Australian news, and some related international items

Australian govt will take 18 months at least to find out if we’re leasing nuclear submarines

Will the RAN lease nuclear-powered submarines?  ADM By Max Blenkin | Canberra | 30 September 2021  

There’s much we don’t yet know about how we will acquire our new submarines. Even the Government and Defence don’t know, which is why they have launched a task force, led by Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead, to consider the way ahead, reporting back in around 18 months.

There appear to be just two contenders – the US Virginia-class SSN and the British Astute-class SSN, both in-service and in current production.

Of the Astutes, seven are planned, with four in service and two under construction. Boat number one, HMS Astute, was laid down in 2001 with the last, HMS Agincourt, to be commissioned in 2026.

Of the Virginias, 66 are planned, with 19 completed and 11 under construction. The first boat, USS Virginia, was laid down in 1999. No date has been set for the last, but, assuming it happens and the current production schedule is maintained, it’s likely to be in the late 2030s with service life through to the 2060s.

On the face of it, the Virginias seem the best boat for Australia, with live production in the period Australia stands up its line and significant commonality of combat system and weapons with the Collins boats.

On the other hand, the Astute’s Thales and Atlas sensors have significant commonality with Collins…………

 Defence Minister Peter Dutton acknowledged on September 21 he’s amenable to leasing, which isn’t a new idea.

Here’s analyst Professor Ross Babbage in a paper published by the Kokoda Foundation in 2011:

“A variant of this military off-the-shelf (MOTS) approach with yet other potential advantages would be to enter into a long-term leasing arrangement with the USN whereby the RAN simply operated ten or twelve Virginia boats for a specified number of years (say 25) with the USN contracted to provide all, or most, of the logistic support within its own supply system.”

The big question is: will this approach get Australian submariners into nuclear submarines a decade or more sooner than waiting for Australian-manufactured boats?

With AUKUS comes reports from the UK that Britain will base some of its Astute-class nuclear attack submarines in Australia under the agreement to achieve a persistent presence in the Indo-Pacific.

The Times newspaper quoted unnamed UK government sources saying AUKUS opened opportunities for basing in Australia which could include deep maintenance, so boats did not need to return to their home port in Faslane, Scotland, for upkeep.

This is still a long way off, with The Times report saying this would happen once Australia began building a fleet of nuclear boats.

The report seems to indicate this would be more like extended deployments down under, rather than permanent basing of RN boats and their crews in Australia.

It would surely follow that this applies just as well to US submarines, which currently make only occasional port visits……

September 30, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war

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