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Shot across the bows on [Australian] submarine contract

Pioneer

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"Top Defence officials are examining the possibility of replacing the ageing Collins class submarine with an updated version of the original boat and cutting adrift the current contract with the French amid mounting frustration over cost blowouts and missed deadlines."




Wow, this whole submarine project has become a shambles.

Personally, I welcome a revamped Collins Class construction program - but I guess this is why Sweden was originally excluded from the submission program.


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Pioneer
 
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MihoshiK

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And France is trying to push a derivative onto the Netherlands. This is not good news for that program :D
 

Josh_TN

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The French design was always suspect, IMO. Taking a nuke boat that wasn't even in the water yet and converting it to a diesel just sounds like a fundamentally bad idea; it's practically a total redesign of something that didn't exist. The Japanese or German options seemed much more attractive to me.
 

stealthflanker

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To be fair tho... German boat also doesnt exist yet. While Aussies desires something like 4000 Ton class. Only Japanese can probably fit the bill with their existing boat.
 

Josh_TN

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The Germans had a stretched version of their 212 that they were offering that seemed like much less of a...stretch...than converting a nuke boat that never touched the water. At least the 212, 214 actually existed. I'd also point out that the Type 218 was already was launched, and that a lot of Type 216 mods went into it. The Japanese offering I think was easily the closest to what the RAN wanted out of the box, but I think there was a lot of worry that they hadn't ever done major export projects before.
 

H_K

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My read is that the design isn’t the real problem, it’s the cost of building up the industrial base, technology transfers and integrating a US combat system.

You could take any off-the-shelf or new build design, French, German, Japanese or whatever, it wouldn’t matter... as long as the customer wants them built in Australia and with a US combat system then it will be an extremely expensive (and risky) endeavor.

Not to mention any apples to apples comparison to foreign submarine costs is tough because Australia has a much higher cost labor force and no track record of building such complex military equipment.

So any threat to go with another design doesn’t make much sense unless they are willing abandon their core requirements or just do it for political reasons (accepting the fact that any alternative will end up being at least as expensive).
 

Josh_TN

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I haven't checked up on the program recently, but I believe the French nuke boat is itself heavily behind schedule, and that this is contributing to the delays. I feel like the German and Japanese offerings entailed far less risk from a design perspective.
 

H_K

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I believe the French nuke boat is itself heavily behind schedule, and that this is contributing to the delays.

Those problems appear to have been resolved... the first French sub’s sea trials were apparently very successful. It was delivered in November 2020 after ~100 days at sea in a very short time frame (6 months), having already completed weapons firing trials. The 2nd sub is scheduled to start sea trials later this year or early 2022. So the design seems to be maturing nicely now.


Previously there was a 3 year “industrial delay” linked to the nuclear reactor that seemed to catch everyone by surprise because it occurred so late in the build stage, just a few months in fact before the sub was supposed to be launched (!).

The hull sections had already been welded shut at that point, leaving only the final construction stage when the nuclear reactor core was supposed to be dropped in. News reports cited a major problem with the nuclear reactor, without much else in the way of detail... my own hunch tells me that they may have had to throw away the first reactor core and wait for the second reactor core (meant for the second sub) to be ready... hence the 3 year delay.
 
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Hood

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I may be out of date and ignorant of previous discussions, but why didn't France offer the Scorpene?
Is it endurance that is pushing the RAN to seek a large 4,000-ton SSK?
 

Josh_TN

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I may be out of date and ignorant of previous discussions, but why didn't France offer the Scorpene?
Is it endurance that is pushing the RAN to seek a large 4,000-ton SSK?
Scorpene could never have met the RAN requirements. Yes, endurance is one of the biggest differences between their requirements and most over countries, though I suspect integrating an American fire control also presents limitations in terms of space, power, and cooling. The Collins class I think are the longest ranged SSKs in the world; only the JMSDF's boats come close to my knowledge (does the RCN still operate Upholders?). Their patrol requirements take them well out of Australian waters and in order to maintain sufficient time on station, they need a relatively quick transit speed (as well as more fuel). So they have to have a lot more installed power for greater charging capacity during snorts.
 

