combat jets since 1953 and the first Ouragan sales to India and Israel.
 
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dan_inbox

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* suffrage censitaire: tax-based voting system: "one taxpayer - one vote", not "one man - one vote".
For perspective, in some EU countries like France, less than 50% of households are net taxpayers. Yet they vote. And then people wonder why the political class is, erm, as it is...
VAT (TVA in France) fixed that. In essence, every consumer can be legally seen as a Taxpayers past any insignificant purchase.
This generally unpopular tax prevents any legal attempt to corner the poorest among us from fully exercising their citizen rights.
The Value Added Tax argument is completely false, even dishonest, when one purchases goods and pays VAT tax out of welfare funds, instead of decently earned income.

If someone is purchasing anything out of RMI (Revenu Minimum d'Insertion) or RSA (revenu de solidarité active), or Argent-Braguette (Allocations Familiales), s/he is still a net leach on society, and their opinion on how to manage the public budget could have a very relative worth.

Again: Let's get back to Collins-class subs...
 
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Josh_TN

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However, that same year Naval Group’s chief Herve Guillou said Australia could have a nuclear submarine; one of the reasons the French submarines were chosen was their ability to switch to nuclear propulsion from 2030; and ADM understands the French offered to switch the Attack class to nuclear propulsion and were turned down.
Fuuuuuck !!! (sorry for the swearing). How many times did I suggested that in that thread ? that Attack was an "entry door" toward Barracuda ? And yet the Australians turned down that very option. Frack.

The media began reporting on sensitive details of the Attack class and two key issues began to surface: a purported $40 billion cost blow-out – since revealed to be inaccurate – and whether Naval Group would sign up to 60 per cent Australian Industry Content (AIC) target.
According to sources close to the talks, Morrison refused to meet Pommellet, and Reynolds insisted on a contract change that would oblige Naval Group to meet its offer of a 60 per cent target or face termination for breach. Pommellet, under pressure from negative headlines, agreed to what sources describe as a ‘fair deal’ with Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty – but the damage to Naval Group’s public reputation was already done.

Frack again. I'm not saying naval group or the french governments were innocent lambs - they may have been assholes enough to irritates the Australians and perhaps they deserved the final result.

The question is why they rejected the Barracuda option, apparently out of hand. A fair bit is made of the friction between the Australian govt and Naval, but there would have had to have been massive differences to warrant throwing away the work done already (at substantial cost). There was plenty of friction between Kockums and the Australian govt back in the day, they managed to get through that alright.
The French nuke boats use LEU; the US/UK use HEU. It might be that RAN felt refueling a nuke boat was an unworkable solution? Otherwise I would have expected them just ice the Shortfin and go straight to Barracuda for a nuclear capability.
 

Archibald

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However, that same year Naval Group’s chief Herve Guillou said Australia could have a nuclear submarine; one of the reasons the French submarines were chosen was their ability to switch to nuclear propulsion from 2030; and ADM understands the French offered to switch the Attack class to nuclear propulsion and were turned down.
Fuuuuuck !!! (sorry for the swearing). How many times did I suggested that in that thread ? that Attack was an "entry door" toward Barracuda ? And yet the Australians turned down that very option. Frack.

The media began reporting on sensitive details of the Attack class and two key issues began to surface: a purported $40 billion cost blow-out – since revealed to be inaccurate – and whether Naval Group would sign up to 60 per cent Australian Industry Content (AIC) target.
According to sources close to the talks, Morrison refused to meet Pommellet, and Reynolds insisted on a contract change that would oblige Naval Group to meet its offer of a 60 per cent target or face termination for breach. Pommellet, under pressure from negative headlines, agreed to what sources describe as a ‘fair deal’ with Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty – but the damage to Naval Group’s public reputation was already done.

Frack again. I'm not saying naval group or the french governments were innocent lambs - they may have been assholes enough to irritates the Australians and perhaps they deserved the final result.

The question is why they rejected the Barracuda option, apparently out of hand. A fair bit is made of the friction between the Australian govt and Naval, but there would have had to have been massive differences to warrant throwing away the work done already (at substantial cost). There was plenty of friction between Kockums and the Australian govt back in the day, they managed to get through that alright.
The French nuke boats use LEU; the US/UK use HEU. It might be that RAN felt refueling a nuke boat was an unworkable solution? Otherwise I would have expected them just ice the Shortfin and go straight to Barracuda for a nuclear capability.

