UNITED KINGDOM AND NATO
04 Nov 21. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is looking to acquire two civil business jets to replace the current fleet of four Royal Air Force (RAF) BAe146 transport aircraft when the type leaves service in Q1 next year, with the contract valued at up to £87.5m. In a contract availability notice published on November 3 it was revealed that the programme, known as the Command Support Air Transport Recapitalisation (CSAT Recap), will see a phase 1 competitive procurement of two business jets by March 31, 2022, with an in-service support package that will run until March 31, 2024. (Source: News Now/https://www.key.aero/)
04 Nov 21. F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon are ‘the two options’ to replace Spain’s aging Hornets. Spain has two aircraft in mind to replace over 70 EF-18A fighter jets, and while the program has yet to formally begin, the informal competition between the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35 is just getting hotter. Madrid is running two separate efforts to replace its aging Hornets, with the first and more immediate effort involving its 20 oldest platforms, currently based in the Canary Islands. While the contract has yet to be signed, the service expects to substitute those aircraft on a 1-1 basis with Eurofighter Typhoon multirole jets, said Col. Jesus Ferrer, chief of coordination for fixed-wing systems for Spain’s military procurement office. The second program aims to replace the wider F-18 fleet, operating out of the air force’s Zaragoza and Torrejón air bases. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is being considered for this program along with more Eurofighters, Ferrer told Defense News Thursday on the sidelines of the biennial FEINDEF conference in Madrid.
“Those are the two options,” he asserted.
Reports have swirled in recent months surrounding Lockheed Martin’s European ambitions for the Joint Strike Fighter program. Eight countries on the continent are either committed to or already operating F-35s, with Switzerland becoming the latest prospective buyer in June. A highly anticipated fighter jet program in Finland and opportunities on the horizon for the Czech Republic and Greece, as well as Spain, are only stoking the flames more.
But it’s still early days for Madrid’s program. The air force submitted a report with their operational requirements for a new fighter jet this past summer, an official told Defense News on the conference floor. Now, the ministry of defense is weighing the requirements against the potential replacement aircraft.
The wider F-18 fleet is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2030, and Spain’s procurement office is just beginning the aircraft feasibility studies, Ferrer said.
It may come down to one major factor: Whether the Navy opts to buy about a dozen F-35B vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft. “If they get the F-35, one option for the Spanish air force will be to purchase the F-35, but we are weighing all the options,” Ferrer said.
But the Typhoons also remain very much in play. “The Spanish air force is very linked to the Eurofighter world,” he noted.
A contract for the 20 Canary Islands-based aircraft may arrive by next year, pending government approval of funds, Ferrer said.
The air force needs to speed up the process of modernizing its fleets, the service chief of staff said in a Thursday panel at the FEINDEF conference.
The service has recently acquired aircraft that will last for decades to come, including the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, NHIndustries NH90 helicopters, and Typhoon fighters, noted General Javier Salto Martínez-Avial. But other platforms, such as the F-5M trainer jets and the oldest F-18s, should have been renewed years ago, he added.
“To be able to make progress … this needs to be done. We have to renew our material … to substitute what we have in the Canary Islands,” he said.
U.S. industry executives at the FEINDEF exhibition played down reports that Lockheed was involved in a veritable sales campaign, saying conversations were informal. Still, they said, for the Spanish navy to replace its Harriers the service would have to order the F-35B variant by 2024 in order for the planes to be ready in 2028, when the old jump jets are close to being phased out.
That is, if the Spanish navy opts to continue carrier-based, fixed-wing operations in the first place.
Lockheed, for its part, brought an F-35 cockpit simulator to the show here, inviting Spanish navy officials to take a gander. (Source: Defense News)
03 Nov 21. F-35 being pitched to new European customers. An official has noted new active sales campaigns in Europe for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Speaking under the Chatham House Rule, the official said that, in addition to the already known competition in Finland and the previously disclosed requirement in Greece, the F-35 is currently engaged in hitherto undeclared campaigns in two other European countries. “A number of other [European] countries have expressed interest officially, and that would be Spain, Greece, and the Czech Republic. [These] are in active campaign,” the official said on 3 November. (Source: Jane’s)
03 Nov 21. Amid high hopes, can the European Patrol Corvette deliver? A European naval program worth €6bn (U.S. $7 bn) to build a new corvette is picking up speed this autumn as naval chiefs throw their weight behind it, even as experts warn the long awaited consolidation of Europe’s fragmented naval industry still faces stiff headwinds.
The European Patrol Corvette, or EPC, got a vote of confidence in October as navy representatives from Italy, France, Greece and Spain met remotely with industry chiefs to thrash out details of the four-nation program.
