The subs, a small price for having a big brother


I am not onside with much of what Paul Keating said about China and the subs. Nonetheless, the idea of making UK-designed nuclear subs in South Australia from the 2040s onwards seems like pie-in-the-sky. Ironically, they will need to made from electricity produced by the wind and sun; both ends of the evolutionary progress of energy represented in the one time and place. Unless, hopefully, the whole green-energy house of cards has collapsed by then, before it can ruin the nation.

I can see advantage in having more frequent visits of US (and UK) nuclear subs. Anything which cements the alliance is good. Clearly that’s the main advantage of AUKUS. The US alone potentially stands between independent us and becoming a Chinese vassal state. Also, buying ready-made second-hand Virginia Class subs from the US seems like an excellent idea. It’s only when we get to the making part that everything falls apart. Still, that part is so long and many elections away that it certainly won’t happen. Like Chris Bowen’s 82 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030; like Scott Morrison’s net zero by 2050. Real life disrupts dreaming.

Of course, there is an option to relying on the Americans and thus buying into every bloodletting, treasure-wasting, absent-end game overseas adventure in which they engage, without ever declaring war.

That option is the Israeli option. That would require Australia to not only have nuclear power plants offshore in subs but onshore to keep the lights on. A novel thought. The next step would be to do a bit of enrichment and refuse to confirm or deny that we possessed nuclear weapons.

Short of that, we need a big brother to keep us safe. If that costs a few hundred million [Ed. oops! billions] on subs, and means partnering the US in every one of its misbegotten conflicts in every misbegotten part of the world, so be it. That’s the high price of freedom in a world which contains as many barbarians as it ever did.


22 responses to “The subs, a small price for having a big brother”

  1. bespoke Avatar
    bespoke

    partnering the US in every one of its misbegotten conflicts in every misbegotten part of the world, so be it. That’s the high price of freedom in a world which contains as many barbarians as it ever did.

    The ones on the pointy end including US personal may not feel the same.

  2. Ed Case Avatar
    Ed Case

    Um, Peter …

    Short of that, we need a big brother to keep us safe. If that costs a few hundred million on subs, and means partnering the US in every one of its misbegotten conflicts in every misbegotten part of the world, so be it. That’s the high price of freedom in a world which contains as many barbarians as it ever did.

    It’s a few hundred Billion, $368 Billion last Monday, to be precise.
    Still good value to be kowtowing to a Nation that can, and will, abandon us at whim?

  3. Bluey Avatar
    Bluey

    If that costs a few hundred million on subs, and means partnering the US in every one of its misbegotten conflicts in every misbegotten part of the world, so be it. That’s the high price of freedom in a world which contains as many barbarians as it ever did.

    Exactly how reliable is the US as an ally when they’ve been tested in the last 50 years? Without even touching the stuff they’ve done like “regime change” in places like Slovakia. See https://twitter.com/FistedFoucault/status/1636529455463030784

  4. Perplexed of Brisbane Avatar
    Perplexed of Brisbane

    I’d prefer it if we bought them outright with no strings attached. Happy to pay with money, not with our sons lives.

    Of course we don’t have anywhere near the nuclear know how and industrial set up to handle the whole process. But we could if we started working on it now.

    I still like the idea of the Japanese boats. They might be good on our continental shelf. I like the idea of a couple of Boomers but they might be a stretch too far. Land based nukes might be our best bet.

  5. Mark from Melbourne Avatar
    Mark from Melbourne

    5 Virginia boats is a remarkably good start, no matter where you’re heading.

    Credit where it is due, this is a nice piece of work by Albo & Co. The Nutballs, it would seem, are grudgingly happy with the “tradeoff” for “jerbs”. If we just decide to pay 20,000 or so Adelaide families $200k pa for 20 years it will cost us less than $100bn. Cheap… they can learn to code. That will happen, suitably disguised, in true Sir Humphrey style… forever. Still cheap.

    If things really get hot, a few Japanese boats (off the shelf) would be an excellent idea.

    I can’t see a role for nukes as strategic weapons. We have a LOT of continent, a LONG way from anywhere. If we can’t defend that without strategic weaponry we really aren’t trying.

  6. Damon Avatar
    Damon

    “We have a LOT of continent, a LONG way from anywhere. If we can’t defend that without strategic weaponry we really aren’t trying”

    Get real. The Chinese could take over WA tomorrow, and what could we do? We have virtually no army, the promise of a few subs (sometime), and some outdated fighter jets. No manufacturing base and a haphazard electricity supply.They probably don’t do it because they simply don’t want it (at the moment).

  7. Perplexed of Brisbane Avatar
    Perplexed of Brisbane

    Mark from Melbournesays:
    March 18, 2023 at 8:38 pm

    I can’t see a role for nukes as strategic weapons. We have a LOT of continent, a LONG way from anywhere. If we can’t defend that without strategic weaponry we really aren’t trying.

