Replacement of Australia's Collins Class Submarines

H_K

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 21, 2010
Messages
224
Reaction score
439
It definitely isn't politically or economically feasible for Australia to start a nuclear industry now, especially for the small fleet it would ever own
Yes politically unlikely.

However, the idea isn’t (necessarily) to start a full blown nuclear industry. It would be sufficient to be able to operate nuclear subs with extensive external assistance (including building the reactors, enriching and disposing the fuel elsewhere). That should be an order of magnitude easier.

The sub fleet to be supported would be larger than many nuke sub operators (UK, France, Brazil, India) so there might be enough scale to make it economically feasible.

Again, not saying it’s easy. Just the current path doesn’t strike me as being particularly easy (or cheap) either.
 

Pioneer

Seek out and close with the enemy
Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2006
Messages
2,039
Reaction score
531
skimming through this thread, it seems that theres no submarine options that could satisfy the RAN needs
What the RAN really wants is a nuke boat. But for political reasons, they can't get one or even come out and say it.
In all due respect Josh_TN the Australian government and RAN can't organise, let alone responsibly run a conventional submarine program, let alone be sincerely trusted to run and maintain nuke boats, to say nothing of the radioactive byproduct/waste of those boats!!

Regards
Pioneer
 
Last edited:

jeffb

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Oct 7, 2012
Messages
231
Reaction score
176
The forum alert system has gone bonkers. It keeps telling me people are quoting my posts (@jeffb and @Volkodav). Must be an effect of bashing those poor Collins.
Ah no, that was me. I created a reply to Volkodav that included a quote from you. I tried to remove that quote and obviously failed. Is there a way to see the full comment with all the tags? If so I'll go back and fix it.


Edit: Never mind, think I fixed it. Sorry about that.

Not a big issue, really. It amused me, when software goes crazy like this. Sometimes software is just plain stupid.

There is no stupid software, only stupid programmers. :)
*cough* ...and users *cough*
Touche!
Not having a go at you Josh, just referring to my own clumsy editing efforts. :)
 

Rickshaw

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
2,081
Reaction score
182
Nuke boats are not something that you can just buy off the shelf. They have massive infrastructure costs and no one, apart from the Russians appears willing to sell them at the moment. I don't think many RAN submariners would be happy manning a Russian boat. The infrastructure costs are such that you need to train and maintain the training of nuclear physicists, engineers and technicians to run the reactors. You need to be able to maintain the reactors. You need to be able to service them. Apart from mining Uranium, Australia has two reactors at Lucas Heights for medical research. We have no power reactors. We have no enriching facilities for fuel rods. So, in order for the RAN to purchase a nuclear boat you first need the OK of the builders of said boat. You then need a nuclear industry to train the physicists, engineers and technicians. You need ship builders who are sufficient trained to maintain the boats. Bit of a hard sell in the Australian political atmosphere. People outside of Australian society simply do not understand the level of anti-nuclear feeling here. When the Ranger Uranium mine started sending U-235 overseas for enrichment there were massive protests.

Australia missed the boat (pun intended) on nuclear matters because of Government idiocy. We were an early miner at Rum Jungle of Uranium. We had a small enriching industry at Port Pirie (we still have the tailing ponds). We built the Snow Mountains power scheme to power larger enrichment plants and we built the Australian National University to train physicists. We were going to build reactors at Jervis Bay. All because the British promised us nuclear secrets in exchange for the use of Australia as a nuclear test site. However, the Americans who had frozen the British out decided to bring them back into the tent after they had exploded their first bomb at the Monte Bello Islands of the NW of Australia. So the Australians were left out in the cold and never gained access to those all important secrets on how to build a bomb. We last looked at bombs in the late 1960s when the then PM, John Gorton entertained the idea. His successor, Billy McMahon kyboshed the idea as too expensive and so the whole thing fell through. We decided to back the NPT Regime.

To put it simply - there will never be a Nuke boat operated by the RAN. It is too hard a bridge to cross.
 

Grey Havoc

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2009
Messages
15,937
Reaction score
5,502
I don't drink unfortunately, though some of my relatives might like it. I'll ponder further on the matter. As I understand it, the bet would be about the current Prime Minister?
 

