[In 2014 then Prime Minister Tony Abbott] opted for the Japanese Soryu class. Uncharacteristically for Mr Abbott, this was both a wise choice and the best possible choice. That good work was undone by the perfidious Malcolm Turnbull and suddenly we were promised French vapourware. The French farce ground on before being abandoned last year. We now have an indefinite feeling towards nuclear-powered submarines, a proposal far more formless than the French one.
The solution to the submarine problem is to go back to the Soryu class; except so many years have passed that the Japanese have progressed to their next submarine class, the Taigei class with lithium batteries. We have run out of time to build them in Adelaide. If we take them off the Japanese production lines, we might get one per year. There is plenty of other work in Australia for welders, particularly in building coal-to-liquids plants to make us self-sufficient in diesel and jet fuel.
Unveiling of new Taigei submarine in 2020
To increase the range of the Japanese submarines, we should build a fueling station in Exmouth Gulf so that our submarines can top up on their way north. That would be a far cheaper solution than having larger submarines that can carry more fuel. If there is space on the British Astute class production line or the US Virginia class production lines for Australian submarines, we should take what we are offered. Plenty of other navies are capable of operating two or more classes of submarines, so should we also be capable of doing that. …
Past experience has shown that we should choose a mature design that was in the water and in service and minimize changes to it. That would reduce the risk that we would end up with a dud. So of course, in procuring a new fleet of frigates, we chose an immature design, the UK Type 26, and started making alterations to it — adding 2,000 tonnes to an 8,000 tonne design. Modelling of the new Australianised ship shows that it will be a dud. It seems that our naval leadership has a stubborn inability to learn.
The solution to our self-inflicted frigate problem is to choose the design the US Navy chose for their new frigates, which is their Constellation class based on the French-Italian FREMM design. …
The situation the RAN has got us into is having clapped out submarines and a minuscule surface fleet. But this being the third decade of the 21st century, we don’t need surface ships to sink enemy ships. The most cost-effective way to sink Chicom shipping is to use air-launched cruise missiles, and they don’t have to be launched from military-grade aircraft. There are now 140 passenger and cargo planes parked up at Alice Springs Airport, awaiting a new life. Most of them could be adapted to launch cruise missiles. They are Australia’s bomber fleet in waiting.
Boeing in 1980 had the idea of converting 747s to carry 72 cruise missiles on rotary racks and launch them from a port on the starboard side of the aircraft: …
Having chosen the most cost-effective weapon system for delivering anti-ship cruise missiles begs the next question: which cruise missile will they fire? A couple of years ago the Federal Government came to the belated realisation that missiles are the main consumable on the modern battlefield. Australia doesn’t produce missiles of any sort and it would be far better if we did. A number of corporate entities have been created to get some of the government money on offer, such as Australian Missile Corporation. But the Department of Defence has the cart before the horse. It should first determine the battlefield requirement and then seek out the designs that fill those niches.
Four Asian countries threatened by the Chicoms make their own cruise missiles: India, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. We should make at least three of their designs under licence for different mission profiles. The sooner all this starts, the better.
The Australian economy is almost as large as the Russian economy. Strategic circumstances are very different, but you’d think we could afford a better military. Perhaps we just have to be a bit smarter about it.