Major parties are clueless on subs


Robert Bond   Director   Citizens for Defence


Virginia-class sub under construction

Virginia sub being built 

Major parties are clueless on subs

bobThe two major parties should be brought to account for their total abandonment of any attempt to equip the Australian navy with the most capable submarine to defend our 36,000 kilometre coastline for the next 40 years.

Never do the two major parties take into account the Future Submarines lack of effectiveness, speed, endurance, performance, and firepower, or consider that there is probably a billion dollars cost saving per submarine if a US Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine were purchased.

Instead, all we hear from the blinkered politicians is a jingoistic appeal to some nationalistic theme that says survival of our nation comes second to partisan politics.

There are at least 6 Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines in operation with the US navy at present and all their state of the art systems are operating flawlessly. Buying a proven line of submarines from a nation that has had a near flawless record for fifty years in building nuclear submarines goes a long way to reduce the risk of acquiring a poor performing weapons platform.

On the other hand it seems a formidably risky enterprise for Australia to design and build from scratch a dieselectric submarine anywhere near the size and competence of the Virginia-class.


Sub underway

General Dynamics have been building the Virginia-class submarines with delivery well before the ten year delivery date and under budget.

An Australian designed and built large submarine can expect to be delivered to the navy in 20-25 years time.

Ten well managed Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines would be as effective as 30 unreliable one off Australian designed and built dieselectric submarines. The Collins fiasco is an example of what will probably be the eventuality if Australia decides to go it alone down the Collins path again. In fact, the world has moved on since Collins was built and the technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that a bad outcome is almost guaranteed.

If the government and the deceased opposition had any gumption whatsoever on defence matters they would have ordered ten Virginia submarines in 2009 when it first became obvious that the Collins submarines were unable to defend our shores.

Today, we would be looking to take delivery of probably the best attack submarines in the world from 2017. Instead, we are being spun yarns by the major parties that we will get some antiquated diesel dinosaur sub delivered in 1935 with unknown specifications and a price tag double the ball park estimate of $36 billion in 2009 dollars.

There is no second choice. Governments refuse to take their responsibility to defend this nation seriously. They delay and muddy the waters. They withdraw funding from defence and refuse to fund new weapons. They employ an army of spin doctors to hoodwink the Australian public into believing they have an effective plan for our defence.

Our politicians have not even had a realistic trial of 5 Collins subs against a nuclear submarine to access their strengths and weaknesses. They are spending two full years funding of the defence budget without even evaluating a nuclear submarine.

Our nation has more oceans and seas surrounding it than any other continent on earth and yet our inept politicians have selected a sub that cannot travel more than 60 to 100 kilometres at full speed submerged and have rejected outright a submarine that can sail around the world submerged.

Brazil is building a nuclear submarine which includes the reactor with help from the French. The British have the new Astute-Class nuclear submarine, and the US ambassador to Australia has said that the US would supply Virginia subs to Australia to improve our defence forces.

Surely our paralysed politicians could start to consider the defence of this nation by approaching these nations for a joint venture arrangement where we can acquire modern submarines.

Australia’s cringe factor seems to permeate all politicians and their defence advisors, the electorate who vote them in and some of the top brass of the defence forces resulting in our leaders always choosing that we remain defenceless and buy yesterdays technology to fight tomorrow’s wars.

Nuclear subs are an election issue

Robert Bond   Director   Citizens for Defence


Virginia-class sub under way

                                          Virginia-class sub under way

Nuclear subs are an election issue

bobGeneral Peter Cosgrove is chairman of the South Australian Defence Advisory Board and is strongly in favour of building 100 year old technology submarines in South Australia powered by diesel electric propulsion.

This is a recipe for disaster as the construction of our previous submarine in SA shows. The Collins-class submarine was built between February 1990 and March 2003. It has been a shipwreck ever since with Australia rarely having even 2 submarines capable of even sailing out to sea at the onetime let alone being fit to engage an enemy in battle.

These submarines are economically unrepairable with two years in dry-dock for maintenance for every three years of use. The engines need replacement and this will require the pressure hull to be cut to replace them. This will take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars as the pressure hull will have to undergo extensive re-certification testing.

At present, the Collins class is costing $105 million a year per submarine but this will quickly balloon out to $150 million per annum when substantial upgrades to the Collins class planned under DCP Project Sea 1439 (conservatively estimated at $30 million per ship per year to 2021) takes effect even though the Collins class availability is close to zero.

By contrast, a nuclear Ohio class submarine three times the size of the Collins class costs $50 million to operate per year with excellent availability.

Collins submarine

Collins submarine

The Collins-class is by far the dearest submarine in the world to maintain and yet it has never provided Australia with any sustained underwater defence capability since its construction.

It seems so out of character that our retired top brass would want our forces to defend our country with 90 year old technology diesel electric submarines that have an underwater range of some 50 nautical miles at 25 knots or 500 nautical miles at 4 knots. These 4000 tonne boats will always be limited in range by fuel restraints and battery storage. They will never outrun surface ships or be able to aggressively attack a modern enemy.