“The meeting had a really positive outcome – it was the first meeting with industry about the EPC, with lot of useful points emerging,” said Commander Andrea Quondamatteo, the Italian navy’s program manager.
With Portugal attending as an observer and Denmark reportedly showing interest, the program may yet add partners, while the three main nations are currently set to buy 20 vessels, including six for France, six for Spain and eight for Italy.
An industrial source told Defense News that each vessel is expected to cost around €250-300m, making the Corvette program worth €5-6bn, even before Greece confirms an order and any new members sign up.
That is cause for celebration at the European Union, where the EPC was inserted in its so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO list of recommended pan-European defense programs designed to create synergies among EU defense firms.
There is also €60m in EU research cash in the offing, not a huge amount, but enough to show the bloc is on board. By December 9, the European Defence Fund has asked for a list of proposals for research work required to turn the ship into reality.
That proposal will be delivered by Naviris, the joint venture between Italy’s Fincantieri and France’s Naval Group, as well as Spain’s Navantia.
“The proposal will list the areas of research where the firms believe new R&D will yield technological advancements for use on the ship,” said Enrico Bonetti, chief operating officer at Naviris.
One option which will be explored is the potential use of full electric or hybrid propulsion, while other areas to be worked on include unmanned technology, modularity and data management, with a decision expected by June next year and possible disbursement of the funds by end 2022 or the start of 2023, Bonetti said.
“The proposal to the EDF is a starting point, it is about what we will be studying,” he said.
What is confirmed is that the vessels, measuring about 105 meters long and displacing 3,000 tonnes, will come in two versions: combat and long-range patrol.
Italy favors the first for keeping a well armed presence in the Mediterranean, where tensions are increasing due to Turkish-Greek rivalry and the recent conflict in Libya. With an eye on missions far from home, France is opting for the long-range patrol version.
Bonetti said both types would likely be able to mount a 3D radar, with nations able to choose their own. Flexibility built into the design would also allow customers to pick their own combat management system.
Both will be fitted for a medium- or short-range anti-air missile, with the MBDA CAMM ER system a candidate, while the combat version will offer anti-torpedo systems, including a decoy.
“The Patrol version will have a top speed of up to 24 knots while the Combat version will be slightly faster at 25-26 knots,” said Bonetti.
Eyes on subcontractors
Meanwhile, a list of about 40 companies, hailing from around Europe, has been drawn up as potential sub-contractors.
“Greek, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese and German companies are on the list,” said Bonetti.
As the application goes in for EU research funds, nations are already putting up their money. Italy has already approved funding worth €1.5 bn for the first phase, which will ensure delivery of the initial four vessels, with the first ready in 2027, said Bonetti.
“We have a working group linking the companies which talks every day, but the challenge is synchronization, getting three nations to have funding in parallel to continue the development work at the same pace,” he said.
He said he was confident it could be pulled off and help European industrial synergies. “I’m convinced that the EPC could be a first step towards integration in the naval industry, which is far more fragmented than the aircraft, helicopter or tank sector,” he said.
That was a point made last year by outgoing Naval Group CEO Hervé Guillou, who warned that the excessive number of European yards ensure they are forced to export to survive. Between 2009 and 2018, China produced 136 military ships, of which 11 were exported, he said, while two U.S. shipbuilders built 78 ships, of which six were exported. Twelve European yards produced 80 ships, of which 49 were for the export market, he added.
That makes synergies essential to avoid overlap in Europe, and Italy and France boast a track record of cooperation after co-designing their Horizon and FREMM frigates together before they set up the Naviris joint venture between Fincantieri and Naval Group which is now working on the Corvette.
That said, so far the two firms have competed to sell their FREMM frigates. Italy has sold the vessel to Egypt, Indonesia and the United States, while France has sold to Morocco and Egypt and was reportedly upset when Italy started talks with Morocco this year.
Italy was similarly irritated earlier this year when French political opposition and an EU competition probe derailed Fincantieri’s long planned takeover of French shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique, which promised greater Italo-French ship building synergy.
One analyst countered that the currently improving political ties between Italy and France meant naval industry ties could be further tightened. “I am optimistic, it is a good moment,” said Jean Pierre Darnis, an associate fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche stratégique in Paris.
He noted that Leonardo’s space joint venture with Thales was working well. “Compare that to Leonardo’s acquired firms in the U.S. and U.K., with which it has fewer synergies than expected due to firewalls,” he said.
One challenge, however, facing industrial cooperation within Europe was the mentality created by Covid, he said. “The pandemic has made countries keener on local production, on national technological sovereignty,” he said.
A second analyst noted that if the EU wanted to encourage member states to integrate their defense industries, the union would need to set an example with a shared defense policy.
