Marise Payne, Christopher Pyne hit back at report into $50bn subs plan

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Marise Payne, Christopher Pyne hit back at report into $50bn subs plan

Postby MikeJames » 27 Sep 2017 22:35

Marise Payne, Christopher Pyne hit back at report into $50bn subs plan
The Australian8:13PM September 27, 2017

The Turnbull government has hit back at a scathing independent report into the $50 billion plan for a fleet of French-built submarines, declaring it had been produced by “individuals who have no experience in designing, building or operating submarines”.

Commissioned by Sydney businessman Gary Johnston, who launched a push to torpedo the French-built submarines last year, the report from Insight Economics says the selected Shortfin Barracuda submarines carry “excessive costs” and come with strategic, economic, technical and industrial risks.

The report, Australia’s Future Submarine: Getting This Key Capability Right, urges the government to urgently move to acquire a fleet of military off-the-shelf submarines if Australia is to avoid a “very serious capability gap of several years”.

“The most immediate and possibly the biggest risk flowing from the decision to acquire the Shortfin Barracuda — a submarine that is yet to be designed, let alone built — is the inevitable long schedule for its delivery,” the report states.

“Even on the best possible scenario where everything goes according to present plans, the first Shortfin Barracuda becomes operational only in 2033, while the Collins Class submarines are scheduled to be progressively withdrawn at the age of 30, between 2026 and 2033. Even then, under these very benign circumstances where everything goes according to plan, the Navy will have only one submarine in 2034 and perhaps four by 2040. This capability is clearly inadequate.”

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne called the 11-page document a “hatchet job” while Defence Minister Marise Payne said it appeared to be a “beat up” rather than an authoritative contribution to the submarine capability discussion.

The ministers said the consistent advice from Defence and “actual experts in the field” was that there was no military off-the-shelf submarine options that met Australia’s “unique capability requirements”.

“Much of this report is inaccurate and not informed by the facts. The writers of this report have not been involved in the process of the tender or the projects since the tender was completed,” Mr Pyne said.

“The submarine project is on schedule; on budget and will deliver the most lethal and effective weapon in the navy in the 2030s as planned. The Collins Class life of type extension will ensure there is no capability gap in Australia’s submarine fleet.”

‘Buy off the shelf’

The report blames “both persuasions” of government, from the Rudd government through to the Turnbull government, for the “predicament in which we now find ourselves” and estimates a “whole of life cost” for the 12 new submarines, including the acquisition, sustainment and a possible life extension for the Collins Class, of $180bn.

Insight Economics says the question is not whether the Navy needs to renew its submarine capability but what would be the most appropriate type of sub and how many are needed.

While it notes the proposal to extend the life of the Collins class submarines to help maintain “some capability into the 2030s and perhaps beyond”, the report suggests acquiring an evolved version of a military off-the-shelf submarine “built at a fixed price and modified for Australian conditions and requirements”.

“To avoid long and fatiguing transits, this fleet of smaller submarines would be serviced by a tender (mother) ship that could operate much closer to the submarines’ area of operations,” it states.

“This option should cost under $10bn for a 30-year life; much less than (extending the life of the) the Collins option and for a submarine that would have a longer life and be less at risk of detection. Importantly, this approach would also offer an insurance policy if the Shortfin Barracuda program failed, in that more of the military off-the-shelf boats could be acquired. A Collins (life of type extension) would not offer this very important benefit.”

Senator Payne said a modified off-the-shelf submarine was an “oxymoron” and any suggestion the future submarines would not be in service until the 2040s was “uninformed scaremongering”.

“Submarines are among the most complex pieces of machinery on earth. Contrary to the claims made today, modifying an existing submarine to substantially extend its range would involve a complex and risky redesign process,” she said.

The report’s co-author Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University and a former deputy secretary for strategy at the Department of Defence, said he was not surprised by the government’s response.

“There’s a very serious risk, a very evident risk, that the project they now have underway to build a very sophisticated submarine in a very technically risky way is likely to deliver submarines too late after our present submarines are gone out of service,” he told Sky News.

The report argues the government took the “most risky option possible” when it chose the Shortfin Barracuda, which it labels a “new bespoke design”, and says there was “very little cabinet consideration of this enormous investment”.

“While the National Security Committee of Cabinet met five times to consider the Air Warfare Destroyer acquisition, which was basically a MMOTS (modified military-off-the-shelf) platform, ministers had only a very limited time around the Anzac Day long weekend to consider Defence’s much more complex, costly and risky FSM (future submarine) proposal,” the report states.

Mr Johnston, who owns Jaycar Electronics and runs a website for “those concerned about Australia’s future maritime defence”, said he decided to commission a “thorough investigation of the acquisition process” for the future submarine project after the government agreed last year to spend $50bn on the 12 new French subs.

He said the program will not be “regionally superior” as the waters to Australia’s north “teem with nuclear submarines in the 2030s”.

