Replacement of Australia's Collins Class Submarines

Rickshaw

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Folks, talk of Australia getting SSNs is a pointless discussion. You might as well be talking about Australia somehow revitalising the TSR.2 program to replace their Super Hornets as they are both equally likely.
It seems some posters are unable and unwilling to understand the Australian situation.
 

Volkodav

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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 ?
It worked very well until it became a political issue and then a contractual one with the sale of Kockums to HDW. ASC became the submarine design authority, ASC set up a research and development arm, Deep Blue Tech, to design a new generation submarine, Deep blue Tech was staffed with submarine experts recruited from not only the best in Australia but many from overseas, there was an extensive technical alliance with GD EB and the USN as well as DSTO and government commitment to design and build a new generation submarine.

In rapid succession there was a global economic crisis, multiple PMs, a focus on achieving budget surplus for political reasons that pushed out the sub program. The decision was made belatedly to go for an indigenous design as the best option, with an evolved Collins done with Kockums as the fall back but this changed in 2013/14 when the government changed.

The new government supported an agenda developed by the then secretary of defence who was a former head of foreign affairs and trade to kill off submarine design and build capability in Australia in favour of buying submarines directly from Japan to under pin a trade and defence treaty being pursued with Japan. The priority here wasn't Australian defence capability, let alone industrial development, but rather cementing an alliance, they were quite prepared to buy submarines that were inferior to the current Collins class if it got Japan as an ally. Political support came in the plan to develop submarine maintenance in Western Australia and shut down everything in South Australia.

The end result of this was Deep Blue Tech was disbanded and many of its best people moved on, some stayed but moved into sustainment and upgrade related roles on Collins. The Japanese plan failed because of internal politics when South Australian (as well as a number of non-Western Australian) members of government rebelled and fought for local building of the best option after an open competition. Japan lost, France won and we are now back rebuilding a capability that we had as little as eight years ago.

The problem was politics and short sighted bright ideas overriding support for long term plans and decades of investment in capability. It takes very little time and effort to tear down decades worth of effort.
 

Volkodav

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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.
And support them how? It would be more expensive to buy and operate SSNs than the design, build and operate SSGs as planned.
 

Volkodav

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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.
Shipbuilding is very cyclical in Australia. We have a distinctive cultural cringe in that there is an "elite" in Australia who despite all evidence to contrary seem to believe that Australian's cant design and build anything. The want to concentrate on what they understand, primary industry, finance, tourism etc. and have no understanding of science, technology, manufacturing etc. it is beyond their intellect and understanding, but as they believe themselves to be geniuses and the rest of us to be morons, they must be right and we must be wrong.

End result, every time we overcome the naysayers and achieve what they said was impossible, rather than let us build on the investment they scrap the whole lot and declare it was a waste of time and money. When it is proven that they were wrong momentum and critical mass has been lost and we have to start from scratch.

Just imagine if every time Ford introduced a new model all the designers and engineers were sacked, all the people who built the factory were sacked and then when the model was ready to be replaced the factory was bulldozed and the new car was planned to be bought from overseas, before the decision was reversed, a new design team set up and a new factory built. Insane isn't it, well that's how Australian politicians acquired ships and submarines for the Royal Australian Navy..
 

Foo Fighter

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There is just no way for an external purchase to compete on price with a home built and designed product. While the may be some additional cost involved, the money stays in the home market and money is returned to the nations books via employed people paying tax and buying services INSIDE the home nation.

The Ockers are capable of designing and building anything they put their minds to but, just as in the UK, differing political parties interfere with the process. Past time where these projects shouls be protected and maintained during party change. Far too much money has been wasted to ignore THAT need.

The UK might have had CATOBAR carriers but for that. ETC......
 

Archibald

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I would say that keeping a technological edge and industrial base is never easy for any country. Take France aerospace industry
- pioneering and triumphant 1906 1918
- gutted wrecked at rock bottom 1922 - 1952
- a difficult rebuild 1948 1958
- up and downs since then
Same for the rocket or nuclear tech base and industry: future is never 100% assured. Diamant up, Europa down, Ariane 1 - 5 triumphant, Ariane 6... ugh, SpaceX. In France both left and right have long acknowledged the benefits of a large and strong aerospace industry and funded it as needed although money was always in limited supply. There had been ups and downs nonetheless - like Giscard in 1975 willing to cut down large Gaullist projects ; or Jospin Minister Claude Allegre in the late 90's.
 
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GTX

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to under pin a trade and defence treaty being pursued with Japan. The priority here wasn't Australian defence capability, let alone industrial development, but rather cementing an alliance, they were quite prepared to buy submarines that were inferior to the current Collins class if it got Japan as an ally.
Don't be surprised if this isn't the only Defence Acquisition where this comes into play. It isn't always about Defence Alliances as well. More often it is just about Balance of Payments aspects.

That all said, from a Defence Capability perspective, I am more interested in making sure the Sustainment solution is Australian based rather than the Acquisition solution. The Acquisition might give jobs etc for a few years etc (or longer if able to export) but the sustainment is about ensuring the ADF is able to operate/sustain its capabilities for years to come and to be operationally ready to fight if need be.
 

