Defence

That Sinking Feeling: The Continuing Submarine Fiasco

It is almost impossible to find a credible analyst or writer willing to laud the unlamented Turnbull government’s decision to splash unknown billions on a mythical French submarine. In fact it is impossible to find anyone outside the Canberra bubble or not on the submarine-building payroll who praises this farce.

Although there is near unanimity among the sane that this is a truly bad idea, those with sense are without the power to stop the fiasco. This means the fires of foolishness continue to be stoked with every dollar we can borrow. Like the climate cultists, the barracuda buffoons ignore every glaringly obvious negative fact, every questioning objection, every doubt that is raised, and charge ahead at full speed. Nothing disturbs their fantasy.

This essay appears in the latest Quadrant.
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Gary Johnston is one of the more articulate opponents of this “Attack Class” submarine. He still wants submarines, but he wants nuclear-powered ones. Robert Gottliebsen effectively destroyed the bumbling naivety of our contract negotiators who, using our money, ensured that we were taken to the cleaners. Now that it has been announced that even the lead-acid batteries may be designed and made by a Greek company “in Australia”, the creative accountants are going to have a lot of highly paid consultancy work on their hands.

Tom Lewis demonstrated with effortless ease that it is transparently foreseeable that the project process is guaranteed to be a disaster. Add further articles by Greg Sheridan, Paul Kelly, Mike Rawlinson, Nicholas Stewart, Ross Eastgate, Ben Packham and others and you have a powerful coterie of realist brains lining up to oppose this travesty. And for the Defence, M’Lord, we have our cardiganed Defence Department Canberra sailors and the same RAN hierarchy that brought us the failed Super Sea Sprite, a helicopter that never flew, but whirred away a cool $1.4 billion. Let’s not forget our former admirals who prefer to prepare the ADF to fight climate change rather than human enemies who might want to kill us and take over Australia.

The wilfully blind defenders of this miracle of contract negotiation are not only outnumbered, they are outclassed by the sceptical realists. These submarines will never sail into battle, as few normal people would be suicidal enough to crew them. It’s a well-paid job cruising around in peacetime, but would likely be a short and fatal one in war.

Submarine Warfare.

First, let’s consider a very brief history of submarine warfare.

The submersible CSS Hunley is regarded as the first “successful” submarine as it sank the USS Housatonic just outside of Charleston harbour in February 1864. This success is somewhat tempered by the fact that both the Hunley and its prototypes had already unintentionally submerged and failed to surface on three occasions. On each of these dives the vessel had taken all or most of her crew with her. On her final voyage all nine crewmen drowned.

Australia’s submarine contribution to the First World War effort were the AE1 and the AE2. The AE1 was lost with all hands off Rabaul without participating in any warlike action. The AE2 did have a successful cruise when it penetrated the Dardanelles, where it sank one small cruiser while transiting the Dardanelles Narrows. Once in the Sea of Marmara the AE2 fired several of its eight torpedoes (all of which missed) before having to surface and surrender after just five days.

The leaders of submarine warfare in the First World War were the Germans with their diesel-electric and lead-acid-battery powered U-boats (similar to the proposed power source of the Barracuda). These U-boats were a formidable weapon until countermeasures were developed that then sent 202 of them (and their crews) to a watery grave by 1918. Admiral Karl Doenitz, who commanded the U-boat fleet in the Second World War had commanded UB-68 in the First World War, until it was sunk and he was captured by the British in 1917.

In the Second World War Doenitz thought his U-boats could sink enough ships to starve Britain out of the war. In this vision he was like “Bomber” Harris, who thought bombing alone could bring Germany to its knees. These persistent delusions carried on into the Vietnam War when the USAF dropped more bombs on Laos and Vietnam than on Germany in the Second World War, yet the only consistent result was that they again failed to achieve their war-winning aim.

My point is: submarines can be a significant weapon, but they can neither win wars nor prevent defeat. They are only effective if they are deployed in the right role in the right circumstances.

