ASPI’s guide to submarines leaves the biggest strategic questions unanswered

ASPI’s Special Report; submarines, your questions answered aims to “become the go-to guide for authoritative comment on all things to do with the present and future of Australian submarines”. However, rather than clarify the issues around submarine warfare and the Attack class, it raises more questions than it answers. That’s not to deny that there are important contributions in the report from Andrew Davies, Marcus Hellyer, Malcolm Davis, and others.

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Sustaining an undersea advantage: Hudson Institute anti-submarine warfare report

The spotlight is back on Australia’s future submarine program, SEA1000. The Hudson Institute report Sustaining the Undersea Advantage: Disrupting Anti-Submarine Warfare Using Autonomous Systems is an excellent introduction to the history of anti-submarine warfare, and to some recent transformational developments in its conduct. It will help readers understand the long history of undersea warfare and how past experience has made older concepts hard to shift.

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Exaggerated threats and contrived military strategies shouldn’t drive Defence spending: a response to Jon Stanford

In a series of three articles, Jon Stanford has argued that Australia needs “a sound military strategy to deter an attack by a great power and careful analysis of how to design the right force structure to deliver it”. An external, more ‘neutral’ review of Australia’s military strategy is proposed. But it is not clear that Australia needs a new military strategy – let alone one that would require a 50 % increase in the Defence budget.

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The Future of the Undersea Deterrent: A Global Survey (ANU NSC)

This publication brings together insights of leading international scholars and next-generation expertsto produce a comprehensive and authoritative reference examining the interplay of strategic issues, including nuclear strategy and deterrence; maritime operational issues, including ASW; and technology issues, including new and disruptive technologies and potential game-changers in relation to deterrence.

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Capability gaps: Mean dogs and submarines

A March 2020 Insight Economics report presents arguments for a submarine capability that lean very heavily on a rather fuzzy concept; the ‘capability gap’.

Outdated terms-of-art are common and unchallenged in defence policy, they require no explanation and have acquired the authority to shut down arguments. But in reality, terms like ‘capability gap’ carry unexamined assumptions from a different time.

In the current strategic environment, has the idea of a capability gap become redundant? And does it not seem odd to expect submarines to fill a ‘capability gap’ in thirty plus years time?

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The warning that wasn’t: Robert Gottliebsen’s warning to the Australian nation on the Future Submarines

Robert Gottliebsen (‘The Australian’ 12 Feb 2020) has found ‘a clear warning to the Australian nation’ of risks associated with the procurement strategy for Australia’s Future Submarine Program – risks which ‘may even ultimately put the [ANZUS] alliance at risk’.

Gottliebsen’s suggestion is that, because of French involvement in the procurement, the US will be unwilling to supply a state-of-the-art combat system. But Is there really any reason to think that the US would refuse to supply a suitable combat system? Or, more broadly any evidence that Defence is not managing the project risks effectively?

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A critique of Australia’s SEA1000 Future Submarine project – from the outside

How did the Australian government decide to approve the SEA1000 project? That these decisions and the supporting background strategic analysis and assessments are always hidden from wider view by secrecy classifications and need-to-know protocols must be accepted, as must the reality that pragmatic consideration will be given to other important matters like alliance and industry policy. Still, how did SEA1000 happen?
The decision doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Has a ‘replacement mentality’ disproportionately affected the decision? Perhaps combined with a shift in influence within goverment in favour of the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF)?

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Australia’s ‘future submarines’ & future war

Australia’s SEA1000 Future Submarine project is back in the news following a 60% increase in the project’s cost to AUD 80 billion, and a report by the Australian National Audit Office that identified flaws in the acquisition process Mike asks the broader question of the strategic assessment that underpins an investment of this magnitude over an extended, 30-year timeframe. What sort of capability will be produced by the project, and what sort of conflict would the capability serve?

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Prudence in indeterminacy: challenging the ‘who, what where and why’ of Australia’s future submarines

Does Andrew Davies’ contribution to the discussion of future submarines for Australia assume that irrespective of a direct threat to Australia or the engagement of vital Australian national interests we would enter into a major conflict with China simply to meet US expectations? The hubris of contemporary strategists is impressive.

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