“In a time of a heightened strategic threat, we may lack any credible submarine capability for a decade or more. And it takes a long time to restore that capability, not just in terms of platforms but in retaining personnel and being able to train new people,” he said.

“The way forward would not require the government to change existing policy decisions.”

Mr Johnston said the Insight Economics team had consulted “very widely” with local and international strategic experts, admirals, former submarine commanding officers, engineers, shipbuilders and former defence officials to write up the report.

Insight Economics was founded in 2006 and says it is a consulting firm “uniquely focused on both public policy and corporate strategy”

Michael Keating, one of the firm’s directors who helped launch the report at the National Press Club today, is a former head of the Australian Public Service and secretary of three Commonwealth departments, including Prime Minister and Cabinet.
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Re: Marise Payne, Christopher Pyne hit back at report into $50bn subs plan

Postby MikeJames » 09 Oct 2017 19:37

OMFG!!! Reality from an article in The Australian, by Greg Sheriden even!

Let no one sink Australia’s super submarines

The Australian12:00AM October 7, 2017
Foreign EditorMelbourne

Our new submarines are under ­bizarre attack, the Collins subs have been officially rehabilitated and the future frigates have been assigned the most powerful missile defence systems in the world.

At a time when across the political divide in Australia, and across Asia, there are worries about whether Donald Trump represents a new unreliability in the US alliance system, we have never in peacetime more needed a powerful navy than now.

Our region is militarising. North Korea will soon be able to deliver nuclear payloads on intercontinental ballistic missiles. China is undertaking one of the biggest military build-ups in modern history. By 2030, one half of the world’s total submarines will be operating in our region.

Belatedly, but determinedly, and with seeming bipartisan support, we are now on a path to build the most formidable navy we have ever had in peacetime, and a navy that, for the first time in many decades, will give us a real self-defence capacity, a real strategic projection capacity, and which will also act as a massive force multiplier for the American alliance system in Asia.

The government announced this week that the nine future frigates, which we will start building in 2020, while still being configured for anti-submarine warfare, will all have the US Aegis Combat System, the world’s most advanced missile defence system.

They will join our three air warfare destroyers, which also have Aegis, giving us 12 surface combatants with the magnificent system of capabilities that the latest Aegis variant offers. These will join our two giant landing helicopter dock ships, which give us the ability to project force through the region in a multiplicity of ways.

And we will have 12 long-range, lethal submarines all with the AN/BYG-1 combat system, the best technology the mighty US Navy can produce.

The 12 Aegis surface ships and the 12 subs will all be built in Australia. That means they will cost more, but the Turnbull government, with the support of the Shorten opposition, is absolutely right to commit to building them in Australia.

This is for three compelling reasons.

One. If they don’t get built here, they won’t get built. This is a political reality. It is impossible to sustain upwards of $100 billion of naval expenditure across numerous political cycles if most of the money is going overseas.

Two. Building in Australia, if done properly, offers us the chance to create and sustain sovereign defence technology capacity of enormous benefit to us.

Three. The main reason building in Australia is so costly is because governments keep postponing or cancelling projects. That means every project undertaken in Australia is a virgin start-up. It is in the nature of all big, complex industrial projects that start-up costs are huge.

Whether he is your cup of tea or not, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne is in the process of transforming our strategic outlook and industrial prospects. The government’s efforts to create a naval shipbuilding industry based on “continuous build” across destroyers, frigates, submarines, offshore patrol vessels and the rest, means the start-up costs are only borne once.

If we have the wit as a nation to sustain our commitment to this program across the political cycles we will get the navy we need, a formidable domestic industry and sovereign technological capacity.

Bill Shorten and Labor’s defence spokesman Richard Marles, are deeply committed to national security and understand that both sides of politics bear some blame for the long, slow, ludicrously delayed start to the program to replace the Collins subs. And they are certainly just as committed to Australian jobs as the government is. So there is a fair chance that this might actually work.

But our political culture contains many nutty elements that conspire against good policy, as the quite ludicrous attacks on our submarine project in recent weeks demonstrate.

The Government is committed to building 12 new subs with the French Naval Group, formerly DCNS. They will start to come into service in the early 2030s. To avoid a capability gap in the meantime, the Collins-class subs will have their service extended.

The government has not yet decided how many Collins subs it will extend and for how long. The extension actually holds out the possibility of Australia building towards 12 subs earlier than forecast because it is possible that six Collins boats could be operational as new subs come into service.

The decision on the French boat followed an exhaustive competitive evaluation process and extremely energetic and detailed bids from the Japanese and the Germans. American submariners and the most senior military people were involved in advising Canberra that the French were the best option.

At the time I backed the Japanese on strategic grounds but the French, in alliance with Australia, will certainly build very good subs. Australia already has hundreds of people at work on the project including more than a dozen permanently stationed in France. This will rise to 50-odd government people before Christmas and Naval Group Australia will send nearly 100 Australians to France by the middle of next year to spend two or three years on design and development work, and learning the French techniques.

