Currently, Australia has six diesel powered Collins-class submarines, in which only about two are fully operable due to shortage of staff. They have to be replaced after 2020 and the Australians are looking at their options. Therefore ASPI organized an international conference about the future of the Australian submarine strategy between 8th and 10th of April 2014. Corresponding, in this episode, Sambhi discusses with ASPI members Rosalyn Turner and Dr. Mark Thompson about unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVS), Australian submarine choices and strategy.
Turner explains the current state of UUVs and thinks that the development of UUVs lags behind other unmanned systems, particularly because of the technological challenges. In the area of unmanned technologies, the USA is the main driver. Thus, it’s likely that with the “Pivot to East Asia” the importance of UUVS could rise. Nevertheless, currently, UUVS may supplement manned submarines for repeating tasks like surveillance or dangerous operations like demining, but not replace them.
Another topic is the question about the numbers of new submarines to replace the six aging Collins-class boats. In two defence white papers, the Australian Labor Party is calling for twelve new boats. Several speakers at ASPI’s conference referred to that number, although the Australian Defence Minister, David Johnston, refused to mention any numbers during his speech:
There has been a lot of speculation about whether we need 12 boats. Let me make clear that my primary focus is not on numbers, but on the capability and availability of boats required to meet the tasks set by Government. As part of the White Paper process, we will re-examine the strategic objectives of the future submarine program, including the number of submarines required at sea and therefore the total number of submarines. — David Johnston, “Minister for Defence – Speech – Address for the ASPI conference“, 09.04.2014.
In his discussion with Sambhi, Thompson tries to clarify the rumours about possible numbers, about the costs and possible design options.
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