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Posts Tagged ‘Defence Policy

Australian Submarine Strategy

Richard Fernandez is one of the very interesting writers over on the PJ Media site, focusing on matters of foreign policy, military and science in general. He also writes for a number of other publications.

The recent announcement of the AUKUS partnership saw him reaching into the past to grab an article that he wrote in 2013 but never published, Strategy and Submarines. It takes a detailed look not just at what Australia wanted to do with submarines but what they might have to do, as well as the technology itself.

Once the purpose is determined, then the correct tools can be chosen for the job. Thus, every acquisition must be viewed in the context of “what is it for”. Unless the ends are defined, nothing can be said about the proposed means. Buying naval vessels is a means to an end. The determination of ends is usually called strategy.  Unfortunately, the goals of Australian naval strategy are sometimes presented as a laundry list.

He points out that the problem with laundry lists is you cannot tell which is most important. There’s also the fact that global security changed rapidly, as he shows with links to Defence White Papers from 1976 (India, China and Japan pose no future security issue), and 2000 where, in the wake of the collapse of the USSR things looked comfortable and it was possible to imagine that Australia could go it alone.

What to do now (2013):

The choice of ends has a very definite effect upon the means. To defend Australia against powerful opponents “without relying on help from the combat forces of any other country” logically implies the adoption of the naval strategy of the weaker power.

Which is how they ended up with Collins Class submarines and then the deal for the French DIesel-Electric boats. They’re quiet boats but smaller and slower than the American SSN’s, which puts them at odds with the supposed new goals of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN):

But the lack of a definite strategic choice has given the submarine requirements a Jekyll and Hyde character. On the one hand, the conventional Collins-class boats are the stereotypical weapon of the weaker power, the 21st century equivalent of the submarine and naval mine, combining the mobility of a World War II sub with the quietness of a hole in the ocean. On the other hand, many of the envisioned RAN missions implicitly require cooperation with the United States and hence governed by the strategy of the dominant power.

There’s some very interesting stuff on the history of mines and other such “weaker power” stuff, including the WWII aerial mining of Japan which “In terms of damage per unit of cost, surpassed strategic bombing and the United States submarine campaign.” It was called Operation Starvation, which potential horror should be contrasted against military invasions and atomic bombs.

There’s a lot of detailed analysis of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines which, as good as they can be, run into problems when they are detected, as well as other issues:

AIP units often generate only as much power as a family sedan so that even banks of four produce 300 kw compared to the 30,000 kw of a Virginia class SSN. With that small output, the subs are limited to creeping along at about 2 or 3 knots.

That may be of little consequence in European scenarios, where submarines must only transit a short way to station before turning off their diesels and activating the AIP. But slow speed and the small hull sizes of European off-the-shelf subs are a bane for countries like Australia and Israel, which must send their subs great distances in what are essentially modified European coastal submarines.

The detection scenario can’t be dismissed as technology improves. The article goes into some detail about robotic submarines (unmanned underwater vehicles or UUVs) ) and how advanced they had become even by 2011. Small, cheap and plentiful they present a strong potential threat to small, stealthy submarines that just sit around in shallow waters waiting for targets. UUVs also will be networked together to form a sensor net across oceans, rather like the static SOSUS net the US used in the Atlantic during the Cold War, except this one is mobile.

Some versions called an Autonomous Undersea Vehicles (AUV and also dubbed “gliders”) are specifically designed to track conventional, stealthy submarines.

Liberdade class flying wings are autonomous underwater gliders developed by the US Navy Office of Naval Research which use a blended wing body hullform to achieve hydrodynamic efficiency. It is an experimental class whose models were originally intended to track quiet diesel electric submarines in littoral waters, move at 1–3 knots and remain on station for up to six months.

You can see why the Aussies started to have second thoughts about their $93 billion French purchase, even aside from all the production problems. There’s also another aspect of the future to be considered:

Given the increasing number of complex computerised systems being operated by modern submarines, another important concept is a submarine’s ‘hotel load.’ As SSGs are limited by the power stored in their batteries (which can only be recharged by surfacing), they strictly ration power among their systems.

SSNs are capable of generating and sustaining a much greater power output while submerged due to their nuclear reactor. This power output allows SSNs to carry a greater number of far more powerful sensors and systems (which increase sensor range and awareness), greatly increasing the flexibility, stealth and usefulness of SSNs.

As he puts it himself, his old analysis actually indicates how Australia has made this decision now. Although he didn’t make that forecast he pointed out the strategic thinking needed to make the decision, and it looks the Aussies went through that same process.

