Politics threatens to force disastrous submarine decision

Politics threatens to force disastrous submarine decision, by Robert Gottliebsen.

Accepting the $220 billion plus French submarine proposal threatens to be the worst financial and defence decision in our history.

Full praise to Defence Minister Christopher Pyne for refusing the sign the contract. The nation’s great fear is that the political pressure to sign, as the election looms, will force him to make a disastrous decision for the nation.

Australia has far better and far cheaper submarine alternatives.

It’s only when you look at how the original deal was done that you realise why the capital costs have risen from $50 billion to $90 billion (even before it starts) plus the fact that add-ons take the total outlay to $220 billion plus, albeit over several decades. …

We now know that there are the gravest possible doubts about the technology behind the submarine, which looks like a $220 billion white elephant. …

Because our submarine is still being designed cost estimates are rough. Nevertheless in 2016 defence people told all the journalists that the $50 billion cost estimate was after adjusting for inflation. Even so it was more than double the $20 billion firm tender from Germany.

But, as I pointed out last week, five dramatic words – -“on a constant price basis” — from Rear Admiral Gregory Sammut changed the $50 billion cost to around $90 billion. To that we add maintenance costs to take us to around $220 billion. Most importantly we are now negotiating with the industrial rather than the political wing of the French system.

I don’t know the reason for the cost boost but I suspect that’s the extra cost of building the first two submarines in Australia.

But we have also hit the technology problem. Aidan Morrison’s detailed research paper showed that the while the pump-jet system works well with nuclear submarines at the slow pace required for diesel electric it fails. …

Meanwhile conventional diesel-electric submarines have achieved dramatic breakthroughs including advanced composite propellers, air-independent propulsion, and lithium-ion batteries, which won’t be included in the Australian submarine because of the pump-jet!