So how effective were submarines in the Second World War? They achieved some spectacular successes that deserve our admiration for the courage and tenacity of their crews. For instance, the U-boat ace Gunther Prien sank thirty-one ships, including a battleship, the Royal Oak, yet he did not survive even ten patrols and 238 days on operations before being lost with his entire crew in 1941.

The Second World War statistics for submarine losses are telling. Germany lost 765 U-boats between September 1939 and May 1945. But this is not the true picture, as 611 were lost in the last twenty-eight months of the war. This is an average of twenty-two boats and crew lost a month—two boats and crews every three days for twenty-eight months.

The Japanese (with a much smaller fleet) lost 130 submarines (not including midgets such as the three that attacked Sydney Harbour). The British lost seventy-four and the Americans fifty-two. Clearly, the British and American defences were such that their anti-submarine versus submarine war became lopsided. By the end of the war the average operational life of a German submariner was forty-two days.

Your advice to your children on their career choices would be …?

Are Submarines Obsolete?

I have already substantially covered the deployment of modern strategic submarines in an earlier Quadrant Online article (“Australia’s Looming Submarine Disaster”, October 23, 2019). A quick recap is that their modern role is either as a nuclear missile boat designed for a second retaliatory strike to annihilate an enemy who has launched a nuclear attack on the submariner’s home country, or they are hunter-killers designed to find and kill their enemy’s strategic missile boats.

The days of submarines chugging around the seas hunting convoys are long gone. So name the role for which we are building the Barracuda?

Let me provide a clue: most battle submarines mount four torpedo tubes stacked two on two on either side of the bow. Given the limited space available, weight and balance, and the machinery needed to store and load the torpedoes, this has been standard practice for good reason since the First World War. Apparently the Australia Pacific Defence Reporter states that the Navy wants a superior killing machine by mounting six torpedo tubes in a line. The whims and creativity of the deskbound poohbahs know no limits, as cost is no object. It also possibly answers the question of what we would use these one-voyage wonders for.

However, let’s not be totally negative. The Collins demonstrated that submarines can be stealthy and can sink their hunters (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8Kv4rqR6RQ). The captain and crew in this video deserve congratulations on a job well done, but I have one niggling question, as I think the exercise ended too soon. Having sunk one of their five hunters and given away their position, shouldn’t they have demonstrated that they could escape before declaring success? Many a submarine has made a kill but has then paid the ultimate price for that success.

Since the Second World War submarines are known to have sunk three ships, but more than a dozen submarines from the USA, Russia, China, France, North Korea and Argentina have sunk with their crews. This is not a good advertisement when trying to recruit crews for peacetime cruising—not to mention the war …

Predicting Future Developments?

In the Quadrant Online article referred to above I outlined an undersea battlefield scenario in which (undoubtedly nuclear-powered) submarines would continue to have a role on account of their stand-off capability, their underwater stamina (as they can remain deep down until the edibles run out), their ability to dive deeper, their underwater speed and their stealth. Conventional submarines with the 100-year-old technology of lead-acid batteries are like featherweights taking on Mike Tyson. Yes, we all know that David did defeat Goliath and a Wirraway did shoot down a single Zero in the Second World War, before every other Wirraway (and usually its pilot) died in a hail of bullets. Exceptions, in fact, never disprove the rule nor change the odds.

Boeing has been awarded a US$43 million deal to build four Orcas for the US Navy. The Orca is a 50-ton Undersea Autonomous Submarine armed with torpedoes and protected by a range of high-tech sensors and stealth technology. The Orca can dive to 11,000 feet (3700 metres), operate for up to seventy days without human involvement and has a range of 6500 nautical miles.

The Orca, and other Underwater Unmanned Vessels are now part of a fast-evolving Navy Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture program, which involves engineering and testing “different layers of autonomy”. Read those numbers and capabilities again and compare them to the capabilities of our pine-box-class Barracuda.