Rickshaw

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
2,081
Reaction score
182
I don't drink unfortunately, though some of my relatives might like it. I'll ponder further on the matter. As I understand it, the bet would be about the current Prime Minister?
The one serving today. Scott Morrison. Known as ScoMo. Think about it. Carefully.
 

Josh_TN

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Sep 4, 2019
Messages
955
Reaction score
589
I'd take that bet for any PM. There is no political will to adopt nuclear power in Oz at the general public level, the cost associated would make the current program look cheap, the NPT would get in the way (though perhaps the French design could bypass that), and there are only three possible vendors who all have their plates full filling their own country's needs. Trying to by a half dozen-ish nuke boats from one single producer would be beyond difficult for everyone involved.
 

Foo Fighter

I came, I saw, I drank some tea (and had a bun).
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Messages
2,137
Reaction score
1,037
I believe it would be cost ineffective for the Ockers to buy/build nuclear subs. The cheapest option would be to acquire boats from the PRC or the USA and get maintenance in the deal. The political ramifications of which would probably end credibility for the party that concluded that deal.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
6,042
Reaction score
4,427

zen

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,456
Reaction score
1,169
America might have spare capacity within it's current arrangements.

France I'll leave to more knowledgeable on French matters. But it looks like their SSBN effort is about to move forward. Probably a bit late now to go French SSN.

UK has a problem in the timing, a decade ago it would have been relatively easy to increase rate of production, 20 year ago would be a perfect moment to jump onboard the Astute program. But now the shift to SSBN interferes with that.

Even if we spool back far enough to look at alternatives, the Swedes, Italians and today the Japanese all have such different requirements.

Weirdly Argentina and Brazil....but again requirements.

In fact who would be a theoretical partner?
New Zealand....something about the temperature of the next world there ;)
But if there was a massive cultural shift it might.
Not much hope of matching requirements with Taiwan or South Korea.
Canada? Under the right circumstances might have.

South Africa? That ship has sailed and it's deep into AH.
India....probably too many cultural issues.
 

Bhurki

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
241
Reaction score
224
To put it simply - there will never be a Nuke boat operated by the RAN. It is too hard a bridge to cross.
How about Aus directly buying 6-8 virginia class off the US production line with the maintenance, overhaul and upgrades completely taken care of by the US.
Think of it like a forward based submarine squadron of the US Navy.
Aus gets the extra capabilities at the cost of letting go the economic boost to domestic industry.

It would also help in increasing the co ordination when a fight eventually precipitates in the pacific, since Aus would certainly not get into the conflict with the immediate backing or support of the US.

Hell, some people from The Defense were also advising to buy Raiders to fulfill the role previously conducted by the F-111. So yeah, why not.
 
Last edited:

jeffb

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Oct 7, 2012
Messages
231
Reaction score
176
To put it simply - there will never be a Nuke boat operated by the RAN. It is too hard a bridge to cross.
How about Aus directly buying 6-8 virginia class off the US production line with the maintenance, overhaul and upgrades completely taken care of by the US.
Think of it like a forward based submarine squadron of the US Navy.
Aus gets the extra capabilities at the cost of letting go the economic boost to domestic industry.

It would also help in increasing the co ordination when a fight eventually precipitates in the pacific, since Aus would certainly not get into the conflict with the immediate backing or support of the US.

Hell, some people from The Defense were also advising to buy Raiders to fulfill the role previously conducted by the F-111. So yeah, why not.

This is an idea that still gets floated fairly regularly, Australia purchasing 4-8 Virginia class boats with the understanding that any maintenance relating to the reactors would be handled at US facilities.

At the current price of $2.8B a copy they would be significantly cheaper than the proposed French Attack class design, could probably be delivered sooner, would come with the US combat system already installed (avoiding that messy and expensive integration issue), and would actually help the US reduce (by a small amount anyway) the cost to the US of building their own fleet of boats.

It's part of the proposal that the personnel exchange program with the US Navy could be extended to cover the 'loan' of nuclear engineers to the RAN while the training of a RAN nuclear engineering capability took place in the US. The Virginia class' SG9 reactors are designed to run for 33 years without refueling. That's a large chunk of the operating life of the boats and a significant reduction in expensive nuclear systems maintenance and time in US dry docks.

The US reaction to date to this proposal, the purchase of Virginia class boats is, to use the Australian idiom, Yeah...nah.