Josh_TN

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I don’t see how Australia could go that route unless it was off the shelf and I don’t think the US has any building capacity to spare with the Columbia program starting up. The only thing that would make sense is an Astute buy, and even that doesn’t seem remotely possible given Australia’s politics. I’ll keep my eye on the story and hope it’s true, but my BS meter is poking a hole in the ceiling.
 

Archibald

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Folks,

By this point the only purchase that make sense is a... Barracuda one, I mean the nuclear one used by France - since the Australians subs were... non-nuclear Barracudas.
 

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H_K

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Perhaps not so surprising if this turns out to be true, given Australia's checkered history of defense acquisition. This sounds like just one more "captain's call" (i.e. political decision), ignoring all the work previously done and choosing to move the goal posts.

This may even be the correct decision, though I'd love some answers to the following questions:

1) Is AUS abandoning its demand to fully own the design and domestic build of the future subs?
2) If yes, what level of ongoing support will be needed from US suppliers? How expensive will this be?
3) If no, are the US companies and US gov. committed to technology transfer?
4) Will this accelerate the delivery timeline for 1st of class? Is there capacity in US yards?
5) Manning... The Virginia SSNs require a much larger crew, beyond the RAN's manpower capacity. How will this be addressed?
6) Nuclear technology: Is the US gov. committed to supplying, supporting, dismantling and storing used nuclear fuel for the next 100+ years? If not, is AUS going to build up a 100% domestic, weapons-grade, nuke supply chain?
7) Is the USN committed to training RAN submarine crews and shore personnel, particularly for the nuke plant?
8) Did AUS ask the French to supply Barracuda SSNs? Would that be a more viable solution?
 
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GTX

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Certainly a surprise. It will be interesting to see the full announcements later today. I suspect though it will initially involve:

  • Agreement to allow US/UK SSNs to be based out of Australia
  • Cooperation on servicing
  • Cooperation on technology sharing - possibly leading to introduction of US/UK nuclear technology into the future submarine class for RAN
  • Personnel exchanges to allow RAN crews to gain experience in SSN ops
The simple acquisition on a SSN, be that short or long term, might take a bit more as there is quite a bit involved. Looking at just some elements:


Submarine Class
Current Collins Class SSK​
Planned Attack Class SSK​
Potential Virginia Class SSN​
Potential Astute Class SSK​
Potential Barracuda class SSN​
Displacement
~3100 tonne​
4500 tonne​
~10,000 tonne​
~7500 tonne​
~5000 tonne​
Complement
58​
60​
135​
98​
60​
No. in Class
6​
12​
6?​
6 - 10?​
10 - 12?​

Note also that France is not mentioned as part of the deal so that may rule out a French boat.

Overall when one adds this to the Sovereign Missile Production activities you can see very much that Australia is preparing itself.
 
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Fluff

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Certainly a surprise. It will be interesting to see the full announcements later today. I suspect though it will initially involve:

  • Agreement to allow US/UK SSNs to be based out of Australia
  • Cooperation on servicing
  • Cooperation on technology sharing - possibly leading to introduction of US/UK nuclear technology into the future submarine class for RAN
  • Personnel exchanges to allow RAN crews to gain experience in SSN ops
The simple acquisition on a SSN, be that short or long term, might take a bit more as there is quite a bit involved. Looking at just some elements:


Submarine Class
Current Collins Class SSK​
Planned Attack Class SSK​
Potential Virginia Class SSN​
Potential Astute Class SSK​
Potential Barracuda class SSN​
Displacement
~3100 tonne​
4500 tonne​
~10,000 tonne​
~7500 tonne​
~5000 tonne​
Complement
58​
60​
135​
98​
60​
No. in Class
6​
12​
6?​
6 - 10?​
10 - 12?​

Note also that France is not mentioned as part of the deal so that may rule out a French boat.

Overall when one adds this to the Sovereign Missile Production activities you can see very much that Australia is preparing itself.
Time will tell, but just from that data, the Astute seems a better fit? Could BAe fit say the first one or two into Barrow?

The Astute's use a RR reactor - is it RR design or is it licensed from USA?
 

Josh_TN

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I don’t see how either the US or UK could supply boats in a timely fashion, how the RAN could man them, or how the domestic (Australian) politics of it could possibly work. Plus the NPT would also get in the way, at least with Virginia.
 

Fluff

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I don’t see how either the US or UK could supply boats in a timely fashion, how the RAN could man them, or how the domestic (Australian) politics of it could possibly work. Plus the NPT would also get in the way, at least with Virginia.
But if the RN was going to base one Astute out of Australia anyway, whats difference to add an A and start with 30% local crew? No trade minister is going to turn down a sale of an astute to one of the few countries remotely possible to sell one to. We just add one on at the end for a replacement.
 

Bhurki

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Ahem.
They are standing squarely on that bridge, now
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.
 