In short, we could send an Orca to the South China Sea and bring it home again without risking a single life, at a minuscule cost compared to our future Barracuda.

At a presentation I attended on our new Hunter-class anti-submarine warfare ships I asked: “Will they be able to find and sink the Barracuda?” I received the only logical answer from the anti-submarine-warfare expert: “I don’t know.” This is about as clear and forthright an answer as I have ever heard from the blunt end of Defence.

So, the conundrum costing Australian taxpayers $300 billion is: What good are these submarines if they are easily found and destroyed, or what good are the new submarine hunters if they cannot find them?

Either way one of these capability-light boondoggles cannot be value for my money.

Alistair Pope, a former officer in the Australian Army, is a frequent contributor to Quadrant.

 

References

https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2019/10/australias-looming-submarine-disaster/

https://asiatimes.com/2020/03/seek-and-destroy-us-navys-orca-robot/

A 50 ton unmanned submarine constructed by Boeing. The USN has ordered four at a cost of $10.3M for each UUV with AI, a 6,500 nautical mile range and 70-days autonomous duration

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/defence-officials-submarine-chiefs-to-be-grilled-over-local-commitments-20200223-p543jy.html

Costs blow out and local content contracts are likely to be reduced below promised levels

https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6113286643001

Andrew Bolt & Gary Johnston on the insanity of the Barracuda versus the US Virginia Class nuclear boats

RUSI Winter 2019 Magazine: Opinion; Nuclear Power for Electricity and Submarines by Mike Rawlinson

Canberra Times: Not-so-stealthy submarines set to torpedo budget by Nicholas Stuart, 16th October 2019

QoL QED Insight from Quadrant- ‘Run Silent Run $teep’ – 18th October 2019

Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage by Sherry Sontag (1998)

Iron Coffins by Herbert A. Werner (2004 – a personal account by a U-Boat Captain in WW2)

HMS Thule Intercepts by Alastair Mars, DSO, DSC (1956 – a personal account by a British submarine Captain in WW2)

Das Boot by: Lothar Gunther Buchheim (2004 – based on the film recounting personal accounts of U-Boat Captains in WW2)

https://www.militaryfactory.com/ships/detail.asp?ship_id=CSS-HL-Hunley-1863

The first ‘successful’ submarine attack took place on 17th February 1864 during the American Civil War when the CSS Hunley sank the USS Housatonic, but was itself lost with all hands.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/photo-means-just-1-thing-submarine-just-sunk-aircraft-carrier-70431

A Canadian submarine penetrated the British Aircraft Carrier, HMS Illustrious’ defences close enough to torpedo her.

https://www.public.navy.mil/subfor/underseawarfaremagazine/Issues/Archives/issue_14/torpedoes.html

Developments in modern torpedoes & and anti-torpedo technology.

https://newatlas.com/future-submarines-modern-warfare/49896/

The future of submarines and UUV’s.

https://newatlas.com/submarine-uav-launch/30027/

A manned submarine tested the launching and recovery of a drone while submerged.

https://www.naval-technology.com/projects/sssoryuclasssubmarin/

Specifications of Japanese Soryu Class submarine.

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/author/peter-briggs/

The ‘capability’ gap as the Collins Class becomes outdated and the new French Shortfin Barracuda is commissioned.

https://uboat.net/fates/losses/chart.htm

https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/ww1_navy/ae1_ae2

https://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-ae2

The story of the operational voyage of the AE2 into the Sea of Marmara

13 comments
  • Philip

    Totally amazing that our government is still throwing money at this white elephant – slow delivery times, obsolete propulsion system, excessive cost etc. Let’s hope we wake up one day to hear that it has been scrapped.

  • bulletbill

    Australia has “sovereign capability” in submarines the same way the East Germans had sovereign capability in the Trabant.

  • johnflynne

    Did any of this apppear in Malcolm biography or was it inconvenient ?