Archibald

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Pathetic. They wanted a nuclear sub without the nuke, got exactly what they wanted - 4000 tons, ultra-long range, non-nuclear Barracuda.
...
And now they start whinning because" oh, its too expensive. how about an upgraded variant of the submarine we hated so much and wanted to replace ASAP ?"

Well, then... SCREW YOU.

I'm reminded of Lockheed Jack Real reaction to the US Army half-cancellation of the AH-56 dragging for three complete years (1969-72) without being able to define a viable replacement among so many options - only to restart from zero with the YAH-63 vs Apache (facepalm).

"Bah. They behave like kids in a candy shop."
 

H_K

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Australia has no problem spending AU$15 billion on 3 destroyers so it certainly would seem illogical to complain about having to spend the same (on a per unit basis) for each Attack class sub.

The core issue is that people keep trying to compare Australian costs to foreign costs... but Australian defense accounting and cost structures are just too different to make any international cost comparison viable without more detail (which isn’t public).
 

Pioneer

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"Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly increasingly unhappy with the way the Attack class program has been run so far, with “cost blowouts and missed deadlines” leading to apparent tensions between the Australian Department of Defense and the Naval Group, according to the Australian Financial Review."

(Source: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zo...-to-its-costly-new-french-designed-submarines)

I don't know, going by the attached picture, our illustrious leader 'Scotty from Marketing' look mighty bloody happy here...maybe they're contemplating another use for the model...

Speaking to a mate about this whole bloody SEA1000 submarine process, he made an interesting comment I never really thought of before:
'I wounded if they picked the French design because of the growing interest within the LNP and industry about the want to have nuclear attack subs within the ADF ORBAT? After all if the Attack class is a modification of an existing SSN, how difficult would it really be to complete the last six boats back to nuclear powered, if the government/navy deemed it an operational need?'"

Regards
Pioneer
 

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MihoshiK

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Pathetic. They wanted a nuclear sub without the nuke, got exactly what they wanted - 4000 tons, ultra-long range, non-nuclear Barracuda.
...
And now they start whinning because" oh, its too expensive. how about an upgraded variant of the submarine we hated so much and wanted to replace ASAP ?"

Well, then... SCREW YOU.

I'm reminded of Lockheed Jack Real reaction to the US Army half-cancellation of the AH-56 dragging for three complete years (1969-72) without being able to define a viable replacement among so many options - only to restart from zero with the YAH-63 vs Apache (facepalm).

"Bah. They behave like kids in a candy shop."
If my ultra nice foreign partner is still not making deals with local industry, is running behind on the program, and the accounting office just told me that the program is going to be more than fifty percent over budget, I sure as fuck would be looking at alternatives!
 

Archibald

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And if the customer asked for a gold plated submarine only to complain later that it is too expensive, I would told him "you have no idea what you really wanted, in the first place..." even more if he said "I should have upgraded my present subs or bought an upgraded variant"
 

jeffb

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"Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly increasingly unhappy with the way the Attack class program has been run so far, with “cost blowouts and missed deadlines” leading to apparent tensions between the Australian Department of Defense and the Naval Group, according to the Australian Financial Review."

(Source: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zo...-to-its-costly-new-french-designed-submarines)

I don't know, going by the attached picture, our illustrious leader 'Scotty from Marketing' look mighty bloody happy here...maybe they're contemplating another use for the model...

Speaking to a mate about this whole bloody SEA1000 submarine process, he made an interesting comment I never really thought of before:
'I wounded if they picked the French design because of the growing interest within the LNP and industry about the want to have nuclear attack subs within the ADF ORBAT? After all if the Attack class is a modification of an existing SSN, how difficult would it really be to complete the last six boats back to nuclear powered, if the government/navy deemed it an operational need?'"

Regards
Pioneer
ScottyFromMarketing always looks happy when he's announcing something. He always looks sad/mad three years later too when he's explaining to journalists why nothing apart from the announcement has actually happened, so take this announcement with a grain of salt.