“The EU still lacks that, so it is trying to increase cooperation at an industrial level,” said Pierluigi Barberini, a defense and security analyst at the Cesi think tank in Rome.
“However, to get real naval integration you need political will, and we are not there yet,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
29 Oct 21. Will Greece acquire RAF’s 30 retiring Eurofighter Typhoons? The Hellenic Air Force is reportedly considering the acquisition of the 30 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets of the Royal Air Force, due to be retired by 2025, according to Nikos Panagiotopoulos, the Greek Minister of Defense.
“All possible options are being considered to find the most suitable solution, in order to further upgrade the operational capabilities of the Air Force,” Panagiotopoulos said when questioned about the prospect by Kyriakos Velopoulos, president of the conservative party Ellinikí Lýsi.
Those 30 aircraft would come as a great opportunity for the Hellenic Air Force to retire the 18 antiqued McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II jets it is currently operating.
Faced with heightened territorial tensions with Turkey, Greece has been modernizing its fighter fleet. In mid-September, the Greek government confirmed that an order for six Dassault Rafale fighter jets would be placed, in addition to 18 French-made fighter jets already ordered for the Hellenic Air Force in January 2021.
Greece orders six additional Rafale fighter jets
Greece confirms ordering six more Dassault Rafale fighter jets in addition to the 18 it already purchased. The 2025 retirement of the 30 Typhoon Tranche 1 fighter jets in the sustainment fleet of the Royal Air Force was announced in early September 2021. It raised controversy as the fighter jets would be retired at just 42% of their useful life (2544.8 flying hours).
The Tranche 1 variant of the aircraft, the eldest of the four developed, is limited to the use of air-air missiles and has very limited air-ground capabilities without the use of an external pod. (Source: News Now/https://www.aerotime.aero/)
13 Oct 21. Sweden to formally decide on GlobalEye buy in coming weeks. Approval looms for a key Swedish air acquisition programme. Shephard understands the Swedish government will decide in the next few weeks whether to place an order with Saab for the GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
Approval for the procurement looked to be a foregone conclusion since 16 February, when Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist revealed during a media briefing that the country intends to buy GlobalEye as a replacement for a fleet of Saab 340 AEW aircraft.
The acquisition was not subject to a competitive tender process. Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, Sweden can purchase combat air systems without requesting individual bids from industry. (Source: Shephard)
31 Oct 21. Netherlands’ Walrus-Class Submarine Replacement Program Facing Delays. The Dutch “Walrus-class replacement program” will take more time than initially planned. The delay in the procurement of four new generation submarines to replace the four in-service Walrus-class submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy is because talks with the three competing shipbuilders has yielded less information and less depth than the Dutch Ministry of Defense had hoped for.
This information was published last week by the Dutch Ministry of Defense:
“The talks with the three candidate recruits have yielded less information and less depth than the Ministry of Defense had estimated in advance. This was partly because the request from the Ministry of Defense went further than the shipyards are used to in this phase of talks. The designs could not yet be optimized and the Ministry of Defense itself also needed more time to analyze the information received.”
The three competing shipyards are Naval Group, Saab Kockums and Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. The down-selection of the three companies was announced via the “B-letter” in December 2019.
The shortlisted candidates, from top to bottom: TKMS’ Type 212 Saab Damen’s A26, Naval Group Royal IHC design based on “Barracuda family”
A 2nd round of dialogue should have started in September 2021 but has been postponed until December. This round will be used to further review the concepts and whether they meet the requirements set by the Dutch MoD.
It now appears that the long-awaited decision on a winning bid, initially expected by the end of 2022 at best (following an initial one year delay in the process) will have to be pushed further.
“A contract signing was planned for the end of 2022, but this is unfeasible. The reasons for this and the extra time required are still being mapped out. What is clear is that the planning will have to be substantially adjusted.”
Dutch MoD statement
The delivery timetable of the new submarines is another major topic of discussion in the dialogue. According to the MoD, the first ship was expected from 2028 and at least two submarines were to be fully operational by the end of 2031 in order for the Royal Netherlands Navy to start phasing out the Walrus-class. It is essential for the MoD that the 3rd and 4th boats reach full operational capability (FOC) soon after 2031, because four submarines are needed to fully meet the national and NATO deployment targets.
As alternative, the service life of the in-service submarines could be extended. The Dutch MoD is already considering this option:
“A working group is also looking at how the current submarines can remain in use for longer, taking into account the financial and operational risks. The minister will inform the House in the spring of 2022”. (Source: https://www.navalnews.com/)
02 Nov 21. GAO backs Microsoft’s protest of $10bn NSA cloud award to AWS. The Government Accountability Office sustained Microsoft’s protest of the National Security Agency’s cloud award to Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft protested the award of the secretive procurement known as Wild and Stormy or WandS in July. The ceiling value of the contract is estimated at about $10bn.