The US isn't interested, and of course the rabidly anti-nuclear Australian public wouldn't have a bar of it either, so it ain't gonna happen.

It is nice to dream though.

Edit: Price is now apparently $3.4B per copy.
 
Last edited:

Rickshaw

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
2,081
Reaction score
182
To put it simply - there will never be a Nuke boat operated by the RAN. It is too hard a bridge to cross.
How about Aus directly buying 6-8 virginia class off the US production line with the maintenance, overhaul and upgrades completely taken care of by the US.
Think of it like a forward based submarine squadron of the US Navy.
Aus gets the extra capabilities at the cost of letting go the economic boost to domestic industry.

It would also help in increasing the co ordination when a fight eventually precipitates in the pacific, since Aus would certainly not get into the conflict with the immediate backing or support of the US.

Hell, some people from The Defense were also advising to buy Raiders to fulfill the role previously conducted by the F-111. So yeah, why not.
That would be, in the words of Sir Humphrey, "an audacious decision" on the part of the US Government. If you were familiar with "Yes, Minister" or "Yes, Prime Minister" you'd know that would be kiss of death to such a decision. It hasn't happened and it will never happen. The US Navy jealously guards it's superiority (supposedly) over all others...
 

kaiserd

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
1,131
Reaction score
509
So the US don’t want to (and almost certainly would never) provide them (i.e. there is NO proposal to provide them or any prospect of such a proposal), Australia (beyond a few people on internet chat rooms) doesn’t even want them (for the various technical, economic and political reasons referenced by other contributors above) with little to no prospect of that changing.
Yet this is discussed like it’s a viable possible option. When it’s clearly not. At all.
Right?
 

Rickshaw

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
2,081
Reaction score
182
So the US don’t want to (and almost certainly would never) provide them (i.e. there is NO proposal to provide them or any prospect of such a proposal), Australia (beyond a few people on internet chat rooms) doesn’t even want them (for the various technical, economic and political reasons referenced by other contributors above) with little to no prospect of that changing.
Yet this is discussed like it’s a viable possible option. When it’s clearly not. At all.
Right?
Right. For all the reasons given.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
6,042
Reaction score
4,427
I say it before and I say it again: if nuclear is not possible, somewhat ironically the French offer - a NON-nuclear Barracuda - remains the closest thing from a SSN the RAAN can dream about.
Unless of course the British proposes a non-nuclear Astute, or the US a non-nuclear Virginia.
It is all too representative of the RAAN present conundrum that this thread is now going in circles, unfortunately (this is not an attack against anybody: I, too, go into circle and repeat myself).
 

Bhurki

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
241
Reaction score
224
The US reaction to date to this proposal, the purchase of Virginia class boats is, to use the Australian idiom, Yeah...nah.
What is the reasoning behind the "Yeah...nah"?

As far as co-operation in defense matters goes, Aus and US are fairly integrated, from being partners in the Five Eyes to basing US submarine/satellite comms in Aus and Pine Gap etc.

Yet this is discussed like it’s a viable possible option. When it’s clearly not. At all.
Viable or not, its quite logical.

At a time when both Aus and US are feeling the need to have a more pro-active approach to deter China, what would stop the US from actually having a friendly country pay for the subs and their maintenance and Aus having much better equipment for the same cost? (Apart from the anti nuclear sentiment in Aus)
 

jeffb

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Oct 7, 2012
Messages
231
Reaction score
176
So the US don’t want to (and almost certainly would never) provide them (i.e. there is NO proposal to provide them or any prospect of such a proposal), Australia (beyond a few people on internet chat rooms) doesn’t even want them (for the various technical, economic and political reasons referenced by other contributors above) with little to no prospect of that changing.
Yet this is discussed like it’s a viable possible option. When it’s clearly not. At all.
Right?

It has been mooted, in various quarters, as a solution to Australia's desire for subs with SSN capabilities despite having no nuclear technology base.

"Joint crew solutions find precedents among Commonwealth members and certainly Canberra and Washington share a plethora of combined defense working arrangements, from R&D to procurement activity to personnel exchanges. USPACOM is a warfighting command in the Pacific Theater and the Deputy J5 is an Australian flag officer. The Boat Rider Program allows personnel from both countries to participate in a wide variety of maritime security operations. Close allies, a way can be found to make this work."


