Submarines: Australian government's decision increasingly contested in Australia and the United States

After a phase of euphoria that was sometimes unhealthy following the announcement of the cancellation of the order for Shortfin Barracuda submarines in favor of American nuclear submarines or British and a tripartite alliance with blurred outlines, many voices are now being raised, in Australia, but also in the United States, to question the relevance of the decision of the Australian authorities, as well as the consequences that will necessarily have this contract on the proliferation of nuclear systems on the planet. And it could well be that the reality that will prevail beyond the media and political coup desired by the Australian Prime Minister, turns into a violent flashback, once all the consequences have been posed, and above all assessed.

A contract for more than 20 years at more than $ 100 billion

Beyond declarations of satisfaction, Australians quickly realized that the change imposed by the Australian government was going to have important consequences both on the operational capacities of the Royal Australian Navy and on public finances. Indeed, since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrisson asserted that the new nuclear submarines would also be built in Australia, it quickly became clear that it would take at least 18 years before the shipbuilding industry. Australia can produce the first unit, especially since the country has no industrial experience in nuclear power, whether civilian or military, other than a research mini-reactor. However, the Collins class submarines, even modernized, will not be able to provide such a long interim, when they already display between 25 and XNUMX years of service. The Australian Prime Minister has mentioned the possibility of renting American nuclear submarines, but the implementation deadlines exclude Los Angeles class ships whose last ship entered service in 1996, and will hardly be able to sail beyond 2036 in the best case, with a cumbersome and expensive reloading procedure. of nuclear fuel in the key for the newest Los Angeles, the USS Cheyenne, leaving little more than the Virginia as an alternative, even as the US Navy wishes to increase its own fleet. This problem is all the more critical as the post 2025 period now seems the most favorable for the outbreak of severe crises between the United States and China in the Pacific.

The Australian Collins will not be able to be in service until 2040, the minimum date of entry into service of the first nuclear submarine manufactured in Australia if applicable

Not only does this delay pose a huge operational problem for which no solution has yet been found, but the costs of the program, even reduced to 8 vessels (against 12 Barracuda), will exceed $ 100 billion, a hypothesis unanimously recognized as low by the experts consulted and by the Australian official communication, especially since it will be necessary to build entirely new infrastructures to assemble them, and to train personnel in skills unknown on the island. Since then, the hypothesis of building the ships in the United States is advanced as an alternative, even if it means neglecting local jobs, and increasing Australia's dependence on the American defense industry, and therefore in the operational control of Washington, which is far from delighting all the islanders. In other words, the big losers in Scott Morrisson's decision could well be, much more than the Naval Group or France, the Australians themselves, asking them for an increased budgetary effort, without jobs in return, and therefore without tax and social revenue to partially balance this expenditure.

Australian authorities' lack of transparency regarding the Barracuda contract


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