GTX

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The Navy League will be happy:

 

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GTX

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With regards as to the sudden announcement, this piece of news seems to be related:

Interesting comment:

"...A new class of nuclear-powered submarines would give Washington and its allies in the Pacific a powerful new tool to attempt to contain Chinese military expansion, and would follow on the current deployment of a British aircraft carrier to the region, and recent transits by French and German warships to the South China Sea..."
 

GTX

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If this turns out to involve RAN SSNs, I am happy to admit my previous comments not he subject were wrong. That said, I wait to see the specific details and will still state that the political developments and public backlash will potentially be strong.
 

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If this turns out to involve RAN SSNs, I am happy to admit my previous comments not he subject were wrong. That said, I wait to see the specific details and will still state that the political developments and public backlash will potentially be strong.
If by political developments your including china, I'm pretty sure the 3 countries involved have considered this, and indeed its one of their positive points.
 

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5) Manning... The Virginia SSNs require a much larger crew, beyond the RAN's manpower capacity. How will this be addressed?
I suspect the answer is going to be "buy fewer submarines". AIUI one of the reasons for the expansion of the submarine fleet from 6 Collins to 12 Attack was because the long-range CONOPS of the latter required more boats to provide sufficient numbers on station.

Nuclear submarines greatly reduce the problem by being faster in transit and having more endurance in the operational area. It's entirely possible that the Australians could cover with 6 nuclear boats what they needed 12 conventional boats for.

Even if that's not the case you just know that's going to be the party line throughout the whole process.
 

GTX

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If this turns out to involve RAN SSNs, I am happy to admit my previous comments not he subject were wrong. That said, I wait to see the specific details and will still state that the political developments and public backlash will potentially be strong.
If by political developments your including china, I'm pretty sure the 3 countries involved have considered this, and indeed its one of their positive points.
No - domestic politics
 

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Ok, so here we go again... after screwing of the Swedes with the Collins; the French with a non-nuclear Barracuda; now they will try their hands at either British or American nuclear subs.

yeeaaaaah...

What could possibly go wrong ?
Indeed, the official statement is pretty full of fluff… sounds a lot like “let’s try to build a nuclear submarine together”.

We commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. Today, we embark on a trilateral effort of 18 months to seek an optimal pathway to deliver this capability. We will leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries' submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.

The development of Australia's nuclear-powered submarines would be a joint endeavour between the three nations, with a focus on interoperability, commonality, and mutual benefit.
 

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Addition roles for the Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, Lualualei VLF and/or Jim Creek?
 
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Fluff

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I know these aren’t nuclear weapons but it adds a level of deterrence nonetheless. Only independent nuclear arsenals held by Australia, Japan, and SKorea will dissuade Chinese expansionism
It’s a shell game, 4 Australian, 1 U.K., and 2 us, subs, in the SCS area, negates as many CV as China chooses to build. You can’t know if the one you found has nukes or not. It’s a good move.
 

Volkodav

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The most succinct summary I have seen so far:


Sarah Pavillard
Status is reachable

Sarah Pavillard• 1stCEO - ADROITA42m • 42 minutes ago



This is the most important strategic shift for Australia in generations. Key points from today’s announcement:

☢️ Australia will acquire nuclear submarines
☢️nuclear technology transfer to Australia from US and UK
☢️ US remains committed to nuclear weapon non-proliferation - Australia will not be accessing nuclear weapons technology
☢️ subs to be built in Australia

Extraordinary.

So looking at Sarah's take on it we are talking technology transfer from our closest allies and as a minimum local build of the hulls and non propulsion systems. There is the distinct possibility of, at least, the initial reactor sections being fabricated and fitted out overseas then incorporated in the local hulls

Naval Group shot themselves in the foot playing hard ball because they thought there was no other option, well there may have been no other conventional option but two very good nuclear options once the political hurdles were overcome.

My initial concern was we could end up like Canada, a plan for SSNs ends up as a contraction of the conventional force following a change of government, I notice however that the leader of the opposition and a couple of his senior front benchers were invited to the briefing, i.e. the suggestion at least of bipartisan support.

I've said it before, the biggest hurdle for SSNs for the RAN was political will and to be honest I never thought I would see it in my lifetime but often all it takes is a bully behaving badly to change sentiment.

The next big issue, that does seem to have been sorted in recent time, is Australia's propensity to underfund sustainment, causing availability and capability gaps down the road. This cannot be allowed to happen with SSNs.

Another thought. The Astute was designed and build with extensive support from GDEB following the UKs submarine building blackhole. At the same time EB was doing a lot of work with Australia improving the Collins. There are extensive relationships already in place, we know them, they know us, hell I'm just a pleb and have dozens of contacts in UK and US submarine communities. There is a level of mutual respect and ability to work together I have never seen with the French or Spanish, let alone the Japanese companies I have dealt with.

Last thought. The designs are existing and proven, people who designed and built them are already in Australia and have been for years, to be honest, this may prove to be lower risk, despite it greater complexity, due to team work and already having effectively mitigated much of the risk, than continuing trying to work with an arrogant, condescending bully who thought they had Australia over a barrel.
 

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