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Australia talks down prospect of having nuclear subs by 2030

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By ROD McGUIRK

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Oops. The best laid plans. Actually, this is the way politicians on both sides of the Pacific speak, overpromise and underdeliver.

Now Australia can make a very solid case for wanting/needing nuclear propulsion submarines given it's so darn far away from Asia. A submarine needs to travel more than 8,000 km to travel from Sydney to Hong Kong. That helps to put things in perspective. However, such technology is not cheap unless the US is giving it away which I do not support as a current US taxpayer.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Even that date of 2040 is optimistic,. any way Australia needs subs yesterday, I suggest lend leasing two off Japan to bridge those gap years.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Australia is never getting its own nuclear subs. They will build the new bases within the next decade, the deal will fall through for some reason if it's not cancelled by successive governments, the US will then generously offer to station its own subs at the empty bases if Australia covers the costs. This is the gameplan.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Decision’s made by the last incumbent administration, let’s just see what this incumbent administration can do to work its way towards having a fleet of operational submarines. Collins class were fraught with problems still are, not Kursk size problems. Take a breath and make an adult decision. It’s a lot of money to spend any decision made.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Cricket: mate Tony About gave the nod to the French three administration ago 2018 yet not a plan drawn.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Australia will get Nuclear powered submarines to replace the Collins class. Whether or not they end up leasing a Virginia class off the US a few years before its retirement to coincide with the first produced for Australia in Australia is yet to be determined. Expect the first submarine if leased to be around 2035 while the first constructed will be just before 2040 if construction begins by 2030.

The Collins are all scheduled for a "extension of life" refits beginning in 2026 with HMAS Farncomb.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Whether leased from the US or Japan, Australia needs to get a move on this right away.

China is already on Australia's doorsteps. Of course, they are already on everybody's doorsteps.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Peter14, let's put things into perspective. The UK and France have significant manufacturing bases, advanced nuclear engineering sectors, and large economies; but even these two permanent members of the UN security council struggle to afford 5 and 6 nuclear attack subs respectively. Australia has a much smaller defense budget, you don't even build cars anymore, and you've never had a nuclear engineering sector. It's a bit quixotic to think that you can afford a fleet of 8 nuclear attack subs, let alone build them yourself in Australia. That's not even taking into account the political pressure there might be to scrap the deal over the next 20 years. Nuclear subs are reserved for superpowers and Australia is not a superpower (yet). This will end in disappointment.

Whether or not they end up leasing a Virginia class off the US a few years

Has the US ever leased a nuclear sub to anyone? Even its closest allies? Especially to a country with zero experience of operating nuclear subs? I don't think so. Has anyone at the Pentagon confirmed that the leasing idea is a real possibility? I haven't seen it. At most, you might be offered a US commanded sub manned by a US crew with a few Australian sailors allowed onboard.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Some very interesting opinions on this thread. This is commenting at its best, nobody banging a drum and people just exchanging informed and informative points of view. I don’t know when or whether Australia will get its nuclear subs, but I like the discussion.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nuclear subs are reserved for superpowers and Australia is not a superpower (yet).

LOL India has been operating nuclear subs since 1987 and India is not a superpower.

India already has 1 indigenous nuclear sub in operation, 1 will soon be commissioned and a third is on the way.

Australia can follow India’s example. India leased nuclear subs from Soviet Union/Russia and gained experience on them before deciding to build their own. Australia can lease them from the US and gain experience.

Nuclear subs are essential for the Australian navy considering that China is openly challenging Australia in the Pacific, and with nuclear submarines and its strategic location it will be well placed to counter China if push comes to shove.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

In all probability, as Australia has next to no experience in building reactors but does have shipbuilding experience my guestimate is the reactors will be from either the US or UK while the hulls will be built in Australia with a mix of kit installed depending on local availability and technical knowledge/manufacturing capability.

Unless the subs are a straight copy of either the US Virginia class or the UK Astute class then the design work is very complex and time consuming, even for experienced countries well before you get to the build stage. So dependant on a lot of technical decisions that have yet to be made a 2040 date looks to be doable but even that may not be achieved if decision taking is not efficient.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Evil Buddha, yep and even then they have had problems and accident with them. Things have not gone smoothly. They are very complex machines.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

India's nuclear subs program is a joke. Hope it doesn't get some Indian sailors killed.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

India's nuclear subs program is a joke. Hope it doesn't get some Indian sailors killed.

Dont worry about India. India is overpopulated so a few sailors killed can easily be replaced.

Worry about yourself because a China loving wumao living in the US needs to be careful now that the days of yellow peril are back again.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@M3M3M3

let's put things into perspective. The UK and France have significant manufacturing bases, advanced nuclear engineering sectors, and large economies; but even these two permanent members of the UN security council struggle to afford 5 and 6 nuclear attack subs respectively.

Australia is not a poor nation, and is more than capable of paying for the planned 8 Nuclear powered submarines. France and the UK have 6 or 7 nuclear attack submarines but also 4 ballistic missile submarines with nuclear payloads that cost a vast amount of money that Australia will not have. Both also have operational aircraft carriers with the naval fixed wing aircraft and associated costs that again, Australia does not have. The simple fact is Australia needs these submarines to remain a relevant naval force in the Indo-Pacific. The number may be reduced to six or even increased to nine. Time will tell. The nuclear component will be manufactured in the US or UK and the remainder of the submarines will be made in South Australia. It is a big step and one Australia is more than capable of taking. New technology will be acquired and experience will be gained in the lead up by having Australian personnel training in the US or UK for years ahead of time.