That said, I think you're very much on the ball re SSNs being a long term 'would like to have' of the conservative LNP. The French connection ie nuke subs without the nukes, always struck me as a compromise from their real goal which was some sort of lease deal for US (probably new Virginia class) SSNs.

This idea never really had a snowball's chance in hell in the past. Maybe the increased focus of the US on the threat of China and a new president have got their hopes up.
 

stealthflanker

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I haven't checked up on the program recently, but I believe the French nuke boat is itself heavily behind schedule, and that this is contributing to the delays. I feel like the German and Japanese offerings entailed far less risk from a design perspective.

Well they want 4000 Ton class. New boat are needed. Turns out Soryu is like 2900 Ton surfaced weight, with unusually high reserve of buoyancy.

I dont think German offering would be of any less difficult as no German boat are on 4000 ton class either. The largest would be the TR-1700. U-216 would not be any less difficult than the shortfin barracuda. U-218 would basically be an U-214 with U-216 features.

The only thing Aussie can do would be reducing the requirements to something more common.
 

Pioneer

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"The only thing Aussie can do would be reducing the requirements to something more common."
I agree stealthflanker!
I personally question the overly ambitious range requirement asked/demanded by the RAN for a start.

Regards
Pioneer
 

Archibald

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So the RAAN wants nuclear attack submarines ? really ? well, if they are unable to handle the closest thing from it - a non-nuclear, AIP Barracuda - then they are better not even trying to LOAN something akind to a USN nuclear attack submarine...
 

MihoshiK

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And if the customer asked for a gold plated submarine only to complain later that it is too expensive, I would told him "you have no idea what you really wanted, in the first place..." even more if he said "I should have upgraded my present subs or bought an upgraded variant"
Bullshit.

If the client asks for a gold-plated sub, and you don't give him an initial price for a gold-plated sub, then you are at fault for cost overruns, not the client.
 

Archibald

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Bullshit indeed - your answer. Whatif if the customer has blue-sky requirements in the first place - only not to assume them down the road ?

More seriously - both sides probably have their share of responsabilities in that idiocy.
 

Josh_TN

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I haven't checked up on the program recently, but I believe the French nuke boat is itself heavily behind schedule, and that this is contributing to the delays. I feel like the German and Japanese offerings entailed far less risk from a design perspective.

Well they want 4000 Ton class. New boat are needed. Turns out Soryu is like 2900 Ton surfaced weight, with unusually high reserve of buoyancy.

I dont think German offering would be of any less difficult as no German boat are on 4000 ton class either. The largest would be the TR-1700. U-216 would not be any less difficult than the shortfin barracuda. U-218 would basically be an U-214 with U-216 features.

The only thing Aussie can do would be reducing the requirements to something more common.

I feel like stretching the German or Japanese offerings was a lower risk than converting the entire power train of a nuke boat. And the base designs of those two boats was in active service. That said the lack of technology export experience of the Japanese would almost certainly have led to problems, but the Germans would likely have been able to keep the project more on time and budget.
 

Archibald

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I haven't checked up on the program recently, but I believe the French nuke boat is itself heavily behind schedule, and that this is contributing to the delays. I feel like the German and Japanese offerings entailed far less risk from a design perspective.

Well they want 4000 Ton class. New boat are needed. Turns out Soryu is like 2900 Ton surfaced weight, with unusually high reserve of buoyancy.

I dont think German offering would be of any less difficult as no German boat are on 4000 ton class either. The largest would be the TR-1700. U-216 would not be any less difficult than the shortfin barracuda. U-218 would basically be an U-214 with U-216 features.

The only thing Aussie can do would be reducing the requirements to something more common.

We probably have a winner here...
 

H_K

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I feel like stretching the German or Japanese offerings was a lower risk than converting the entire power train of a nuke boat. And the base designs of those two boats was in active service. That said the lack of technology export experience of the Japanese would almost certainly have led to problems, but the Germans would likely have been able to keep the project more on time and budget.