 

Rickshaw

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
2,081
Reaction score
182
It is mooted by fools who do not know the realities of nuclear politics. The US has never leased a nuke boat to anyone and is unlikely, highly unlikely, to do so. QED.
 

jeffb

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Oct 7, 2012
Messages
231
Reaction score
176
It is mooted by fools who do not know the realities of nuclear politics. The US has never leased a nuke boat to anyone and is unlikely, highly unlikely, to do so. QED.

Well it's not QED ("quod erat demonstrandum"), literally meaning "what was to be shown", because you haven't shown anything.

But yes, as I said above, the US certainly isn't interested in doing it at the moment.
 

Foo Fighter

I came, I saw, I drank some tea (and had a bun).
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Messages
2,137
Reaction score
1,037
There's no way Australia is going to buy military equipment off its most likely adversary. That would be akin to Ukraine buying ships off the Russians.
Precisely.
 

GTX

All hail the God of Frustration!!!
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2006
Messages
3,250
Reaction score
1,059
Website
beyondthesprues.com
Talk of leasing US SSNs or purchasing but relying on the US for maintenance/support goes against two of the Australian Government's Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICPs):
  • Collins Class submarine maintenance and technology upgrade - our submarine capability is integral to our conception of national sovereignty, supporting deterrence, freedom of action and surprise. Australian industry must have an ability to enhance, sustain, repair, operate and upgrade our submarine capability with particular importance being placed on the sonar sub-system, tactical and weapons control system, signature management and endurance. Endurance includes batteries for energy storage and propulsion systems.
  • Continuous shipbuilding program (including rolling submarine acquisition) - Australian industry must have the technical, managerial, heavy engineering and advanced manufacturing capabilities required to build an innovative, cost-competitive, sustainable and continuous program that delivers Australia’s future submarines, major surface combatants and minor war vessels. Australian industry will need to be integrated into global supply chains, have modern, productive and secure shipyards, and employ a highly skilled workforce both for shipbuilding and sustainment. Establishing 21st century shipyards for design, construction and optimal production efficiency of our future submarines, frigates and minor war vessels is critical to achieve the capability, reform and efficiency dividends required, as is having a workforce in place with the right skills when needed.
 

jeffb

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Oct 7, 2012
Messages
231
Reaction score
176
Talk of leasing US SSNs or purchasing but relying on the US for maintenance/support goes against two of the Australian Government's Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICPs)

Which they've pretty much abandoned anyway by going to the Attack class aquisition. Those priorities, if properly financed and adhered to, would already have seen a line of evolved Collins class boats rolling out of sheds and into the water.

Like I said, the Virginia leasing/purchasing idea comes up every few years. Usually after reports of the cost of buying/building the new Attack class appear in the news.
 

Volkodav

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
382
Reaction score
409
I don't drink unfortunately, though some of my relatives might like it. I'll ponder further on the matter. As I understand it, the bet would be about the current Prime Minister?
The one serving today. Scott Morrison. Known as ScoMo. Think about it. Carefully.

He reminds me of this memorable Simpsons episode...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgfKeD2kvgI
That's probably closer to our new (also former thanks to having to step down over sexual harassment accusations and knocking up a much younger female staffer, leaving his wife and children for her) deputy PM, except he looks more like a characterture than the cartoon does. Our actual PM likes to portray the daggy dad persona and is a former marketing manager and evangelical happy clapper, rather than the type who skinny dips in a dam.

Nuclear is out but if they could find a way for subs to run on coal they would be all for it.
 

Volkodav

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
382
Reaction score
409
Talk of leasing US SSNs or purchasing but relying on the US for maintenance/support goes against two of the Australian Government's Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICPs)

Which they've pretty much abandoned anyway by going to the Attack class aquisition. Those priorities, if properly financed and adhered to, would already have seen a line of evolved Collins class boats rolling out of sheds and into the water.

Like I said, the Virginia leasing/purchasing idea comes up every few years. Usually after reports of the cost of buying/building the new Attack class appear in the news.
No the Attack class programs and its issues relate directly to the governments pursuit of developing sovereign industrial capability. Naval group would like nothing more than the Australian government stepping back and saying "design and build x number of submarines for us" rather than forcing them to involve us in the design and supply chain. The greater pain and frustration up front will allow us to devest of French influence in the future.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
6,042
Reaction score
4,427
The greater pain and frustration up front will allow us to devest of French influence in the future.