  • pgang

    Maybe it was a bad decision, who knows. But one thing is for certain – you can’t rely on opinions in the media when it comes to defence analysis, as nobody seems to have the slightest inkling on the subject. This became obvious during the furore over the F-35 purchase, which was probably the smartest thing the government has done in years. The rubbish being bandied around at the time (by the likes of Gottliebsen) was beyond belief, as though we had to remain in the same tactical environment as the 1970’s rather than adopting technology that far surpasses anything a Mirage pilot could have dreamt of. Here we have it again, with a child-like analysis of submarine capabilities taken completely out of the context of modern integrated warfare. The history of submarine warfare as presented here seems bizarre in relation to the analysis at hand. Whoever suggested that a single weapon could win a war? Or that fighting in a submarine isn’t inherently dangerous? What is not acknowledged is that the tactical advantage U-boats provided to the Germans was almost enough in itself to destroy Britain’s defence capability in the early years of the war. Isn’t that the point of defence hardware – tactical advantage? And isn’t that why we use submarines?
    I don’t know whether these submarines were a good idea or not, because I’ve yet to read anything sensible on the topic. The only obvious criticism at this stage is that they are too slow in delivery. But I am willing to give defence professionals the benefit of the doubt, particularly if this is the best the detractors have to offer. Sometimes they get it wrong – such is the nature of defence procurement – but I don’t see how a constant stream of negativity helps.
    ‘In short, we could send an Orca to the South China Sea and bring it home again without risking a single life, at a minuscule cost compared to our future Barracuda.’ If wishful thinking could win wars then media defence experts would be worth reading.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON

    Cancel the white elephant, never never, submersible. Instead, use the dosh to help keep the Australian economy afloat.

  • en passant

    pgang,
    Where are you getting your technical misinformation from?
    The F-35 is the second worst decision our ‘professionals’ ever made.
    An acquaintance used to fly F4, A4, F16, F14, F15, F18 (some of them in hostile zones). He taught fighter flying tactics in the USA. He stated that in ‘dogfights’ manoeuvrability is the crucial factor to winning and survival.
    The German ME-262 jet fighter was almost invulnerable to Allied fighters due to its fast attack and fleeing speed something tat does not apply to the F-35 compared to it potential opponents.
    The F-35 was a dog’s breakfast from concept to crime. JOINT (all services) STRIKE (light bombing capability) FIGHTER (air superiority fighter) all at once? Lockheed sold the politicians a pig with a promise to repeal the laws of physics, logic and reality – and save money all at once. How is the price and capability to be the best in ANY category working out? Please tell everyone.
    As for submarines, you say: “U-boats provided to the Germans was almost enough in itself to destroy Britain’s defence capability in the early years of the war ..” I think it was clearly pointed out that U-Boats had a temporary advantage that was soon negated. Today and even more so in another ten years, they have no initial advantage.
    Did you deliberately miss reading the part about the role of modern submarines? It is either for a retaliatory annihilation second strike, or to kill other submarines. What do we intend using these conventional super-subs for? What is their role? How will they perform it as their combat systems are as yet unspecified? How will they survive swarms of unmanned drones? How will the recharge their batteries?
    There is a whole article here just waiting for you to write it.

