Australian news, and some related international items

UK, US or a hybrid? Intense speculation as Australia’s $170bn nuclear submarine choice looms

Tory Shepherd Guardian, 6 Mar 23,

UK and Australian ministers have been hinting at a trilateral design for the eight boats, but all options are still on the table in Australia’s biggest defence purchase.

Australia is set to within a couple of weeks learn some basic details about a program that could cost more than $170bn and will run for decades.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, this week warned against opting for a new UK design. For now though, the Aukus submarine program is a “black box”, says Tom Corben, a foreign policy and defence research fellow at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre.

“We’re just speculating until we get the announcement,” he says, adding that the secret has been very well kept, considering the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is set to go to the US to announce it in March……………………………..

The US is currently building 19 Virginia class submarines (known as SSNs, the US classification code for nuclear-powered attack submarines – as opposed to SSBNs, which are nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines).

These are more than 140m long and require a crew of 132. They displace (or weigh) more than 10,000 tonnes and carry Tomahawk cruise missiles.

From the mid 2030s, the Virginia class will be replaced with the next-generation SSN(X). That “X” means the design hasn’t been finalised yet. The US navy has described it as an “apex predator” that will be faster, stealthier, and bristling with more weapons.

The UK’s Astute class also carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, which allow the submarine to hit targets 1,000kms away and send back images of the battlefield. It also has Spearfish torpedos designed to destroy enemy submarines.

It has a crew of about 100, is almost 100m long and has displacement of 16,000 tonnes.

The UK, too, is thinking about the next generation. The SSN(R), which is still being designed, will replace the Astutes………………..

These are not submarines that can be plucked “off the shelf” from some global supermarket. The newer ones, still in the design phase, are years away from even starting trials. The older ones are desperately needed by their own navies.


March 7, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war

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