They already tried that approach through the Collins 25 years ago - except with the Swedes in place of the French. Did not worked too well... who's next ?
 

DWG

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Feb 11, 2007
Messages
1,181
Reaction score
1,183
The US reaction to date to this proposal, the purchase of Virginia class boats is, to use the Australian idiom, Yeah...nah.
What is the reasoning behind the "Yeah...nah"?

As far as co-operation in defense matters goes, Aus and US are fairly integrated, from being partners in the Five Eyes to basing US submarine/satellite comms in Aus and Pine Gap etc.

Precedent from historical US reactions to Canada proposing to acquire SSNs during the Cold War is that "Yeah... nah" is probably unreasonably positive. Okay Australia wouldn't be operating them in the US backyard, but I don't think it makes that much difference.
 

H_K

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 21, 2010
Messages
224
Reaction score
439
Much easier to just buy the Barracuda SSN design off the shelf.

Build hull #1 in France and increase Australian content progressively in hulls 2 and 3. By hull 4 the whole sub could be Australian built, except for the reactor module which would still be supplied/assembled in France then shipped to Oz by heavy lift ship, ready for use. Let the French handle the nuclear fuel processing and waste disposal.
 

Archibald

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
6,042
Reaction score
4,427
TBH, no idea whatsoever if my government would agree on such scheme. In passing, could Australia ever be interested in an EPR ? it could help (or not).
 

jeffb

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Oct 7, 2012
Messages
231
Reaction score
176
Talk of leasing US SSNs or purchasing but relying on the US for maintenance/support goes against two of the Australian Government's Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICPs)

Which they've pretty much abandoned anyway by going to the Attack class aquisition. Those priorities, if properly financed and adhered to, would already have seen a line of evolved Collins class boats rolling out of sheds and into the water.

Like I said, the Virginia leasing/purchasing idea comes up every few years. Usually after reports of the cost of buying/building the new Attack class appear in the news.
No the Attack class programs and its issues relate directly to the governments pursuit of developing sovereign industrial capability. Naval group would like nothing more than the Australian government stepping back and saying "design and build x number of submarines for us" rather than forcing them to involve us in the design and supply chain. The greater pain and frustration up front will allow us to devest of French influence in the future. given their track record, they're just as likely to step away from the commitment

I agree, that's my fear as well, that we'll be right back here in 25 years.
 

Foo Fighter

I came, I saw, I drank some tea (and had a bun).
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Messages
2,137
Reaction score
1,037
More like 5 to 10 years after Collins class life extensions.
 

Moose

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2010
Messages
1,479
Reaction score
526
The US reaction to date to this proposal, the purchase of Virginia class boats is, to use the Australian idiom, Yeah...nah.
What is the reasoning behind the "Yeah...nah"?

As far as co-operation in defense matters goes, Aus and US are fairly integrated, from being partners in the Five Eyes to basing US submarine/satellite comms in Aus and Pine Gap etc.

Precedent from historical US reactions to Canada proposing to acquire SSNs during the Cold War is that "Yeah... nah" is probably unreasonably positive. Okay Australia wouldn't be operating them in the US backyard, but I don't think it makes that much difference.
Quite a bit has changed since then, there would be obstacles to overcome on both sides of any such negotiation but I wouldn't expect the US Congress to dismiss it out of hand.
 

Bhurki

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
241
Reaction score
224
Quite a bit has changed since then, there would be obstacles to overcome on both sides of any such negotiation but I wouldn't expect the US Congress to dismiss it out of hand.
Especially in the coming decade, when the SCS may provide more than enough points of friction to light a flame.

I totally understand the reservations the US may have in sharing its defense tech, and that of Canberra to use nuclear propulsion not developed and supported by its domestic industry, but there certainly might be a tipping point in terms of external pressure that makes both of these limitations to acquire a common sub platform null and void in effect, since the repercussions of not having enough deterrence in South East Asia might affect both Canberra and Washington far more than letting go off the current reservations.
 
Last edited:

Similar threads

Top