I vaguely remember this debate (LEU vs HEU) happened before on this thread (and the other one that was locked) - and the jury ended split.

The French have their reasons to go LEU+refueling, the anglo-americans have their own reasons to go HEU+no-refueling.

Can't remember the exact details, TBH. It is indeed possible that the RAAN considered both options - after all they are a blank sheet of paper, relative to nuclear subs. What make more sense to them, I have no clue.

It could be indeed that Attack-Barracuda made sense on paper yet that LEU thing was found to be undesirable, so they went the anglo-american way of doing things.
 

Foo Fighter

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Will the Collins boats be scrapped or do they have useful life still? Considering the work that went into making them as useful as they are they might yet bring some capital back. Possibly.
 

H_K

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I vaguely remember this debate (LEU vs HEU) happened before on this thread (and the other one that was locked) - and the jury ended split.
Can't remember the exact details, TBH.

LEU
Pros: Cheaper, can leverage civilian processing / recycling facilities around the world, no proliferation concerns, easier to extend service life

Cons: Need to refuel every ~10 years (during deep dockings which need to happen anyway, so not that big of a constraint), small design impact (access hatches), requires some shore-based temporary storage facilities, more complex logistics shipping nuclear fuel back & forth to Europe

HEU
Pros: Simpler logistics, no shore based storage facilities needed

Cons: Expensive, design impact (big reactor), service life is fuel-limited/hard to extend, waste is harder to dispose at end-of-life and will require US congressional approval (if US reactor) to store in some desert somewhere, need to respect non-proliferation treaties

… basically there are arguments for both. Eliminating Barracuda because of LEU without deep analysis was a political decision.
 
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Josh_TN

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Retired USN reactors go to Handford and the subs get laid up in Pudget Sound. No deserts involved; presumably dragging the cores to Nevada was cost prohibitive.

 

TomcatViP

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If someone is purchasing anything out of RMI (Revenu Minimum d'Insertion) or RSA (revenu de solidarité active), or Argent-Braguette (Allocations Familiales), s/he is still a net leach on society, and their opinion on how to manage the public budget could have a very relative worth.

Again: Let's get back to Collins-class subs...
I am sorry but "Leach" is an offensive term when it comes to categorize a bunch of ppl, especially with a social category that use to fill the ranks of many armies in the world.
Also, in your country @dan_inbox , families subsidies are very relaxed when it come to household incomes.

Those families are the ones with their kids on the front line. It's not a social phenomena or linked to their incomes (think at the Biden, the McCain, the De Gaulle...). Let's have a little bit of respect.
 
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NeilChapman

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From reading the whole thing it seems to be a case of the USA infiltrating and influencing the Australian MoD against European military gear. Like it or not (I'm french and european, after all) truth is: they certainly suceeded.
- Tiger down, Apache won
- NH90 down, Blackhawk prevails
- Attack / Barracuda screwed, Virginia a winner.

My feelings about it
- Australia quite logically has leant to the American side since the early 1960s (after GB influence on them waned)
- European procurements are thus more exception than the norm
- Not easy to win against Uncle Sam, including in the long term
- Big arm deals between Gvts and contractors are not for angels nor teletubbies
- those things happen: see Tornado ADV vs F-15 vs Mirage 4000, Saudi Arabia circa 1988. We all know the winners and losers of that big game.

Bottom line: I'm not really surprised the US government helps its military aerospace giants winning contracts by using the influence gained over Australia since the 1960s.

France has done the same for Dassault; countless times, to export 2000 combat jets since 1953 and the first Ouragan sales to India and Israel.

Infiltrate? That sounds nefarious.

I think there has been a radical change, a critical coalescing, of belief that we are, once again, in a pre-WW1 period, that another 'great war,as horrendous as that would be, may truly be coming. In Europe, it has already started.

For 75 years, the west has done what it could to encourage all actors to participate in the post WW2 financial benefits and possibilities through liberal governance. Russia was offered the opportunity to participate in the Marshall Plan, they refused. For 75 years they have suffered the consequences. China was added to the WTO, they have used / misused the opportunity with deleterious effect. Russia has shown they are ready to unleash abject brutality to ensure their political objectives. This, their reversal of promises in Hong Kong, actions in the South China Sea, and other behaviors, has brought into stark relief the reality of the CCP's threats against Taiwan at the very least. Since the 90's, few actually believed the rhetoric these countries put forth. Now, the west has been slapped into the reality of their great-grandparents world.

