1) I am F****G furious we are in the current position. It's been one F-up after another, both diplomatic, strategic and tactical.
It's not that bad. The French will get over it, much like the Japanese did. Secretly, I think in the end the French are glad to be free of a project with constraints that made it a near impossibility. Macron is a politician too - his country/government owned business just lost a big contract, as I say, I suspect they didn't want it in the end, but he has to behave at least a bit butt hurt for his voters too.
When the current gvt came to office, we had an established Sub program with domestic manufacture and support capability. We've trashed that.
Support? Yes. Manufacture? No, we don't have the skillset since we built the Collins. We lost that well before the current government came to office.
As soon as the project was complete and moved to only maintenance, building knowledge generally moved on (some of it back to Sweden), retires, or is otherwise lost through attrition without replacement. This is one of the reasons organisations like Electric Boat keep themselves continuously in build contracts so they don't lose their build ready workforce.
We then went for new the Japanese Sub. An unorthodox approach to procurement selection, but we'd be a reasonable position if we'd followed through it that.
We then went with the "Attack" class - which IMHO is a camel: horse designed by a committee: something trying to be all things to all people. We got the contractor we deserved given it's specification.
I absolutely agree. We should have gone with the Japanese offer, a complete and sailing design, then half way through that program construction signed with deal with the US/UK.
We did indeed get the 'contractor we deserved'.
We're now going with AUKUS subs - still unspecified, with all sorts of associated potential problem. Our 4th sub-program in a decade, at a time when our security situation is degrading badly - in no small part to our current gvt deciding it would be a good idea to push back against .... from a position of weakness
IMHO, it means SSNs off the peg are now necessary, in a way they probably shouldn't have been.
I disagree, it was more likely that we were never going to be in a position to push back, our current position is not entirely of weakness, and for Australia, SSNs have always been a necessary thing, the dopey Australian political situation surrounding 'anything nuclear' just made it impossible before, not unnecessary.
2) On-shore maintenance/manufacture.
We learnt the hard way with the Oberon class subs that we need domestic manufacture and maintenance capability to keep our subs in the water. Obviously we can never be as efficient as the US/UK/Japanese or almost anyone else, but we still need that capability. Wherever we go, we go from here, we are going to have to sacrifice that capability to get viable boats in the water. That should *never* have been allowed to happen IMHO, and I'm really P*** about it.
The Oberon were capable boats, they just got old without planned replacement, they were well maintained in use, but when you go too far past date of manufacture there are just things that are not maintainable. The Oberon's just arrived at their use-by date, before we had a planned succession.
3) SSK vs SSN
SSKs have advantages over SSNs.
a) Quieter (when in theatre). Nuclear rectors have to keep running, and have to stay cooled, which means continuous movement of cooling fluids, hence pumps and they make noise. We don't know - and probably won;t know until the shooting starts - if the SSNs we get will retain their stealth. (Same for SSKs too, but on battery and very very slow/still - SSKs are theoretically harder to detect).
b) Lack of range. Tactically this is bad. But strategically this is good. An SSK *can't* easily be forward deployed, so represents less of a threat that induces less need to develop neutralizing counter measures amidst our adversaries. IMHO we're past that being a valid reason for an SSK progam, and we're going to have to cope with the adverse security implications of having an SSN program.
c) We can be completely self sufficient with them. Even if we started to day (and I hope we don't), we'll never have enough of a nuclear industry in OZ to properly support our SSN fleet. Hopefully this won't be such a big deal: if the reactor is 30 year set and forget (with one fuel rod change) we might be able to get away with it.
a) I don't know for sure, but I suspect that US submarine reactors don't require primary coolant pumps to run at low power whilst loitering on station. Even if they do run the pumps, dampening and rafting I suspect make the things damn quiet. The numerous reports of 'brushings' of submarines at sea don't exactly suggest the things are noisy.