If anything, the project is ahead of schedule, with the hull dimensions already decided in detail. But it is coming under truly eccentric fire from a range of weird sources. A group of activists who hate the French option funded a report by Insight Economics which opposes the project root and branch and offers loopy alternatives. This report is several thousand words of semi-coherent fantasy with endless figures conjured from magic.

It has had a good run from commentators who don’t know anything about defence. For example, it states that extending the Collins will cost $15bn. But the government has not yet determined how many Collins it will extend, nor for how long, so any such figure is nonsense.

The report proposes instead buying or building six short-range French Scorpene-class subs. Its strategic illiteracy is epic. Short-range subs, even modified, and long-range subs are inherently different. Two shorts does not make one long. They do entirely different things and carry different weapons. It proposes modifying these subs to give them longer range and then setting up a mother surface ship to look after them far to Australia’s north.

This is strategic analysis at the level of Biggles books for dullards. Such a ship would be a sitting duck. At any time of tension it would need to be withdrawn, so the short-range subs would lose their notional long range just when it was needed.

The report, while damning the new Naval Group subs, says we should nonetheless go ahead with them, but also build the modified six short-range subs, and buy the mother ship, for the miracle cost of less than $10bn.

The whole thing is absolute ­baloney from start to finish. Many of the things the report says about the Naval Group’s future subs are also wrong. It is perplexing that in any big Australian project there is always such a dedicated constituency for making it fail.

Equally absurd is the related campaign by some that we should get nuclear subs. The nuclear sub is the better sub but no nation runs nuclear subs without a domestic nuclear industry. There is not a snowflake’s chance in hell of any political party establishing a nuclear industry in the next decade. But any politician who talks airily about nuclear subs can have no credibility without establishing an Australian nuclear industry.

Then there is the argument that soon all subs will be obsolete so we shouldn’t bother with them at all. How is it that this revolutionary military insight has passed the Americans by, not to mention the Chinese, the Russians, the British, the Indians and everyone else who are is acquiring subs?

If any of these nutty objections gets any traction, they can only create further delay, so that instead of getting new subs early in the 2030s we wait until the 2040s or beyond, and kill all chance of a continuous build industry.

Surely we have moved beyond this stage of national insanity.

The frigates, meanwhile, are almost as sexy as the subs. They are a $35bn project. They will have two roles, anti-sub warfare and missile defence. No one is fonder of missile defence than me, but at this stage we are talking about the frigates defending themselves, and perhaps ships in an associated task group, from missiles fired at them by other navies or air forces.

However, by committing now to the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system we give ourselves the capacity to upgrade to full ballistic missile defence capabilities. Not only that, but all the ships’ radars will be able to communicate with each other and with allies in what is known as co-operative engagement capability. Having 12 such ships — the frigates and the AWDs — would give us all kinds of capabilities.

It would also give us the ability to join seamlessly and lethally with our US allies, and with their Asian allies, Japan and South Korea. We would all be formidable force multipliers for each other in any joint contingency.

The three frigate bidders are Britain’s BAE Systems, Spain’s Navantia and Italy’s Fincantieri. All three have serious strengths. The British build magnificent anti-sub ships. Protecting their nuclear subs and their aircraft carrier from hostile subs is core business for them. Navantia would use the same hulls as the AWDs; the firm and its Australian collaborators, have learned a great deal from the AWD experience. Fincantieri is a formidable bidder. Its ships would have two helicopters to attack subs — a big factor.

Anti-submarine ships use a great deal of submarine-style technology to be ultra-quiet. This can be things like covering the hull with smooth, silent tiles, or all the technologies subs use to keep internal noise down. The balance of technology between the sub and the surface ship is shifting. The sub still has the advantage but ASW ships are much more in the game than has been the case previously.

Australians love working with the British navy, the Spanish are a familiar partner and themselves operate Aegis systems, the Italians produce a superb ASW ship.

It may be that the definition of the role of these ships changed marginally this week. When Malcolm Turnbull talked of them in the context of North Korea, he seemed to add greater weight to their missile defence capabilities. The government is determined not to diminish their anti-sub capabilities, but we may get more vertical missile pods, and deeper pods that can take the more formidable missile interceptors.

Although even the best of these interceptors at the moment would be tasked with hitting shorter-range ballistic missiles, their eventual ability to intercept even ICBMs should not be ruled out.

Australia has embarked on something of the utmost importance and with a chance of delivering benefit to our nation across several critical dimensions: military capability, economic base, sovereign defence technology.

The subs, and even the frigates, will inevitably face challenges along the road. But you can’t complete the longest road if you never start. It would be a tragedy if our perennial culture of naysaying, or political short-termism, doomed these efforts just as they, all too belatedly, get going.

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