They never learn

Once again the people who are in charge of the development of Australia’s future submarine are saying the same things that got them into trouble in the past.

In the Weekend Australian Oct 29-30 2016, Rear Admiral Stephen Johnson (US Navy retired) claimed that, anyone who says that you can’t put a diesel engine into a nuclear submarine design doesn’t know what they are talking about.  Mr. Johnson now has the job as General Manager, Submarines, in the Australian Defence Depts Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG.)  Of course he would say that.

He further claims that many aspects of the future diesel design, e.g. cooling and generation systems, galley arrangements, hydraulic steering, (etc) will be similar.  He does not mention that over 22,000 pages of sensitive classified information on DCNS submarines have been leaked to the public allegedly by disgruntled ex-employees.  So much for security!

They are tarred with the same brush.

Rear Admiral Greg Sammut, head of the Future Submarine program at CASG notes that (the submarine),  ..”it’s a new design because no existing design meets our requirements.”  (Echoes of the SeaSprite fiasco.)

He also said, “it’s going to take a period to get sufficient design maturity before we start construction.”

What they do not understand is this:

Australia cannot afford the luxury of a custom-designed submarine. Why?

  • Because there is NO TIME to do this.
  • By their public statements, Defence Dept have admitted that the design (even if they manage to fit a diesel piston engine to a nuclear sub) will take 15 years at least including testing and evaluation
  • By the best estimate the deeply flawed Collins class submarines will be worn out completely by 2025. They may not even last that long.
  • A decision by our Defence Dept to build a custom designed Future Submarine should have been made about 15 years ago. This would have been right in the middle of the SeaSprite custom helicopter fiasco and politically difficult.  So they sat on their hands for 15 years.  This is woefully delinquent.
  • We will now have a situation where, if the Defence Dept and their cronies have their way we will be without a front line submarine fleet for at least 15 years. That’s like owning a house in a dodgy neighbourhood without a front door.

A common management mistake in the sporting world is to make “Managers” out of people who have retired from sport.  Frequently these people are hopelessly unqualified for the job, and are only hired in the first place out of “loyalty.”

Note that the “Management” in the case of the Future Submarine project are ex-boat drivers.  They have no actual expertise in project management but get a job anyway.

It is these hopelessly out-of-their depth people who are tasked with the job of spending $50 billion of taxpayers money.

Worse, they have no sense of urgency, because they have only ever worked in bureaucracy.

The potential gap of up to 20 years in a front line submarine fleet is the massive consequence of the absolutely inept Dept of Defence.

Gary Johnston
Submarines For Australia


6 thoughts on “They never learn”

  1. Australia is hiring a US Los Angeles class nuclear powered attack submarine commander to manage the building of our last century dinosaur diesel powered canoes that submerges now and then for a short period. They are not true submarines that can submerge for months on end and cruise at 30 knots and can be as silent as any submarine built with no need for cooling pumps at slow speed or stationary.
    Rear Admiral Johnson wouldn’t know the first thing about archaic diesel electric technology having been experienced in nuclear power plants for all his working life. He is the product of a modern navy. Australia is expecting him to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. How can he cope with the thought that these semi submarines will be being pushed backward by strong ocean currents probably as often as they go forward when travelling submerged at 4 to 5 knots?
    Any honest advisor would be considering pooling resources with the US to establish a Virginia production line in Australia and Japan to produce Block 5 Submarines that will carry 40 cruise missiles with a fire and forget range of over a thousand miles.
    Japan needs nuclear powered submarines with cruise missiles as well as its Soryu class submarines. Australia is a perfect fit for the tremendous advantages nuclear power gives to a submarine.
    Japan could build 15 submarines, Australia 10 submarines and they could mesh fully with the 35 Virginia submarines the US intends to build.
    This is what you call trilateral cooperation and anything less is just pussyfooting around the edges.

  2. I agree with what you are saying. I saw you on Paul Murray Live and went straight to your website. I understand that you are busy businessmen, but as far as an opinion goes, why don’t you/someone go straight to the submariners for their advise.

    I know for a fact, in the Air Force, you ask any Aircraft/Avionics Technician about the (single engine) F-35 and they answer, it’s a waste of time and money, and how long will it be before we crash one due to mid-air engine failure (whether it be mechanical, electrical, or pilot fault).

    Most people and submariners I have talked to all agree about nuclear powered submarines over diesel, but some (now) pen pusher (ex-serving or not) have mistakenly decided the latter.

    You know as well as I do, the gap will be filled by;

    A – extending the life of the Colin’s Class, and
    B – (possibly after a catastrophic failure) go down the expensive path of leasing for a short term.

    I do believe in Australian jobs etc. but when it comes to (particularly) defence contracts, they will arrive over time and well over budget. Ex-Prime Minister Abbott said himself, “…I wouldn’t trust them to build a canoe…”

    In particular to defence, too many decisions are made by people/ministers etc, with absolutely no idea about what the end user requires. There was a joke email circulating on how to procure a new Military Working Dog. In a nutshell, the member asks for a new dog, they procure a cat and modify, rebuild, add to and try to ‘create’ a dog that isn’t fit for the task, all while trying to save money, but then blowing out due to mods and upgrades. No one ever consults the actual mechanics/electricians/maintenance engineers/end-users. The defence typically only asks the “Generals,” but the fact of the matter is, they haven’t been apart of the working force for quite sometime.

