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Navy Forum Israeli Navy discussion, submarines, frigates and Israeli naval forces + Navy's from other nations.

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  #1  
Old 05-07-2014, 11:27 AM
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Knaur Knaur is offline
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Default Australia’s Submarine Dilemma: Homegrown Or Not? – Analysis

http://www.eurasiareview.com/0605201...rown-analysis/
Quote:
The debate over Australia’s future submarine fleet is hotting up. Canberra is making decisions about a new fleet which will have a major impact on Australia’s defence capabilities into the middle of this century.

By David Brewster

AUSTRALIA IS now on the verge of some big decisions about its new submarine fleet. Canberra is considering building some 12 new submarines over the next two decades at a projected cost of more than A$40 billion (US$38 billion). The choice of submarine design type will need to be made soon if the first of the new class is to become operational by 2030.

This is not just a large equipment acquisition. Australia’s submarines represent its principal independent strategic deterrent and one of its key means of power projection. The shape and size of its new fleet will therefore be a major factor in Australia’s strategic weight in the region for several decades to come.

Lessons from the Collins class

Australia’s choices are limited by several geographic and political factors. Firstly, its submarines must be capable of independent deployment over vast distances – from the South Pacific to Northeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. Secondly, the submarines must also be conventionally powered, which significantly increases travel time and decreases loiter time as compared with the much faster nuclear-powered submarines. This means that Australian submarines must be among the largest and longest range conventional submarines in the world.

Thirdly, the government has committed to build the submarines in Australia. The naval shipbuilding industry is a big economic factor for South Australia and many see the naval shipbuilding industry as an essential defence capability.

Australia has operated submarines for more than a century. Australia’s current fleet consists of six Australian-built Collins class submarines, which are expected to reach end of life starting in the mid 2020s. The Collins class has been controversial.

Although they are among the most capable conventional submarines anywhere in the world, for a long time they suffered many reliability problems. According to Australian Navy Chief, Ray Griggs, this reflected some poor component choices and poor logistics, underscoring the Australian Navy’s inexperience in acting as the ‘parent navy’ to a class of major warships. On top of this, Australia’s recent mining boom has sucked away large portions of Australia’s submarine crew with promises of much higher wages, leaving many submarines tied up at the dock.

But a recent report has concluded that most of these problems have been resolved and that there has been a dramatic increase in fleet availability compared with 4 years ago.

Nuclear vs. conventional options

Some analysts have argued that many of Australia’s problems could be resolved by simply purchasing off-the-shelf nuclear powered Virginia class submarines from the United States. These would have a relatively low unit price and would resolve many operational constraints faced by slow moving conventional submarines.

But this option has been rejected. The government has no inclination to venture into the political minefield of nuclear power, which has long been taboo in Australia. Nukes would also need to be supported by very large onshore nuclear power logistical capabilities – and in the absence of a civilian nuclear power industry, Australia simply does not have these capabilities. Suggestions that Australia could largely rely on US nuclear logistics have apparently been rejected on national interest grounds.

The nuclear option, it seems, is dead in the water.

But Australia’s options for conventional submarines are limited. There are few conventional submarines anywhere in the world that have the capabilities that Australia requires.

It was assumed under the previous government that the most likely option would be an Australian-designed ‘evolved’ version of the Collins – but bigger and more capable. But Australia’s new conservative government is concerned about the risks associated with an Australian-based designed effort. The frontrunner for the design has shifted to Germany’s TKMS, and Sweden’s Saab has also now joined the fray. These options are not without significant risks themselves: neither has designed submarines of the size that Australia requires.

But a recent defence technology agreement between Australia and Japan may open up Australia’s options. Japan’s submarine technology is among the world’s most advanced. Japan has long prohibited the export of defence technology and the new agreement represents a breakthrough for Australia.

Australia is very interested in what Japan may have to offer. In particular, the drive train used in Japan’s Soryu-class submarines potentially mated with Swedish air independent propulsion technology may be ideal for Australian requirements. Australia might even be interested in an off-the-shelf Soryu class design, although this may be a political step too far for Japan.

The $40 billion plus question

Where does that leave Australia’s choice? The A$40 billion plus price tag was always going to be a big stretch without a major increase in defence spending and/or cuts in other defence programmes.

A new Defence White Paper, due to be completed next year, is supposed to answer these questions. One answer will likely be extending the life of the Collins submarines. This is looking increasingly feasible following the resolution of most reliability problems, allowing an extension of maintenances cycle from an assumed 8+2 years maintenance to 10+2 years. This now implies a class life of some 34 years. Access to Japanese technology may also be an important element in this.

The other answer will likely involve cutting the size of the fleet, perhaps to as few as six submarines. This should become more evident in the new White Paper. Of course, this could have major repercussions for Australia’s strategic weight in the region.

But the choice may not be just about manned submarines. In the longer term, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) will likely represent another important option. Although requiring further development, many believe that UUVs will soon catch up with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In the long run UUVs could address many of the Australia’s requirements. Used in conjunction with the manned fleet, they could potentially fill the capability gap.

David Brewster is a Visiting Fellow with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. He is the author of a new book, India’s Ocean: the story of India’s bid for regional leadership. He contributed this article to RSIS Commentaries.
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  #2  
Old 05-09-2014, 02:23 AM
ET1(ss) ET1(ss) is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knaur View Post
... Canberra is considering building some 12 new submarines over the next two decades at a projected cost of ...
12 boats spread out over 20 years is a fairly low rate of replacement.