There is nothing stopping the US from leasing a nuclear submarine to Australia, as Russia did with India. Australia is one of the US most trusted and reliable allies. The US needs Australia to be as capable as it can be to assist US efforts at keeping peace in the region. Eighteen years is a long time and much is possible in that time frame. Expect Australian officers and sailors to be trained in US subs as soon as they make the choice on which sub to get.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have seen some estimates on military journals suggesting it might be less costly for Australia to buy and refuel a Los Angeles Class sub that would be replaced soon in the US Navy by a new Virginia class boat than to extend the service lives of their Collins Class subs. Even an older US SSN is superior to the best DE boats in just about every measure of performance. Australia could learn to operate and maintain nuclear subs and increase their combat capabilities much more rapidly than waiting till 2040 for their first new build subs to be commissioned.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Unlike nuclear submarines, diesel-electric submarines have to surface and run on diesel-propulsion while they recharge their batteries. China is developing technology that would detect submarines on the surface, Dutton said.

Not entirely true. The sub remains submerged but has to come to periscope depth and raise what is called a "Snorkel" to bring air into the boat for the diesel engines, and for the crew to breathe. Only the very tip of the snorkel is exposed but radars are able to detect something as small as a snorkel that is above the surface.. Btw, that was true in WWII and cost the Germans many subs. Subs running on diesels tend to be noisy and they emit some exhaust heat that can be detected by sufficiently sensitive infrared detectors. Interesting aside but the snorkels of German WWII U-Boats became one of first applications of radar absorbing materials attempting to thwart detection by radar equipped US and UK ASW patrol aircraft.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Peter14

Australia is not a poor nation, and is more than capable of paying for the planned 8 Nuclear powered submarines.

Australia could also put a man on the moon if it focused all its resources and public expenditure to do it. The question is whether such a costly and ambitious project can survive a democratic society, many successive governments, competing financial interests, multiple economic crises, and technological developments over the next 20+ years. I'm not optimistic.

but also 4 ballistic missile submarines with nuclear payloads that cost a vast amount of money that Australia will not have. Both also have operational aircraft carriers with the naval fixed wing aircraft and associated costs that again, Australia does not have.

None of this accounts for the difference in defense budgets between these 3 countries. To be clear, I'm sure Australia can make the payments on 8 nuclear subs, but at what cost? A teenager working at McDonalds can also lease a Porsche if he lives at home, never goes out, and eats canned beans at every meal, but it's not a sensible choice.

There is nothing stopping the US from leasing a nuclear submarine to Australia

In my opinion the biggest mistake you make is assuming the United States has no strategic interests of its own. In your worldview the US is always ready to selflessly bed over backwards to provide Australia with whatever equipment and technology it wants. You never question why the US would sacrifice its own limited submarine manufacturing and refurbishment capacity to a nation which might ultimately decide not to join them in a future war in Asia. This would mean fewer submarines in the US arsenal. Why would they take that risk?

US strategic interests benefit from keeping Australia somewhat dependent on the US military. In case you haven't noticed, Washington prefers to deal with its allies on a 'subscription-style' model. They own the sophisticated equipment, they provide the trained troops, but you host the bases and you pay for it. It suits them perfectly. Why would Australia be an exception?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@M3M3M3

Australia could also put a man on the moon if it focused all its resources and public expenditure to do it. The question is whether such a costly and ambitious project can survive a democratic society, many successive governments, competing financial interests, multiple economic crises, and technological developments over the next 20+ years. I'm not optimistic.

The public would not support putting a man on the moon, but for national safety and security it will bear the costs. You may not be optimistic about it but I am.

None of this accounts for the difference in defense budgets between these 3 countries. To be clear, I'm sure Australia can make the payments on 8 nuclear subs, but at what cost?

The cost is not as relevant as remaining free and sovereign. We will not need to go without anything to pay for them. Just a generational defense expense. No matter if it is 12 SSK or 8 SSN that to initially set up has a large cost but future generations of SSN's will have no such set up costs.

In my opinion the biggest mistake you make is assuming the United States has no strategic interests of its own. In your worldview the US is always ready to selflessly bed over backwards to provide Australia with whatever equipment and technology it wants. You never question why the US would sacrifice its own limited submarine manufacturing and refurbishment capacity to a nation which might ultimately decide not to join them in a future war in Asia. This would mean fewer submarines in the US arsenal. Why would they take that risk?

Not at all. Your limited assesment does not take everything into account, Some small inconvienience to assist an ally get a significant new capability that supplements your own, providing three builders over the current two in the US and additional redundancy, repair facilities and once Australia has built its force the US may well ask for the Australians to build some units for the US to increase their own acquisition rates. The US gets a lot out of the Australian capacity. It is win win, not just the US sacrificing.

US strategic interests benefit from keeping Australia somewhat dependent on the US military. In case you haven't noticed, Washington prefers to deal with its allies on a 'subscription-style' model. They own the sophisticated equipment, they provide the trained troops, but you host the bases and you pay for it. It suits them perfectly. Why would Australia be an exception?

Australia and the UK have always been exceptions. That will continue to be the case.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Peter14

I guess we'll just have to wait until 2040 to see who was right.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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