  • pgang

    en passant, excuse me for being sceptical of the same old sceptical mumbo-jumbo. Once again there is this attitude that it’s still 1970, with very fast cannons chasing each other across the sky. The F-35 went through some development issues and the costs blew out, but so what. There’s a price to pay for being light years ahead of the game. It is clear that most people don’t comprehend what this futuristic weapon is capable of. For example, did you know that the pilot can see through his own aircraft? In 360 degrees? And that’s just for starters. This beast of a stealth machine ‘sees’ things like nothing has ever seen anything before, and its flight performance capabilities are more than adequate. You shouldn’t even be getting into a fight if you have one of these in the squadron. The pilot will tell everyone where the danger is and have it removed, or avoid it. Maybe he gets a submarine to launch a missile at it. If there’s a dogfight imminent he will call in the Hornets to make contact with the enemy.
    This is what’s happening in actual combat simulations.
    The F-35’s are absolutely wiping the floor with the 4th gen machines, because its eyes become their eyes. It’s not the old days anymore, when you could fly out of a blind spot or simply outpace the enemy, and it’s not just about shooting things down. I am very glad that Australia has bought into this sort of capability and our enemies are fools if they are not seriously concerned at our sudden leap forward.
    I hope that offers a different perspective to the approach of the likes of Gottliebsen.
    .
    ‘It is either for a retaliatory annihilation second strike, or to kill other submarines.’ Again, that is a very narrow view of what a modern weapon does. It does not operate in isolation but is used as part of an integrated defence system. I don’t know what a submarine’s various tactical roles are, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s more than this Hollywood scenario. Have you considered the tactical information they can pass on? The intelligence gathering? The clandestine missions they can accomplish? The piece of jigsaw they represent in a holistic strategy? The surprise element they can provide? I presume that submarines remain a key component in any modern tactical assemblage, and if that is the case then I expect Australia to have them. If I were an enemy facing a linked force of F-35’s and 4th gen fighters, with submarines roaming the ocean, frankly I’d be looking for a change of pants.
    I don’t know if these submarines are right for us. Maybe they’re not, but until that case is made properly, I’ll wait.

  • en passant

    pgang,
    I have written an article on AI & Autonomous weapons for and American magazine and have given a presentation on the subject to an international institute.
    “… most people don’t comprehend what this futuristic weapon is capable of.” Enlighten me with something I may not know. The F-35, because it tries to meet three disparate objectives, does none of them well. I hate to contradict you, but it is not ‘stealthy’ to all bandwidths, so it can be seen by its enemies.
    ” … he will call in the Hornets to make contact with the enemy. [why would an air superiority fighter have to call in previous generation fighters at all?]
    This is what’s happening in actual combat simulations. [Models & simulations again. You have never lost your faith despite Midway, the Vietnam War simulation that predicted the war was ALREADY over and won? the Climate change and COVID-19 death models? the 100,000 dead from Fukushima? Which one should we believe? Oh, yes, the next one!],
    ” The F-35’s are absolutely wiping the floor with the 4th gen machines” Reference? That’s not what my intelligence sources tell me.
    As for submarines, you ask “Have you considered the tactical information they can pass on? The intelligence gathering? The clandestine missions they can accomplish? The piece of jigsaw they represent in a holistic strategy?” Yes, I have – and a lot more. In WW2 German submarines were located and targeted after making their daily 10-second burst transmission to HQ. That was 75-years ago. What do you envisage the hunt and locate capabilities are like today? So, how do envisage they communicate any intelligence they gather without it becoming a death sentence?
    Finally, you say: “I don’t know if these submarines are right for us. Maybe they’re not, but until that case is made properly, I’ll wait.” So, you have some sort of blind faith in buying an unspecified submarine 15-years from now at an astronomical cost? You must think Australia has more money than I thought. Maybe the Chinese will just buy us and save any nastiness …

  • pgang

    en passant, for someone who has written about technology in weapons systems you don’t seem to have much faith in it, not that the F-35 uses AI or is autonomous. Ah, the penny drops. Maybe it’s just not where you want the money spent.
    Anyway you’re not contradicting me at all as I made no mention of it being stealthy to all bandwidths, as that would be impossible to achieve. And I did enlighten you so please don’t make up stories – if you already knew these things then that is somewhat moot, and given your apparent knowledge it only makes me question again your motivation in judging this aircraft the way you do.
    It’s generally the people who have heard stories about the supposedly poor flight characteristics (which are wrong), and heard rumours of production problems, who have decided that this weapon is a dud.
    Your ‘intelligence sources’? Please. Who are you, Barack Obama? There is plenty of information in the public domain for we dorky enthusiasts without having to pretend to have a secret friend with a direct line to the truth.
    As for your comments about submarines, good grief. How the heck would I know, and of what relevance is such a pointlessly imaginary scenario to the big picture?
    Again, all I’m hearing is a lot of meaningless nay-saying and the same old shibboleths about the F-35 performing none if its tasks well whilst denying the lived experience to continue the meme. It really just sounds like argument for the sake of it.
    Blind faith you say? You need to stop inserting false meaning into people’s comments en passant as it reads a lot like someone who’s recently been blocked from posting here.
    .
    If anybody is still reading this guff, here are some opinions from the experienced pilots who are testing and flying the F-35 Lighting II.

