Submarine blunder: time to cut our losses

Submarine blunder: time to cut our losses. By Robert Gottliebsen.

We finally face up to the submarine disaster

The last week of February 2021 has become landmark for the Australian nation. The federal government has decided to review the disastrous $220 billion plus submarine agreement with the French.

The original French plan for nuclear submarines like theirs would have been quite good, but Australia is too woke for nukes:

The French tender for the Australian submarine was led by the then minister for defence, socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian. Le Drian came to Brisbane in November 2014 with President Francois Hollande for the G20 meeting and a head of state visit.

Le Drian’s initial plan was to sell Australia France’s Barracuda nuclear submarine and to offer a link with the French nuclear industry, including fuel rod production, a nuclear energy reactor, and a desalinisation plant in Australia.

He soon discovered that, although the Australian Navy liked it, this plan had no hope of being sold to the Australians.

But out of that idea came a plan to use the much larger nuclear submarine hull with diesel electric rather than nuclear power, and the pump-jet rather than propeller system. It had never been done before and was high risk. …

The DCNS Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design is a conventionally-powered derivative of France’s nuclear-powered Suffren-class submarines.

It will never move off the computer screen and into real life

Hence the underpowered Australian design for technologically backward lead-acid batteries in 2040.

There is now not much of the [vision the French sold us] still on the table. Yes, the submarines will be assembled in Australia. But the giant collaborative research effort has become a French development where we make suggestions which are added to the cost if implemented. All too often we are presented with French suppliers and told the Australian suppliers are too expensive or don’t exist.

There are a series of content figures put on display for public consumption but they are dominated by the submarine assembly process. The content that counts is the provision of parts for the submarine where we want to develop a huge industrial base. Some of that is happening, but not nearly enough.

The whole contract never really stood up because the Americans do not trust the French and the French are designing a submarine which will take the American combat system. They don’t talk to each other.

It was never going to work and given the fact the first submarines won’t be available until mid-to-late 2030 and most will come after 2040, technology is moving on. Already new battery technologies are being developed. …

Just kill it already:

The French original proposal estimated a cost in 2016 dollars of below $25 billion. … The current forward estimate of cost is about $90 billion but I am told that it is likely to cost $130 billion and to that you must add the running costs, maintenance and upgrades which will take the cost way beyond the $220 billion figure I used in 2018.

By ending the contract now we minimise the financial damage.

Not before time. Incompetence is costing us a great deal of money, and more than just money if we get into a war.