    Apart from the deterrent effect (how successful it would be I don’t know), I like them from the point of view of sheer spite. China could take us over and destroy us completely. I’d like a sort of Dead Hand scenario where they are launched and won’t cause their defeat because we wouldn’t have enough but would give them an almighty kick in the nuts to remember us by.

  8. Cliff Boof Avatar
    Cliff Boof

    “The subs, a small price for” kick-starting a nuclear power generation industry in Australia.

  9. Mark from Melbourne Avatar
    Mark from Melbourne

    Get real. The Chinese could take over WA tomorrow, and what could we do? We have virtually no army, the promise of a few subs (sometime), and some outdated fighter jets. No manufacturing base and a haphazard electricity supply.They probably don’t do it because they simply don’t want it (at the moment).

    Yes, of course they *could*. The trick is surely to make it not worthwhile. Distance and area are a nice head start. Think of outrunning the other guy in a bear attack… easy enough in theory to nuke half a dozen cities. Then what? Or, alternatively, garrison a continent?

    Capable subs and submariners on a reasonable, defined, schedule are a very good step… if we can expand that to a few “spare” reactors (“welded shut” of course!) and extension cords, we’d be well placed, given the circumstances we now find ourselves in.

  10. eli Avatar

    US doesnt have the capacity to produce the Virginia Class boats the USN needs . And the USN also is presently unable to support the Virginias (all 5 configurations or “Blocks”) to achieve the required operational availability and capability. There seems to be suggestion within the sketchy AUKUS roadmap that Australian investment will be required to get US Virginia industry capacity where it needs to be. So there seems a lot of creek still to rise on this whole notion.
    eli

  11. billie Avatar
    billie

    What is it people think our submarine fleets over many decades, have been doing?

    They are armed with the humble torpedo.

    They have no missiles, no nukes or even conventional guns.

    They are surveillance platforms, plain and simple.

    What are US and UK subs?

    Scary weapons platforms, stand off missiles and nukes.

    We have no culture of using such platforms and will not learn overnight.

    Another folly, another stupid Australian attempt to step up too quickly, in the belief our “allies” will help us.

    Like the USA never gave us the full capability of the F/A-18 Aircraft Radar.

    We’d be better off buying off the shelf, Japanese or such, submarines.

    Every Australian defence program has an “Australianism” to it, a variant because we’re so smart and special – and it always comes to grief.

    We will never learn it seems .. and here we go again.

  12. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    Short of that, we need a big brother to keep us safe.

    Heads up…the US is unlikely to play that role “going forward” through this century.

    By all means cooperate in the meantime, but if we’re not making contingency plans for our defence sans the US we’re not a serious nation.

  13. Dot Avatar

    I can’t see a role for nukes as strategic weapons. We have a LOT of continent, a LONG way from anywhere. If we can’t defend that without strategic weaponry we really aren’t trying.

    One nuke in Bejing, Shanghai and on the biggest dams, power stations and military bases, party HQ and next fifty biggest cities is a significant deterrent.

    200 nukes. It’s dirt cheap.

    They are armed with the humble torpedo.

    They have no missiles, no nukes or even conventional guns.

    That’s not true. They can carry sea mines and sea launched version C Harpoon ASMs.

    Like the USA never gave us the full capability of the F/A-18 Aircraft Radar.

    We also never upgraded to F/A18Cs but we got Super Hornets.

    We’d be better off buying off the shelf, Japanese or such, submarines.

    How will we get off the shelf Japanese subs without rent seekers clipping the tickets?

  14. Dot Avatar

    By all means cooperate in the meantime, but if we’re not making contingency plans for our defence sans the US we’re not a serious nation.

    Correct.

    We’re “safe” as long as we have 3,000 marines rotating through Darwin and B-1 bombers landing and refueling intermittently, but we pay the price of tribute to adventurism like in Iraq and more justifiably (to start with) in Afghanistan.

    Nukes
    Conventional forces (flexible size and platforms as needed)
    Task forces and rapid deployment
    Special forces including counter terrorism
    Drones
    Large scale defensive mining
    Reserve forces
    Organised militia
    Unorganised militia

    Effective and affordable is the goal.

  15. Perplexed of Brisbane Avatar
    Perplexed of Brisbane

    Rogersays:
    March 19, 2023 at 8:24 pm
    Short of that, we need a big brother to keep us safe.

    Heads up…the US is unlikely to play that role “going forward” through this century.

    By all means cooperate in the meantime, but if we’re not making contingency plans for our defence sans the US we’re not a serious nation.

    Completely agree.

    We are paying the price of agreeing to nuclear non-proliferation with America providing the nuclear umbrella in return for us not developing our own nukes. It worked a treat……

    I have doubts as to whether the USA would launch on our behalf and now NK, India, Pakistan and Israel have nukes with Iran likely to in the near future.

    Our cultural cringe will be the death of us.

  16. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Dotsays:
    March 19, 2023 at 11:36 pm
    By all means cooperate in the meantime, but if we’re not making contingency plans for our defence sans the US we’re not a serious nation.

    Correct.

