Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Australian Submarine Report

The report "Australia's Submarine Design Capabilities and Capacities: Challenges and Options for the Future Submarine" was released 13 December 2011 by the Minister for Defence. Also available is a Summary of the report and a media release from the Minister.

RAND estimates Australia will need 1,000 skilled personnel to design and supervise the construction of 12 new, conventionally powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. They point out such a workforce does not currently exist, but suggest it could be built up over the next two decades and if a partnership is made with overseas submarine builders fewer personnel will be needed.

RAND was not asked to consider if Australia should have 12 new submarines, if it was a good idea to build them in Australia, or if submarines of the size and capability were feasible. RAND was just asked if Australia had the technical capability to build diesel submarines in general. In my view, the long range strategic strike submarine proposed are not technically feasible, not affordable and have questionable military rationale.

The RAND report points out that Australia could build up the expertise to design and construct submarines. But there is no military or industrial rationale for developing such a skills base. There is no prospect of Australia building submarines for other countries. There is no point in training 1,000 personnel for a few dozen long term design jobs needed for maintaining the Australian submarines.

I suggest RAND be commissioned to undertake two further studies: what type and number of submarines would suit Australia's strategic circumstances? and should the submarines should be built in Australia? I suggest the studies are likely to show that six smaller, overseas built, off the shelf submarines, along with submarine tenders ships, would meet Australia's requirements at a far lower cost.

Rather than enlarge an existing submarine design, Australia should shrink its requirements to something which is technically feasible and affordable. The requirement for patrolling at oceanic distances, carrying a large load of ready to fire torpedoes, strategic strike missiles and special forces personnel is beyond any current conventional submarine and would tax the capabilities of even large nuclear powered submarines. Instead the submarines should be optimized for their primary mission, which is surveillance and then be able to undertake one secondary role at a time.

The requirement to be able to transit thousands of kilometers from Australia would require a very large submarine to carry enough fuel and food for the crew. Instead submarine tenders could be used for resupply in friendly waters (transport ships such as HMAS Choules could be used for this).

Current conventional submarine designs could be used, such as the DCNS Scorpene (France), HDW Type 212 and Type 214 (Germany), Navantia S-80 (Spain). Relatively minor changes would be needed to these designs for tropical conditions and to remove most torpedo tubes to make room for stores. These designs would then be suitable for all of the roles envisaged, by reconfiguring the weapons, stores and accommodation on board for each mission.

In the mid-2020s, the Royal Australian Navy plans to retire the oldest of its Collins-class submarines. Australia intends to acquire 12 new submarines to replace the Collins-class vessels. The Australian Department of Defence asked RAND to assess the domestic engineering and design skills that industry and the government will need to design the vessels, the skills that they currently possess, and ways to fill any gaps between the two. Although Australian industry has numerous technical draftsmen and engineers, few have experience in submarine design, and their availability may be limited due to demands on their time from other programs. The researchers concluded that (1) using this inexperienced domestic workforce instead of a fully experienced one to design the new submarine would lengthen the time it would take to complete the design by three to four years and would increase the costs by about 20 percent, (2) adding submarine-experienced personnel from abroad would shorten the schedule and lessen the cost increase, and (3) taking 20 years rather than 15 years to design the submarine would reduce the peak demand for designers and draftsmen.

Document Details

  • Availability: Available
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 310
  • List Price: $42.00
  • Price: $33.60
  • ISBN/EAN: 9780833050571
  • Document Number: MG-1033-AUS
  • Year: 2011
  • Series: Monographs


  1. Introduction

  2. Submarine Design Skills and Processes

  3. Predictions of Future Demand: Estimates of Manpower Required to Design the Future Submarine

  4. Government Demand: Estimates of Manpower Required to Oversee and Manage the Design of the Future Submarine

  5. Facilities and Tools Required to Design a Modern Submarine

  6. Measuring Supply: Survey Overview

  7. Design Personnel, Facilities, and Software Tools Available in Australian Industry

  8. Design Personnel, Facilities, and Software Tools Available Within the Australian Government

  9. Design Personnel, Facilities, and Software Tools Available in Australian Academic Institutions

  10. Specifying Australia's Submarine Design Resources Gap and Defining Options to Close It

  11. Evaluating Options for Closing the Industry-Specific Skilled Design Personnel Gap

  12. Evaluating Options for Closing the Government-Specific Personnel Gap

  13. Evaluating Options for Closing Skill Gaps That Exist Across Industry, Government, and Academia

  14. Conclusions and Policy Considerations
  1. Operational Safety Considerations

  2. Workload Profiles by Skill

  3. Implementing the Integrated Product and Process Development Approach

  4. Submarine Design Tools

  5. Domestic Submarine Design Capability Survey

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