Again there is no evidence that the problems are with the Barracuda design itself (which has been very successful in sea trials so far) or with changing the power train from nuke to conventional (about which a lot of uninformed gush has been written). All the noise is around work share, slow technology transfer, cultural issues, delays in contracting etc.

The idea that the Germans or Japanese are somehow magically better at these complex projects and would play nicer with the Australians than the « unreliable » French seems like a quasi-racial stereotype... which IMHO says more about the decades of French bashing in Australia (due to the nuclear testing issue) and the world’s obsession with Japanese and German « superior engineering » (due mostly to a handful of highly successful car companies) than it does about their respective performance in defense and especially sub exports.
 

MihoshiK

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Bullshit indeed - your answer. Whatif if the customer has blue-sky requirements in the first place - only not to assume them down the road ?

More seriously - both sides probably have their share of responsabilities in that idiocy.
What-If?

Do you actually have any reason to claim the Aussies have suddenly changed their requirement for the boats, or are you just "being hypothetical"?
 

Archibald

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Bullshit indeed - your answer. Whatif if the customer has blue-sky requirements in the first place - only not to assume them down the road ?

More seriously - both sides probably have their share of responsabilities in that idiocy.
What-If?

Do you actually have any reason to claim the Aussies have suddenly changed their requirement for the boats, or are you just "being hypothetical"?

Do you have any reason for being so obtuse ? and inventing things ?
 

Archibald

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I feel like stretching the German or Japanese offerings was a lower risk than converting the entire power train of a nuke boat. And the base designs of those two boats was in active service. That said the lack of technology export experience of the Japanese would almost certainly have led to problems, but the Germans would likely have been able to keep the project more on time and budget.

Again there is no evidence that the problems are with the Barracuda design itself (which has been very successful in sea trials so far) or with changing the power train from nuke to conventional (about which a lot of uninformed gush has been written). All the noise is around work share, slow technology transfer, cultural issues, delays in contracting etc.

The idea that the Germans or Japanese are somehow magically better at these complex projects and would play nicer with the Australians than the « unreliable » French seems like a quasi-racial stereotype... which IMHO says more about the decades of French bashing in Australia (due to the nuclear testing issue) and the world’s obsession with Japanese and German « superior engineering » (due mostly to a handful of highly successful car companies) than it does about their respective performance in defense and especially sub exports.

Bingo. You hit the nail, straight on the head ! I have the exact same (bad) feelings.
 
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Josh_TN

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I feel like stretching the German or Japanese offerings was a lower risk than converting the entire power train of a nuke boat. And the base designs of those two boats was in active service. That said the lack of technology export experience of the Japanese would almost certainly have led to problems, but the Germans would likely have been able to keep the project more on time and budget.

Again there is no evidence that the problems are with the Barracuda design itself (which has been very successful in sea trials so far) or with changing the power train from nuke to conventional (about which a lot of uninformed gush has been written). All the noise is around work share, slow technology transfer, cultural issues, delays in contracting etc.

The idea that the Germans or Japanese are somehow magically better at these complex projects and would play nicer with the Australians than the « unreliable » French seems like a quasi-racial stereotype... which IMHO says more about the decades of French bashing in Australia (due to the nuclear testing issue) and the world’s obsession with Japanese and German « superior engineering » (due mostly to a handful of highly successful car companies) than it does about their respective performance in defense and especially sub exports.

So the delays in the French program had no impact on the RAN project? Is that your point?
 

H_K

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So the delays in the French program had no impact on the RAN project?

Correct. The ANAO’s audit report from Jan 2020 goes into extensive detail as to what drove the 9 to 15 month program delay and at no point does it mention any connection to Suffren’s build delays (which makes sense since those were related to the nuclear reactor and shouldn’t matter to Australia).

The ANAO report called out 2 reasons for delays:

1) A 12 month delay in the start of contractual negotiations for the « Strategic Partnering Agreement » (this being a prerequisite for starting preliminary design), mainly due to program complexity and disagreements over risk clauses, intellectual property etc

2) And a concurrent 9-month delay in completing the initial conceptual and feasibility studies (which appears to have been due to different interpretations of what the required design maturity should be at that early phase). This conceptual/feasibility phase was eventually completed with an overage of only AU$60 million, within the program contingencies. Preliminary systems design review was also later delayed by FIVE (!) weeks. Oh my what a disaster!