We had deep and grave concerns that the capability being delivered by the Attack-class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests and we had made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest. – Scott Morrison

Written by Tom Hunter

September 21, 2021 at 8:24 am

You Can Trust The ABC

Australia’s ABC carries an opinion piece in which the author, one Stan Grant, argues essentially Australia is wasting its time up grading its submarine fleet as China is already too far ahead and further that ‘the West’ is in no shape to take on an increasingly belligerent China.

Mr Grant seems to not understand the West might include some pretty powerful nations other than Australia and the US. Adolf can’t help but wonder what he would have written in early 1939 about ‘the West’s’ ability to take on Germany.

Anyway, I thought I should find out a bit about the ABC’s China expert and here he is.

Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes (cropped).JPG

As of 2021, he is Vice-Chancellor’s Chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. He has worked as an Australian television news and political journalist and television presenter since the 1990s. He is known for his writing on Indigenous issues, and has written and spoken extensively on his Aboriginal identity as a Wiradjuri man.

Australian tax payers cough up $1.2 billion dollars each year for the ABC to hire experts like this fellow.

Written by adolffinkensen

September 17, 2021 at 9:26 pm


The predictable (but nevertheless somewhat hysterical) reaction by Ardern following the announcement of the formation of AUKUS and that Australian is to acquire nuclear powered submarines that they would not be allowed in New Zealand waters (while ignoring the inconvenient fact that her government is relaxed about our frigates working with US Navy task-forces that include nuclear powered vessels) demonstrates yet again that, despite protestations to the contrary by both the NZL and Oz governments, our defence relationship with Australia remains strained.

Lets be very clear. Successive governments of all stripes and colours have begrudged every dollar spent on defence. We have always taken the minimalist approach and have happily demanded that the military do more with less. Our ‘combat’ Navy consists of two aging frigates (albeit substantially upgraded) with the reality being that we cannot guarantee we will have a ship available 24/7. Don’t be diverted by the two OPVs. The are not combat ships. They are ‘civilian spec’ ships more akin to coastguard type vessels and do not possess the redundancies found in warships. For the Army and they can deploy a ‘light’ battalion group (circa 500 strong) with all other units having to be stripped in order to maintain it for an extended period plus limited special forces elements. The RNZAF have 4xP8-A Poseidon aircraft on order to replace our 6xP3K2 Orion patrol/search aircraft and also 5xSuper Hercules due in 2024 to replace our 60 year old C-130 Hercules. Of the three services they are probably better placed to carry out their assigned roll.

My assessment is that the Labour Party has shifted left away from any form of collective defence and is comfortable in their own skin in doing so aided and abetted every step of the way by the Greens. It would be a bold person to suggest they will not win the next election in concert with the Greens made even more certain by National and ACT taking quiet potshots at each other over where they sit in the ideological spectrum. The lead-in time to replace our frigates has started and there are no signs that Labour is seized with the issue … and post 2023 and with a Labour/Greens government the issue is dead in the water. It it sits right now I see the RNZN being restructured to a coastguard type service built around OPVs (some ice strengthened) and I’m not sure the public will see this as something to worry over.

I well remember the time of the first Fiji coup when Lange mused about possible military intervention only to be told by the then Chief of Defence that any intervention ran a substantial risk of failure. It’s what happens when you run the military on a beer budget. Can I suggest not too much has changed or is likely to change.

Written by The Veteran

September 17, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Listen to The Greenies and The Frogs Squeal

Australia has ditched its ridiculous contract with a French company for the construction of a fleet of obsolete diesel submarines, ready for service after the next war is lost. In a ground breaking decision, American designed NUCLEAR submarines will be built in Adelaide.

Australia will acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines in a once-in-a-generation decision that will deliver the nation unprecedented strike capability and require a significant boost to Defence spending.

The new nuclear boats will be delivered under a historic Defence technology partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom – called AUKUS – to meet rising Chinese strategic threats.

The submarines will cost more than the estimated $90 billion price tag for the now-cancelled French-designed Attack-class submarines.

Australian greenies are screaming.

French boat builders are moaning.

New Zealand is ignored. China can have the place.

Written by adolffinkensen

September 16, 2021 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Australia, Military

Tagged with , ,


Got a call this morning from a veteran who asked me if I thought NZ First’s promise to raise the Veteran’s pension by 10% over and above that of NZ Superannuation would be implemented before Xmas.

Had to disabuse him of that … nice the thought but I put it in the same basket as the NZ First promise to res-erect the combat air force axed by Labour with the decision facilitated by wannabe Ron Mark when he went rogue and signed up to the Defence Beyond 2000 Report which said NZL could not afford it.

Promises made when you’re in Opposition have a habit of coming back to bite.

Written by The Veteran

October 25, 2017 at 8:54 pm