When shooting starts, I suspect the noise of a reactor coolant pump isn't a big deal. Transient noise from weapon door opening and weapon firing are a bigger concern, and then there's the 'we don't care, the sub already knows where we are' situation, meaning that active sonar is now your new best friend.
b) SSKs can't be easily forward deployed - correct, but that is only a strategic advantage if you imagine (likely falsely) that your adversary is going to bother to sail all the way to within your territory of influence to launch an attack. Even if you never plan to attack, it's always nice to be able to loiter in a potential enemy's 'backyard' and listen to what they're doing, at least you have some idea of their intentions and what to expect.
c) We likely already would have enough nuclear industry in Australia to support a fleet of SSNs. We don't need a NPP or even OPAL to service SSNs, even IF they do need refuelling. If they do need refuelling, in 30 years I would certainly hope we had a huge nuclear industry here, and if for whatever reason we don't, or we cannot carry out those refuellings in Australia, that's a task we can outsource to the US, UK, or French (we'll be friends again by then) without too much difficulty.
4) Which Sub to get?
AFAIK, we have the choice of the US Virginias or the UK Astutes.
As I see it, this is a choice between firepower (US) and (perhaps) better stealth. Also speed of deployment vs appropriateness for us.
The Virginias are 20+years old, potentially not as stealthy. Who knows. Their big advantage is we could - in theory - get them in the water ASAP. Lease one, buy one currently under construction off the peg, order 2 more from the US as we develop our domestic maintenance and construction capacity in parallel.
The UK don't have the ability to supply is with enough subs fast enough - but they are probably keener to sell us their product to help pay for their program.
The US wouldn't sell us their top tier equipment right off the shelf, our best bet for a US submarine purchase would be a 688 (Los Angeles Class) which the US are slowly taking out of service, deleting some of the tech from these and giving them a refurb would be a good stop gap for the Australian order. We just won't get the SSN-774 (Viriginia) the US cannot complete them fast enough for US needs, let alone build ours too. I do need to add that I don't think the Virginia are less stealthy, yes, the design is '20 years old' but it's not as though these things have not had upgrading and improvement during their service and build life. You can bet the Viriginia's being currently produced are not exactly the same at those from the early 2000s.
4) VLS tubes? They are a provocation, but also a potential self defense capability for our (noisy American) subs once they are found.
FWIW, I think the next gvt could do worse than send the French an Olive branch and order 3 SF Barracudas off the shelf as an apology - even though they are underspece and we'd have little use for them. IMHO we need to either keep the Collins program running with another refit (LiPo batteries and better weapons than harpoon), or get some of the Japanese SSKs to augment our SSN fleet.
VLS tubes are not really a defensive capability, nothing quite gives away a submarine's location in quite the same way a missile exiting the water does...
Ordering Barracuda now would be a mistake, you think we will have a hard time maintaining the AUKUS sub, wait until we have multiple types of nuclear vessel to maintain.
We could get the Soryu - but if you want better weapons than the Harpoon, you need to know you're not getting it in the Soryu.
5) What do we *really* need?
IMHO Australia is - for the first time since the 1940s - facing a genuine threat of invasion. I can't see the US "recovering" a certain island like they did Kuwait. If some nameless Asian power adopts a policy of expansion, I expect it will result in a trade blockade - that could easily precipitate the reaction it got from the Japanese in 1941 (ie, compel them to secure by force the resources they need). This is the strategic danger of hitching our wagon to the Americans.
To defend Australia/deter our adversaries from the Japanese we need the ability (or at least the credible threat of the ability) to stop the arrival of an invasion force. A sub capable of retaining stealth that can quickly take out a fleet of amphibious assault ships might do that. We also need credible air defenses the location of which can remain concealed - ie (sub) surface to air missiles in VLS tubes in subs.
Beyond that, we'd need tactical nukes - and a viable delivery platform - which ain't tomahawk.
All this points to us needed to get a fleet of Virginias ASAP, while retaining/replacing the Collins program.
None of this is good news. And I'm thoroughly P***d its' come to this.
The Japanese are not invading anyone in the near future, certainly not Australia. You might be thinking Chinese, but I doubt they're 'invading' Australia any time soon, or if even at all. China's got a big military, and a big population, but they have to get an invasion force here first. An invasion force wasn't exactly easy for the Allies to arrange in WWII, and they were 'invading' a country that was looking forward to them coming, with no resistance other than an occupying army, AND they only had to cross the channel...
Submarines don't typically (have they even ever?) launch missiles for attacking aircraft, if they did, almost certainly not from a submerged position, for starters, how would they track an airborne threat from under the water? The air defense is the domain of land and surface based vehicle launching. Submarines are for attacking surface and submerged targets and land.
Australia most certainly does not need
nuclear weaponry, if we acquire that, I am moving to Europe.