The latest news is that the Systems Functional Design Review is happening on schedule this month (Jan 2021), which is good news. I’m sure there have been some delays in other parts of the program (COVID can’t have helped) but beyond these media hatchet jobs and rumors from some rather interested parties (Submarines for Australia...) nothing official has filtered out.

Finally, keep in mind that the Attack class is still in preliminary design, detailed design hasn’t even started yet, and construction isn’t scheduled to start until 2023, so there is still plenty of time to incorporate any lessons learned from the Suffren (already commissioned) and even from the second sub in the class which will have completed trials by then.
 
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MihoshiK

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Bullshit indeed - your answer. Whatif if the customer has blue-sky requirements in the first place - only not to assume them down the road ?

More seriously - both sides probably have their share of responsabilities in that idiocy.
What-If?

Do you actually have any reason to claim the Aussies have suddenly changed their requirement for the boats, or are you just "being hypothetical"?

Do you have any reason for being so obtuse ? and inventing things ?
My point is that the aussies laid out their requirements for the boats, and a price was given for that by the French. If the initial quote was unrealistic, then that is not the fault of the Australians, but of the French. The French are experienced enough to give a realistic quote for things like this... Unless they grossly underestimated how much trouble it would be to convert a nuke sub to conventional.

Your point seems to be "The Australians asked for a lot, why are they whining that it costs more than the seller said it would?"
 

H_K

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@MihoshiK The only costs that have been negotiated so far are for the design and combat systems integration contracts. The production cost has yet to be determined or even negotiated, so by definition it’s impossible for the government to have determined if there will be a cost blowout.

The numbers that are being thrown around by the press are the government’s budget for the program, including contingencies... if people are having sticker shock then it’s probably because the government was insufficiently transparent at the beginning and has done a poor job of explaining what’s driving the cost estimates.
 

TomcatViP

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That's a strange argument to say the least.
If there is some debate around the overall cost projection, it's around a refined estimate per essence.
Any customer would debate what they see as an over-inflated bill, wherever they are.
There is dozen if not hundreds of Defense project cancelled each year around the world for such disagreements. The French touch, if there is any, well past the age of communes quality standards among industries, is not another world.
Cost matters. And this is not a sterile debate where one side only get all wrongs.

Consider also that the fear of a pandemic recession exacerbates competitions among the industry. Being dogmatic would be the worst position to stand today.

Also, somewhat related (in German but use Ggl translate) :
 
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H_K

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If there is some debate around the overall cost, it's around a refined estimate per essence.
Any customer would debate what they see as an over-inflated bill, wherever they are.

Yes I agree. It’s no more than an estimate though at this point.

The customer has just sat down at the brasserie, having paid only the bar bill so far for his drinks. He’s seen the menu and has a rough idea of the restaurant’s prices. The French waiter Michel is a little arrogant and smells of garlic, but ultimately the customer knows that he’s the one picking the dishes and that he’s going to be getting the big Australian lobster at « market prices » which are set not by the waiter but by the customer’s own countrymen, with those pesky Australian fishermen being rather rare and nicely paid. As it turns out, the landlord is Australian too, one of the customer’s buddies in fact, and he charges a mean price for the rent...

So sure the customer is keeping a close eye on the waiter to make sure he doesn’t pad the bill a little and charge for a few incidentals, but ultimately he knows that his choices are what’s driving the bill.

Perhaps he’d rather be at the Omakase place next door with the polite sushi chef or the fancy Swedish restaurant across the street with the leggy blonde waitresses, but the fish would still be from Australia and his buddy would still be collecting rent so he might not be saving much... and damn it he wants the lobster!
 
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H_K

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This is the rebuttal from Naval Group via the French trade press.
 
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Archibald

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All hail the "ignore" function of this forum !
H_K is doing a fine and honest job in this thread.
 
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