Australia Not Currently Capable of Delivering Nuclear Subs Project: Defence Experts

by Allan Behm

The mammoth task of purchasing, operating, and maintaining nuclear-powered submarines is beyond Australia’s current industrial, skills and technological capacity to deliver, according to a new research paper by defence experts.

Experts say the ambitious project is achievable, but only if the building blocks are put in place with great care and deliberation.

The report, Australia’s Future Submarines: An Explainer, explains what needs to be put in place before a workable solution can be decided and encourages a broader understanding of the issues facing Australia’s defence planners. The report is attached.

Allan Behm, Director of the Institute’s International and Security Affairs Program, said “Purchasing the submarines will be challenging and expensive, with the ambitious proposal raising more questions than it answers.

“Submarines are an essential part of Australia’s ability to defend itself: they both deter aggression and sanction it if it occurs.

“Beyond the technological challenges, crewing the submarines is equally problematic: with zero-base nuclear engineering skills, building a fully qualified submarine workforce demands big investment up front.

“Deeply considered and well-grounded decisions will take Australia into an entirely different dimension of national security capability,” concluded Allan Behm.

Rear Admiral Peter Briggs (retired), a former submarine commander, said “submarines that can travel long distances at speed would provide Australia with enormous advantages in terms of both stealth (remaining undetected) and surprise”.

Commodore Paul Greenfield (retired), a submarine engineer with years of operational experience, added, “Because of the long transit distances, size really does matter, and this  means that we must be able to solve complex maintenance and sustainment issues before we acquire them, not after the event.”

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