BOOK REVIEW | The Submarine Six – Australian Naval Heroes

By Dr Tom Lewis

Australia’s six Collins-class submarines have had a chequered history, to put it mildly. Massive cost over runs, delays and numerous mechanical, training and manning failures have combined to form a litany of disaster in the minds of most Australians.

FEATURE | In for the long haul (part 3): How far can you push an Anzac?

As I discussed in part 2 of this series, the Anzacs are high-quality frigates. They will likely age gradually but gracefully over the next 24 years on their journey to eventual retirement. But the issue of quantity might be more problematic than quality. Often you just need presence: a ship at sea in the right location, whether patrolling a sea lane, monitoring a patch of ocean, or just waving a flag. No matter how good its quality is, a ship can’t be in two places at once.

FEATURE | Australian submarine transition plan takes shape

The future submarine has achieved key milestones with the signing of the overarching strategic partnering agreement on February 11 and in quick succession the design contract on March 5. This is good news for the future submarine platform itself, but there have also been developments in the broader submarine transition picture.

FEATURE | Is this the near future of Australian naval shipbuilding?

This is an exciting time for Australian naval shipbuilding. Two patrol vessel programs are underway, the Anzac-class frigate midlife capability assurance program (AMCAP) is completing the first of eight ships, and Hunter-class future frigates are to start construction in 2020, running into the 2030s for nine frigates. The air warfare destroyers are joining the fleet, while in the submarine world both the Collins-class life extension and the Shortfin Barracuda projects are generating a lot of commentary but no construction contracts yet.

OPINION | Decisive action needed to avoid an Australian submarine capability gap

The recent advice from the chief of Australia’s navy that the first Shortfin Barracuda may not come into service until the mid-2030s is sobering news given Australia’s deteriorating strategic circumstances and the critical role the submarine capability plays in our defence force structure. Under some scenarios, we may not have all 12 future submarines until as late as the 2050s.

OPINION | The aggregate failure of Australia’s submarine policy

Australia’s future submarine capability isn’t in a good place. We started the program at least five years too late due to a combination of indifference from successive governments and a lack of drive from the Department of Defence to kickstart it. Then we settled on an approach that’s going to take more than another decade to deliver anything at all, even if things go according to plan. And we’ve loaded the program with enough technical risk to pretty much ensure that it won’t.

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