When the Australian's actually have to use this gear does anyone believe the French, Germans, and Italians, will be there, in the field, next to them, with craft of the same type? How about the first 90 days? Or, is it more likely to be the US with deep logistical support and craft of the same type, fighting next to them?

Perhaps these were very pragmatic decisions by the Australian MOD and their US counterparts. If I'm in the leadership of the US military, I want my allies using as much of the same gear as possible. They know that logistics, especially when your supply line is >6000nm, can win or lose a war. They don't care who's supplying it, but they care that it's being supplied.

If you're buying gear to admire, run excercises, and participate in civil support, it doesn't matter what you purchase. If you actually believe war may be thrust upon you, one fields what ones allies are using.

No infiltration, just pragmatic decisions imo.
 

GTX

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Will the Collins boats be scrapped or do they have useful life still? Considering the work that went into making them as useful as they are they might yet bring some capital back. Possibly.
Plenty of life yet:

 

GTX

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From reading the whole thing it seems to be a case of the USA infiltrating and influencing the Australian MoD against European military gear. Like it or not (I'm french and european, after all) truth is: they certainly suceeded.
- Tiger down, Apache won
- NH90 down, Blackhawk prevails
- Attack / Barracuda screwed, Virginia a winner.

Enough conspiracy rubbish. Let's put some context to this:
  • ARH Tiger - in service for ~18yrs to date and likely to be there for a few more years yet. The Airbus offering of ARH Tigre Mk3 was beaten in the Land 4503 competition because Airbus submitted a massively non-compliant bid and amongst other things did not even offer the number of aircraft the ADF asked for.
  • MRH90 - has had a long history of well documented bad reliability and other issues. That said, it has been in service for about 13yrs and will also remain so for a couple more despite Airbus's atrocious level of support; and
  • Attack class - getting a little ahead of yourself in declaring the Virginia class as its replacement aren't you...

- Australia quite logically has leant to the American side since the early 1960s (after GB influence on them waned)
- European procurements are thus more exception than the norm
- Not easy to win against Uncle Sam, including in the long term

And while on the subject of perceived American bias in ADF equipment acquisitions, shall we look a little further afield:
  • KC30 tankers (A330 MRTT development) - 6 in service - why didn't RAAF go for KC46 to stay with USA??
  • PC21 - why didn't RAAF go for T-6 to stay aligned with USA???
  • Boxer CRV - why didn't ARA go with something such as Stryker??
  • Land 400 Ph3 competition - being fought between German KF41 Lynx and Sth Korean AS21 Redback - but where was US offering??
  • Land 8116 - Sth Korean AS-9/10 - what, no US M109??
  • Canberra Class LHDs - Spanish design
  • Hobart Class DDGs - Spanish design
  • ANZAC Class FFGs - German design
  • Arafura class OPVs - German design
  • Hunter Class FFGs - British design
  • Collins Class - Swedish design
I could go on. My point though is that if you are arguing that if there is a conspiracy of the US 'infiltrating' their equipment into ADF service then they are doing a pretty poor job of it. Moreover, the few cases where the US equipment is being acquired it is more often than not partially driven by the abysmal performance of existing European companies.

If anything, I think Australia should consider more US designed equipment such as:

Land 400Ph3 - we should get a bunch of M2 Bradleys to replace M113s rich now and then link in with OMFV program.
AIR 6502 - just hurry up and order Patriot SAMs and throw some THAAD in there as well
Land 8113 - HiMARS please

the key thing here isn't so much the source of the equipment but rather that Australia needs to be able to fully sustain the equipment locally. It also needs to have local sourcing of key elements such as ammunition. Thankfully much is already underway on these points. Much more than many people realise in fact.

 
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Foo Fighter

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Will the Collins boats be scrapped or do they have useful life still? Considering the work that went into making them as useful as they are they might yet bring some capital back. Possibly.
Plenty of life yet:

Sorry, I was meaning when they actually get replaced but, that could be a shed load of years down the line if (As I hope) they are looking at the next gen of boats to keep them relevant for a decent service life.
 

jeffb

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I vaguely remember this debate (LEU vs HEU) happened before on this thread (and the other one that was locked) - and the jury ended split.
Can't remember the exact details, TBH.