    “For four years, all people could talk about was how we’d lost a dogfight against a 40-year-old F-16… The F-22 can do a downward spiral, and I did the same thing in the F-35—without thrust vectoring. I pull up to vertical, skid the airplane over the top, and spiral down like a helicopter hovers. That pedal turn [executed with rudder inputs] ended the discussion of how an F-35 would perform in a dogfight.”
    .

    “The basic skills come pretty quickly, in two or three flights. The most challenging part is how much information the jet presents to you and focusing on the right things at the right time. Over time, you kind of find the best way to process the information. I can’t think of another experience I’ve had that’s quite like that.”
    .
    “In this airplane, hovering is so easy that there have been pictures of pilots with their hands above the canopy rails showing, “Look, no hands” because once you put it where you want, it’s going to stay there until you tell it to move or it runs out of gas.”
    .
    “The F-35 actually handles a lot like the F-15E, with the difference being, the F-35 is a high angle-of-attack fighter with advanced control logic… the information fusion, pilot interface, and physical capabilities in the F-35 take our efficiency across the formation and among partner nations to a whole new level.”
    .
    “It’s the part of the airplane that people don’t understand. The F-35 is as manoeuvrable as any other airplane, except perhaps the F-22. Russian airplanes are also very manoeuvrable, but if you dig into [the Russian demonstrations of manoeuvrability], what you’re seeing is the capabilities of airplanes flown by exceptional pilots. What we were building with the F-35 is an airplane that everybody can fly. That’s the critical part of it.”
    .
    “Fighter aircraft all have to have a level of performance and manoeuvrability: speed, Gs, turn rate, turn radius, acceleration, climb—all of those things. In the F-35, there’s not a massive change in those performance metrics. The F-35 is better [than legacy aircraft], but not a lot better. But those ways to measure an airplane are not nearly as relevant now as they used to be. They’re not irrelevant, but they are not as important as all the other qualities that you should be measuring an airplane by.
    If you were to write down all the ways in which you could measure an airplane—payload, fuel, ordnance, handling—and ask 100 pilots to rank which is the most important, I guarantee you that 100 out of 100 pilots would say “situational awareness.” By far. Not a single pilot in the world would say “turn radius.” Not one. Because the more you know, the more accurately you know it, the better able you are to make a decision.
    In situational awareness, the F-35 is superior to all platforms, including the Raptor. I’d never been in an airplane that so effectively and seamlessly integrates information to tell me what’s going on around me—and not just from the radio frequency spectrum, but laser, infrared, electro-optical. That’s usually the first thing people notice when they get in the airplane. They know so much more than they ever knew before.”
    .
    “I’ve never seen anything like it before. This is not a mission you want a young pilot flying in. My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training. He gets on the radio and tells an experienced, 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft. ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.’
    The young pilot then “killed” the enemy aircraft and had three more kills in the hour-long mission.
    Even in this extremely challenging environment, the F-35 didn’t have many difficulties doing its job, that’s a testament to the pilot’s training and the capabilities of the jet.”