One would have thought a more appropriate submarine for Australia’s defence would be able to travel at 32 knots underwater around the world if necessary without surfacing, outrunning surface ships in the process and being able to dive to 250 metres. This submarine would weigh 7500 tonnes and carry 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 38 missiles and torpedoes as well as having 40,000 shaft horse power courtesy of a reliable S9G nuclear reactor.

Australia has to embrace nuclear energy for its own survival. Our small population means we have to have big effective weapons to protect our 36000 kilometres of coastline. Former US Rear Admiral John B Padgett 111 has cited studies indicating that ‘it takes 2.2 to six diesel-electric submarines to obtain the equivalent effectiveness of a single nuclear submarine’.

It is time for the politicians to put up or be exposed for their utter disregard for the security of this country by condemning this nation to rely on 100 yr old diesel electric technology which is only 20% as effective as nuclear technology. The sickening spin of the politicians should be put to the test in the mid Pacific Ocean with five Collins class subs and one Virginia-class sub undergoing a series of exercises to determine the effectiveness of each boat.

This armchair admiral suggests having a big noisy warship travel in an anti submarine random zigzag pattern at 25 knots with the Virginia sub defending the ship and the Collins subs attacking the ship.

The fact is Australia has never had anything like 5 subs available for active duty at the one time in the last decade and this just highlight the pathetic performance of our politicians in the whole sorry defence debacle.Minister of Defence Stephen Smith

This is the only way for our inept politicians to assess the performance of nuclear submarines and diesel electric submarines in realistic battle conditions.

At least then firepower, endurance, and value for money may get a look in to the blinkered minds of politicians.

Defence analysts on another planet

Robert Bond   Director   Citizens for Defence





Defence analysts on another planet

bobAndrew Davies is a senior analyst of defence at ASPI who advocates Australia continues to spend a minuscule 1.6% of GDP on defence condemning this country to unacceptable risks of intimidation or worse by Asian nations in the region over the coming decades.

Nowhere in his article has Andrew estimated the extra risk his misguided suggestions will wreak on this nation if his bluff is called. How many lives will be lost, how many women raped, and how much property will be destroyed or commandeered, all because government and their analysts want to save a few pieces of silver in the short term?amphibious operations4

Nor does Andrew mention that our ally, the US has been spending 4-5% of GDP since WW2 on its defence and by default, our defence. This is 3% of GDP more than we pay and amounts to a direct subsidy to Australia of around $46 billion dollars in this financial year alone. Australia has been bludging on the US in similar fashion for the past 70 years and yet Andrew and many other analysts accept this reprehensible rorting of an ally as reasonable.

It is hard to fathom why defence analysts would advocate any security for Australia less than the maximum we can afford. Andrew actually admits no one can predict what conflicts may lay ahead in the future. It is laughable suggesting all Australia can aspire to is a stoush with a defenceless island state on our northern perimeters. This is not defence but an abhorrent cop-out of our responsibility to protect this nation to the best of our ability.

Australia should be capable of running a Falkland’s operation three times more effective than the British did, albeit at a third of the distance the British had to travel. What is stopping this nation from reaching its potential except spineless politicians and subservient analysts?

Unloading marines

Unloading marines

Shouldn’t the bare bases at RAAF Scherger, Curtin, and Learmonth be developed into hardened forward defence airfield with underground fuel and weapons storage, top end radar and missile fortifications as well as a few stealth fighters ready to go on each base?

Our defence forces need to be set up so we can project air power 2000 kilometres out to sea from our northern coastal bases in a matter of days. We should have large comprehensive exercises twice a year carrying this out and improving our performance with new equipment and tactics.

If our so-called analysts had been halfway determined to defend Australia, they would have bluntly told the politicians that we need nuclear submarines for our vast oceans and seas and to defend our amphibious ships. Two small aircraft carriers should be built that could accommodate 20 stealth VTOL F35 fighters and associated aircraft on each ship.

With more air warfare destroyers and nuclear submarines this could become a small hard hitting battle group which could be capable of credible amphibious operations for Australia’s defence or in an alliance with coalition forces. In Australian waters it could operate under the added air cover of ground based stealth attack aircraft extended by fuel tankers.

Amphibious fleet

Amphibious operations

What is the point of having half a fleet incapable of anything but assisting cyclone hit victims or earthquake events? It’s one and only true purpose must be for the maximum protection of Australia and this can only be achieved if it is built in to a coherent fleet with regular exercises with the air force and army to hone the whole defence forces war fighting capabilities.

Most of the university professors who call themselves defence analysts don’t get this and live on another planet. Australian citizens want palpable defence assets that we can see performing regular exercises which proves their capability to defend this nation if “sh*t happens”.

Retired general Jim Molan is not one of them. He has seen the ravages of war in Iraq at first hand and knows that defence capability cannot be compromised by mealy-mouthed analysts advocating a policy of “let’s hope for good luck” and save a bit of silver.