LEU
Pros: Cheaper, can leverage civilian processing / recycling facilities around the world, no proliferation concerns, easier to extend service life

Cons: Need to refuel every ~10 years (during deep dockings which need to happen anyway, so not that big of a constraint), small design impact (access hatches), requires some shore-based temporary storage facilities, more complex logistics shipping nuclear fuel back & forth to Europe

HEU
Pros: Simpler logistics, no shore based storage facilities needed

Cons: Expensive, design impact (big reactor), service life is fuel-limited/hard to extend, waste is harder to dispose at end-of-life and will require US congressional approval (if US reactor) to store in some desert somewhere, need to respect non-proliferation treaties

… basically there are arguments for both. Eliminating Barracuda because of LEU without deep analysis was a political decision.

Additionally and more importantly (IMO), Australia already has the technological and engineering capability to mine, process and manufacture fuel elements for LEU submarine reactors. Choosing LEU fuelled reactors would give Australia a sovereign capability, it would make them independent of the whims of the US' or UK's policies regarding what must ultimately be regarded as 'their' reactors, it avoids an expensive and inconvenient schedule of maintenance in US ports and it allows the creation of a military nuclear power industry - in Australia.

Refuelling LEU reactors at a boat's major maintenance events seems a small price to pay.
 
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Archibald

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Hey you paranoids, chill down on the "infiltrating" and remember english is not my native language...

You can't deny Australia is part of the USA close circle of allies in the Pacific and against China, and as such, it is not really surprising they pick (most of the time) US military gear.
 
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Foo Fighter

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I may be out of line but, cracking the hull of a submarine when it does not NEED to be done is an additional risk and perhaps it should not be done? After all, every time you do that you increase the potential for the submarine to have water inside that hull and it is not considered beneficial to the health of the squidy things that, you know, drive the boat.
 

jeffb

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I may be out of line but, cracking the hull of a submarine when it does not NEED to be done is an additional risk and perhaps it should not be done? After all, every time you do that you increase the potential for the submarine to have water inside that hull and it is not considered beneficial to the health of the squidy things that, you know, drive the boat.

The French manage to do it without any trouble and, at the end of the day, it's really just an engineering issue. You could design that hatch to be the strongest part of the boat if needs be.
 

Foo Fighter

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Which benefits come with that? I understand the reduce fuel price but allowing for inflation over those thirty years of service, that will be marginal to non existent anyway. Perhaps I grew up with too many stories of the 'K' class boats where poor tactical thinking led design and build.
 

jeffb

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Which benefits come with that? I understand the reduce fuel price but allowing for inflation over those thirty years of service, that will be marginal to non existent anyway. Perhaps I grew up with too many stories of the 'K' class boats where poor tactical thinking led design and build.

H_K's post and my reply covered it pretty well. On balance, I think there are actually more benefits on the LEU side than the HEU side. As Archibald points out though, the political dimension is the one which will probably affect their decision the most.
 

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The LEU versus HEU non-debate (not here but in the context of the Australian decision) does point to the general lack of real political debate and public engagement by Australian authorities on the detail of what the decision involves and will mean.

Instead (sitting outside Australia and without that much in-depth engagement with Australian media etc.) it appears that everything is currently being low-balled and best-case-scenario-ed. This appears to be a mistake and will likely come back to bite the program in some manner in the future.

This may be a symptom of the greater level of polarisation and siloed information sourcing in much political discourse with emphasis on preaching to the converted/ indoctrinating the base. Australian contributors will have a better idea if the nuclear sub deal is actually now such a article of fate for some Australians with the actual details (best alternative options, costs, required infrastructure etc) increasingly beyond debate for that voting cohort, of if these details (as discussed/ debated here) will get a genuine airing and debate in Australia.
 

GTX

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Australian contributors will have a better idea if the nuclear sub deal is actually now such a article of fate for some Australians with the actual details (best alternative options, costs, required infrastructure etc) increasingly beyond debate for that voting cohort, of if these details (as discussed/ debated here) will get a genuine airing and debate in Australia.
Australia is 1 month into a Federal election (just under 1 week to go as of writing this) and the submarines have not even been a topic for mainstream discussion with both major parties essentially aligned on their acquisition (as has been the case pretty much since the AUKUS announcement). It is essentially a non-issue in Australia.

I would also add that the incumbent party, who signed the AUKUS deal, is also desperate to stay in power though highly likely to lose the election. They have also tried to make this election a Defence focussed (or 'Khaki election') but have not managed to get anywhere with such a tactic. Again emphasising my point that this subject is essentially a non-issue in Australia.
 
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