Assuming there are no groundings or other mishaps, at 30-years into this the first boats will be ready for scrapping.



Quote:
... This is not just a large equipment acquisition. Australia’s submarines represent its principal independent strategic deterrent and one of its key means of power projection. The shape and size of its new fleet will therefore be a major factor in Australia’s strategic weight in the region for several decades to come.
I agree.



Quote:
...the government has committed to build the submarines in Australia. The naval shipbuilding industry is a big economic factor for South Australia and many see the naval shipbuilding industry as an essential defence capability.
I agree. However Australian shipyards and military complex have been plagued with quality problems.



Quote:
... for a long time they suffered many reliability problems
Bingo.



Quote:
... On top of this, Australia’s recent mining boom has sucked away large portions of Australia’s submarine crew with promises of much higher wages, leaving many submarines tied up at the dock.
High quality boats with reliable spare parts are important. So is quality crew spending obscene amounts of time every quarter in training.

If the crews are truly high IQ, high tech, focused individuals they will be poached.

The US Navy answers this by paying fairly high incentives plus regular bonuses. US sub crews expect $60k - $75k annual tax-free wages, for sailors in the 5 to 15 year range. Also every 4-years the re-signing bonus I saw was capped at $65k. The year I retired that went up to $90k every 4-years.

If they are not paid, they will be poached.



Quote:
... Some analysts have argued that many of Australia’s problems could be resolved by simply purchasing off-the-shelf nuclear powered Virginia class submarines from the United States. These would have a relatively low unit price and would resolve many operational constraints faced by slow moving conventional submarines.

But this option has been rejected. The government has no inclination to venture into the political minefield of nuclear power, which has long been taboo in Australia. Nukes would also need to be supported by very large onshore nuclear power logistical capabilities – and in the absence of a civilian nuclear power industry, Australia simply does not have these capabilities. Suggestions that Australia could largely rely on US nuclear logistics have apparently been rejected on national interest grounds.
Too bad, though I understand why.



Quote:
... But Australia’s options for conventional submarines are limited. There are few conventional submarines anywhere in the world that have the capabilities that Australia requires.
Hard to imagine the technology being improved much more.



Quote:
... One answer will likely be extending the life of the Collins submarines. This is looking increasingly feasible following the resolution of most reliability problems, allowing an extension of maintenances cycle from an assumed 8+2 years maintenance to 10+2 years. This now implies a class life of some 34 years. Access to Japanese technology may also be an important element in this.
Dreaming.

If you can not maintain and operate your boats today. What makes anyone think that tomorrow will suddenly be different?

Extending the lifespan of a boat may sound good on paper, to a person who has never served on a boat. Hulls age, micro-fractures appear, joints fatigue.

Not worth the loss of boat and crew.



Quote:
... But the choice may not be just about manned submarines. In the longer term, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) will likely represent another important option. Although requiring further development, many believe that UUVs will soon catch up with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In the long run UUVs could address many of the Australia’s requirements. Used in conjunction with the manned fleet, they could potentially fill the capability gap.
Best to rely on non-existent technology?

Or maybe one day aliens from planet Quaalude will land and give you some advanced technology.

:)
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  #3  
Old 05-11-2014, 04:37 PM
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David of Galilee David of Galilee is offline
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Our navy has just announced the return of the Dolphin-Class submarine INS Leviathan to service after a complete overhaul. Refitting, modernization, all new electronics to fight the ship, gather intel, improve duration underwater and overall time at sea, etc. All done by Israeli teams in Haifa Port. (And all within 40k of Hizbollah territory in southern Lebanon.)

I wouldn't rate the Aussie experience with the Collins-class anywhere near Israel's experience with the Dolphin-class. Israeli engineers and shipbuilders and programmers actually lived in Germany during the building of the Dolphins, and worked on parts of the submarines. Thus Israeli submarine expertise is probably well in advance of Australia by now. WWII RAN experience with a large navy with lots of subs and heavy vessels is long gone, and they have become a much lesser naval power, including submarines.

But if Israel can run its Dolphins to the edge of the envelope, and successfully rebuild them and significantly improve their war-fighting and intel-gathering ability, in theory a larger nation like Australia should be able to as well. I wouldn't bother with the Collins, though.

And I would think long and hard about the reality facing Australia. She is definitely has a lot of potential volatility on top of her region. I'd go for top-drawer intel gathering vessels, and I'd take the attitude of an elite force, as the USN and the RN have. Israel also keeps to the RN model of submariners being elite fighters (and has passed some its submariners through the famous Perisher Course).

Submarines are misused or underused by many second rate navvies. They need to work for a living, and be available and ready for action, however rare that might me. I do hope that Australia has a strong naval and political defense vision in place before making decisions on such an expensive platform as a modern stealth sub. Australia as a nation that can defend itself, or as a nation that is a distant appendage of an alliance.

I am not qualified to suggest what mix the RAN should have, but I do not believe that turning the navy into an anti-smuggling service, or a clandestine immigration watch, or a fisheries territory police makes for a top level fighting navy. Tossing in a few modern subs into the mix won't add much without a serious plan. Have they actually put down any keels for their Hobart-class air warfare destroyers?

Last edited by David of Galilee; 05-11-2014 at 04:40 PM..
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  #4  
Old 03-15-2015, 03:05 PM
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AEWHistory AEWHistory is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ET1(ss) View Post
Or maybe one day aliens from planet Quaalude will land and give you some advanced technology.
:)
This is where I'd put my money!
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