The delays haven't been to our favour, they are entirely detrimental. Instead of replacing Collins with 12 new submarines we will end up with 6 refurbished Collins. We need new subs in the next couple of years...not sometime after 2032, 2034...36, 38 whatever it is now.
Yes and no on the timing. The American's are basically in a continuous production run of their submarines, for example there are 19 x Virgina's, we have 6 x Collin's. As it was Planning for their replacement started in Dec 2007.
I'm certainly no expert in the field of submarines, but I'd be interested to know from those more knowledgeable what would be the best choice submarine to meet Australia's strategic interests, whether nuclear or diesel-electric, without being overly influenced by an alleged direct threat from China or wishing to tie ourselves to the US strategic interests? This is aside from the contractual commitments we had with the French. Do we really need to adopt a forward defence strategy with long range submarines, just to appease the US, rather than focusing on our own backyard?What should have happened was the Howard Government starting the program for the Collins replacement in the 2000s whilst the last Collins were still being built. In naval shipbuilding you cannot just say "job done" after building your last boat then start the process for selecting a replacement five years later.
A Son of Collins would have been the ideal replacement to come on board around 2024-2026. Basically Collins, but larger. This would have plugged the gap between then and the time a new SSN could be procured.
Had Tony Abbott not been dumped, we would have more than likely now have a contract with the modified version of the Soryu, however rightly that contract never proceeded. Had the French played ball with the Baracuda, we wouldn't be here now and the likely outcome being that the last 6 boats in the order converted to nuclear propulsion.
So have the delays been to our favor?
We have achieved the worst outcome possible after 13 years since the 2009 whitepaper...except saved money by not building anything so far.
Given Collins were due to begin decommissioning around 2024-2026 and the first of the Barracudas were not to enter commission until at least 2032 and the 2009 defence whitepaper called for a doubling of the fleet size to 12...there is literally room for a whole other class of 6 subs between Collins and Barracuda.
This Son of Collins could have replaced the Collins in the 2020s and then supplemented the Barracudas (or now whatever SSN we get) into the late 2040s.
Alternatively we could have gone with Son of Collins and also given the Collins the life extension...and got to that 12 sub fleet much earlier.
The whole thing is screwed.
Agree things havn't gone well and left gaps.
But consider the senarios'
- Had Abbott's proposal been approved, we'd have 12 x Japanese diesel subs in progress now
We are now saying diesel subs are no suited to our needs
- The Japanese Soryu class is half the weight requested by the Navy white paper and the Japanese offered a larger variant
Double the weight is hardly a simple "Scale up" and likely just as complex as converting the French nuc to diesel
- Additionally had a number of other defiiciences indentified by the Navy including the Japanese military suppliers not used to working with foreigners.
So would this have been another disastor project. It would appear the only way to be semi successful would be building off-shore. So where is the domestic expertise in maintaing and future upgrades?
Yes we would have got the subs on time, but wrong propulsion, questionable in performance and no onshore skills or if built on shore no doubt a long series of issues i getting there.
In 2012, the review gave the Collins another maintainence cycle, yes I know it was probably not a review rather than an instruction.
Potentially yes we should have proceeded with the orginal plan of a 7th and 8th or even more Collin's or as you call it Son of Collin when it was obvious the delays were coming.
However the outcome is not all screwed up.
- We don't have diesels long-term
- We are not dealing the French or Japanese
- The strategic gap is likely to be resolved by US operating Viginia class out of Australia, especially Perth."the deal could also involve American nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines operating out of HMAS Stirling in Perth"
Along with a number of other US bases on Australian soil as other activities.