  • en passant

    pgang,
    Only a week ago I read that the USN and USMC had decided that the F35 was unsuitable for high altitude high speed action because it would lose its stealth characteristics and could “fall apart”.
    Wednesday, May 13, 2020 via FlightGlobal
    The US Air Force (USAF) has abandoned mission capability rate goals for its Lockheed Martin F-22s, F-35s and F-16s, after none of the fighters hit the target.
    “The Office of the Secretary of Defense determined the fiscal year 2019 80% mission capable rate initiative is not an FY2020 requirement,” he said in written testimony sent to the US Armed Services Committee and released on 7 May. “As a result, the air force returned to allowing lead commands to determine the required [mission capability] rates to meet readiness objectives.”
    After initially making rosy projections about the F-35 reaching 80% mission capability, the Department of Defense (DoD) gradually walked back its forecast. In July 2019, it said F-35s and F-22s would fail to meet the goal. In the end, not one of the USAF’s fighters achieved the mark.
    The F-35? My guess would be software issues, a broken ALIS (notice how that issue has faded from the news) and just another case of the tech being fragile instead of robust.
    The F-35 is not the best available in any of its three mission objectives, is fragile and expensive, but is just far less of a dud than the French Cane Toad submarines.

  • Occidental

    Pgang & En passant
    Not being a pilot or a submariner, I use what I would call the proxy expert building test for want of a better phrase, and there must be a better description, to assess both contracts.
    At the outset I ignore any assessment from either the RAAN or RAAF. They are both what I would call enthusiastic amateurs, they are by any definition amateurish, and with the publics money they are enthusiastic. The contempt for which the army holds the RAAF is well known, and the RAAN has probably sunk more friendly warships than enemy.
    I therefore look to what the leaders in the respective technology are doing.
    The United States, since WWII and the advent of its military industrial complex has become the most prolific builder of warfare platforms of almost every sort. Against that backdrop, the US then has had a specific and abiding interest in air superiority and air warfare. I mean no country has operated more aircraft in more conflicts since WWII and second place is not even close. Aircraft such as the U-2, SR-71, F-111, B1, B2, A-10, F-117 and F-22, were all either an entirely new class of aircraft on launch or in some instances unique for decades. Essentially all these aircraft were unchallenged for many years and often were unchallenged at least in capability terms when retired. But in addition to building them, the US use those aircraft regularly, and are constantly refining their technology. In those circumstances, I would need a mountain of circumstantial evidence to question the capability of the F-35. I am not saying that Australia should have bought them, or that it is are a good fit for us, the likelihood is that ours will never fire shot, which is good.
    With the Subs the problem is firstly the French have never built a submarine that has sunk an enemy vessel, ever. Secondly the French build a lot of discount weapons platforms. It is apparently one of the reasons they won the tender, that is they have a lot of experience supplying weapons to other countries ie Pakistan, Russia, India, Italy etc. Thirdly at this stage it is a concept, a variation, (an not a small variation at that) of a class not yet finished sea trials. Then there is the cost.
    With the subs I go back to my original test. Who are the world leaders in conventional submarinerine technology, and it is certainly not the French. Surely it is the Japanese, they only keep a class of subs in the water for twenty years, and then bring in a new class. They hold sub technology as close to their heart as the US does air warfare. Their boats might not be ideal, but you know that they will be good, without even giving it a second look. When I apply my test to the current air and sub contracts, I am really relaxed about the F35, but the subs has all the hallmarks of a disaster.

  • en passant

    Occidental,
    I appreciate your rational comments. Actually, a French submarine did sink a small craft off West Africa in WW2, but more of their submariners died when they lost a submarine in the Mediterranean in the 1970’s(?) (that was only found last year). Australia simply cannot afford either of these weapons, even if (by some miracle) they were the best.

  • pgang

    en passant, insult noted.
    Rational you say? Then you go on to tell us that Australia, with fiscal revenue of $300 billion per annum, can’t scrape together enough for our national defence. Sacre bleu!
    By the way, Occidental agrees with me, but with a more generalised argument, ie – that we should trust the nations that make the best stuff. Presumably generalisations are more to your taste?

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