    We’re “safe” as long as we have 3,000 marines rotating through Darwin and B-1 bombers landing and refueling intermittently, but we pay the price of tribute to adventurism like in Iraq and more justifiably (to start with) in Afghanistan.

    Unless there is a marked change in the legal environment, no more contributions to “Coalitions of the Willing”.

    Nukes

    A long term project, but not a panacea.

    Conventional forces (flexible size and platforms as needed)

    Does “conventional” equal “regular”? Not sure what “flexible size” means. The force as a whole, or the deployable elements?

    Assuming the latter, a mix of regular armoured/mechanised battle (battalion-sized) groups, and motorised battle groups and (company) sized teams. Trained to operate in formed brigades, but also to operate independently.

    Task forces and rapid deployment

    Means what?

    Special forces including counter terrorism

    As now exist.

    Drones

    Yes, including armed submersible drones.

    Large scale defensive mining

    Large scale mining becomes very expensive and a pain to manage. Focus on choke points, and cover with missiles to hamper clearing by an enemy.

    Reserve forces
    Organised militia
    Unorganised militia

    Focus reserve forces on capabilities to block defiles and on harassment in areas overrun by an invader. Defence, counter-attack, demolitions, withdrawals to the next defile. Exact a high price in blood and equipment, then withdraw to fight another day.

    Leave combined arms attacks to mobile regular forces.

    Effective and affordable is the goal.

    Indeed. The best is the enemy of good enough.

  17. Eyrie Avatar
    Eyrie

    We have the choice, become a vassal nation to China or the USA. I’d like the independent option but I don’t see any political will.
    The submarines is an expense we don’t need.
    Start by building up reserves of onshore liquid fuels. I hear we might get a good deal from the Russians right now.
    Then, forget the Green rubbish and rebuild our cheap reliable electricity grid by building more coal fired power stations.
    Institute a couple of chairs of Nuclear Engineering at two leading Australian Universities with the aim of future nuclear power and weapons.
    Rebuild our aviation industry both civilian and military. Will require reigning in CASA.
    Declare the power generation, fuel storage and nuclear industries Essential. No strikes, go slows, work to rule campaigns will be tolerated. Nor will demonstrator blockades. VicPIG now have experience with that sort of thing.
    Then we can start to worry about combat toys.

  18. billie Avatar
    billie

    They are armed with the humble torpedo.

    They have no missiles, no nukes or even conventional guns.

    *That’s not true. They can carry sea mines and sea launched version C Harpoon ASMs.

    Like I said, they have no missiles and saying they could do this or that or something else is just more government propaganda.

    Q – Do we have any sea mines or C Harpoon ASMs?

    Like the USA never gave us the full capability of the F/A-18 Aircraft Radar.

    *We also never upgraded to F/A18Cs but we got Super Hornets.

    So what? Did we get the additional Radar capability with the Super Hornets? No, we just got an upgrade because RAAF wanted newer toys, with no additional capability and all to ensure exchange postings with the USAF for our precious RAAF officer class.

    We’d be better off buying off the shelf, Japanese or such, submarines.

    *How will we get off the shelf Japanese subs without rent seekers clipping the tickets?

    Rent Seekers, so what? We pay enough rent seekers now, at least we could have bought off the shelf with zero development, that’s what always kills Australian programs – the “special” Australian features. You reckon there was not a conga line of rent seekers on the French submarine deal for a boat that didn’t actually exist?

    We will not get a USN Submarine in the exact configuration that they use, it will be changed – there is stuff on those boats that the Americans will never share. The multiple redundant comms systems for a start, we don’t even have a way to use them even if they gave them to us.

    So it will be modified and we know full well from experience, that we will have an orphan configuraiton and impossible to support over time.

    The Japanese boat was a good deal.

  19. Kneel Avatar
    Kneel

    “Effective and affordable is the goal.”

    This is what we (Australia) is actually good at – we should leverage it.
    That is: taking what is off the shelf and re-purposing it with slight modification to do what needs to be done; cobbling together what we have to do what we need it to do. Better than “good enough” because in many cases, it is unexpected.

    EG:
    Over-the-horizon back-scatter RADAR. No-one had it, we invented it.
    CIWS (radar guiding gattling gun) – no-one had it, we invented it.
    Both given to the US DoD.
    I’m sure there is more that we could do – in fact, I’d be surprised if many of the “coal face” people haven’t already had several ideas that never got even attempted, but would work a treat with a little work. If only one in ten such ideas work, then as above, they are invaluable because they are an unexpected capability.

  20. Dot Avatar

    If we buy a weapons platform and refuse to buy munitions for it, it is our own fault, not the supplier’s.

    The Soryu’s carry UGM Harpoons as well. Okay do we trash them too because we still haven’t bought any for the Collin’s class subs?

  21. Dot Avatar

    Those apostrophes are an abomination!

  22. Louis Litt Avatar

    Eyrie 20/3 @ 9.35

    Re aeroplanes and power stations, this has to come with non union labour.

    In your opinion what are the Collins subs use .
    There is a lot of negativity about these subs.

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