    The Japanese and Germans (both previously and enemy to the allied forces) are world class engineers, particularly in submarines, but now the deal is made, what leg does Australia stand on to even attempt to change out the contract. What an international debarkle it would create.

    I’m sorry I’ve had to sign my name as anonymous, but could you please respect my decision.

  3. I suppose one should first ask the question, what are we trying to achieve with this small class of submarine. It desperately needs to be openly discussed for public realization, that buying this toy will do little for the protection of this country from any real threat from a major power. If you want to scare off some canoes then go ahead. The submarines of the previous wars were diesel powered so theirs the first stumbling block for rethinking the situation. If you compared the Collins or this new purchase in size and ability to a real Submarine (nuclear powered) people would be amazed and some of those vessels have now been around for decades and still operational.
    There seems to be a kids game going on of trying to convince the public that this class of submarine is in the same league as what the big guys have got afloat. The fact is we are a 1st world country by default and cant afford to buy into the real hardware required. We may get to build something at the end of the day, but as we physically dont make anything, every nut and bolt including the spanners, will most likely have to be purchased overseas. The whole episode is uninspiring and the country needs at this time in history, to appreciate if nothing else, its true allies who have right now, in the open seas, submarines with clout, and not try and punch above its weight. Let the truth be out.

  4. The problem for a nuclear powered submarine is the reactor. Not the radiation or some kind like this but the size. The smallest possible size is today the French Suffren-/Barracuda-class submarines currently under construction. A 5,000 t submarine. That is still a big submarine even though ballistic missile submarines are much bigger.

    Germany used at the heights of Cold War a submarine with a displacement of just 500 t – the Type 206 with armament 8 torpedoes and no reloads.

    Price for a submarine can be scaled according to displacement. Germany was able to maintain and build 18 Type 206 submarines. About the price for two 5,000 t submarines. The Suffren-class will have space for about 24 weapons of 21 in size. In other words 48 torpedoes on two big submarines or 144 torpedoes on 18 submarines.

    On a tactical scale the lose of one big submarine would half the fleet size. The loss of one small submarine out of 18 is not a big loss. Another point is how much area a submarine fleet can cover. Even a fast nuclear submarine can’t be at two places at once. A fast submarine is also easy to detect due to the non laminar currents around the submarine hull. It doesn’t matter how quiet the engine is high submerged speeds.

    The US uses nuclear attack submarines to protect its carrier fleets. This is just wishful thinking. In many exercises the rouge diesel submarine was able either to kill the carrier or the submarine or both and escape unharmed.

    For information gathering a big submarine is also inconvenient. It is easier to detect and in case of detection a much bigger loss.

    Germany today operates the Type 212 @ 1,500 t. Due to fuel cells it can operate for 3 weeks submerged.

    I would recommend even the smaller Type 210 @ 1,000 t displacement for Australia. Some say this size is not suitable for Australian needs and fabulate about range and such things. This small submarine has nearly the range of a Collins-class submarine. Just refuel the submarines at Christmas Island or Guam and they have more than sufficient range. Or even base them there. Forward basing is prohibited for Collins-class due to reliance issues. Forward basing would allow crew rotation at higher frequencies.

    It is about 3,000 nm from Garden Island to the Coral Sea. About 100 hours or 4 days at 30 kn. Or just 750 nm from Brisbane (75 hours or 3 days travel at 10 kn). Some may remember the Russian fleet during the G20 meeting in 2014.

    For the price of 12 submarines of 4,000 t displacement Australia could afford 48 submarines of 1,000 t. I think 24 would be enough. Still Australia could build one submarine each year and wreck them after 24 years of service. A mass production and ongoing production also enhances the maintenance of already built submarines. Maintenance costs for Collins-class is about the price of one new 1,000 t submarine a year.

    A few submarines are much easier to predict for an enemy. At the moment one or two Collins are ready. Any enemy can easily predict where these few submarine could be and where they could not.

    1. This is probably the best comment on Australia’s submarine fiasco so far. The Type 212 sub is exceptional (18 days travelling submerged without snorkeling!) and about 1/4 the price with better performance. Its anti-air (IDAS) missiles also look worthwhile. A mix of (say) 6 Type 212s and another 10 smaller Type 206s (for coastal patrols) with forward basing would be better and cheaper than what we are going to get.
      Indonesia is going to buy 3 excellent subs for $1 billion. How come they can do it but we can’t? Corruption in the defence procurement department perhaps? It is just like spending $1.1 billion for 1000 armoured 4WDs! (Hawkei). A million $ each! No wonder illiterate Afghan peasants defeated us. The ADF hasn’t got a clue. The episode of “Utopia” on the ABC could have been a documentary. Hopeless.

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