The full GAO decision is classified. The agency released a statement saying that it found “certain aspects of the agency’s evaluation to be unreasonable” and recommends that “NSA reevaluate the proposals consistent with the decision and make a new source selection determination.”
According to reporting in Washington Technology, the Wild and Stormy contract is designed as a replacement for NSA’s on-premise GovCloud environment, and is a distinct effort from the a multi-award intelligence community cloud contract called C2E which included awards to AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle.
GAO plans to release a public version of the decision after NSA and the companies involved identify classified and propriety information to excluded. (Source: Defense Systems)
29 Oct 21. Space Force Plans Up To $2.3bn In COMSATCOM Contracts. The planned buy with the largest potential value is for DoD-wide SATCOM services from commercial operators of p-LEO constellations, with multiple awards totaling $875m slated in August 2022.
Beginning next month, the Space Force intends to issue a series of solicitations for commercial satellite communications bandwidth, equipment and services — with up to $2.3bn in awards to be issued between 2022 and 2023. The acquisition plan, outlined today in an industry briefing by Mike Nichols of the Commercial Satellite Communications Office (CSCO), covers COMSATCOM bandwidth from L-band to Ku-band to X-band for a variety of US military organizations, including Combatant Commands and the Space Force itself. Under the plan, CSCO intends to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) in 2021 worth up to $970.1m, and worth up to $1.33bn in 2022. The actual contract awards are expected to be made in 2022 and 2023, respectively. According to the Breaking Defense Space Survey, which ran from mid-August to mid-September, nearly 54% of DoD officials responding consider COMSATCOM to be ‘extremely important’ in wartime, with another 34% tagging it as ‘very important.’ Indeed, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond has been pushing to increase Space Force’s reliance on commercial providers.
CSCO, headed by Clare Grason, is the sole DoD authority for acquisition of COMSATCOM services and capabilities. It serves as a middleman between commercial satellite operators and then matches the needs of various operational commands and other DoD customers to a provider — helping manage the contracting process. The office formerly was an arm of the Defense Information Systems Agency, but was transferred to Air Force Space Command in 2018 and now resides under Space Force’s acquisition unit, Space Systems Command.
In the slides presented by Nichols today, CSCO explained that its acquisitions cover four “service areas.”
- COMSATCOM Transponded Capacity (CTC) includes requirements with satellite bandwidth and power only, as well as limited engineering services such as link budgets and transmission plans. It allows customer-proposed waveforms and industry-approved solutions to apply leased bandwidth to meet individual requirements.
- COMSATCOM Subscription Services (CSS) are for use with fixed satellite services (FSS) or mobile satellite services (MSS). It uses contractor determined waveforms that are billed on a per-use basis. CSS includes rates for vendor-defined network management monitoring engineering, integration, licensing, and operations required to deliver the services.
- Complex Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3) allows DoD to build large, complex, custom satellite solutions. These include satellite transport (bandwidth), fixed or mobile satellite service, and service-enabling components such as terminals, handsets, and tail circuits with engineering services to integrate, operate, and maintain the solution.
- COMSATCOM Satellite Business Solutions (SBS) is a solution other than the FCSA solutions for FSS or MSS. Prospective acquisitions that are not anticipated to use FCSA solutions may utilize existing Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), Indefinite-Delivery Indefinite-Quantity contracts (IDIQs) or using full and open competition.
Overall during 2021 and 2022, the planned acquisition with the largest potential value is for DoD-wide SATCOM services from commercial operators of large constellations in Low Earth Orbit, known as p-LEO, for “proliferated LEO,” satellites. That solicitation is expected to go out to industry in March 2022, with an award in August 2022 of an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract worth up to $875m. However, that contract will not be managed by CSCO, according to the slides presented today, but rather by Space Systems Command at a higher level.
According to Nichols’ slides, CSCO will award multiple ID/IQ awards for p-LEO “satellite low-latency services, equipment and capabilities for all domains and use cases, to include both user-to-user capabilities and reach-back capabilities such as terrestrial back haul for end-to-end connectivity.”
The second largest planned buy is for the Army’s Blue Force Tracker II program that uses GPS and other signals to provide location information about friendly forces. The RFP is to be released in December 2021, with a contract award for up to $655 m planned for June 2022. The contract will include acquisition of “L-band channels, SHF satellite connectivity, internet service desk, rack hosting and hands-on support services at each satellite earth station, and Host Nation Agreement services.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
28 Oct 21. Following protest, Space Development Agency cancels, then reissues reworked satellite solicitation. Following protests filed with a government watchdog, the Space Development Agency is abandoning traditional Department of Defense contracting in favor of other transaction authority, a more flexible contracting method used for prototyping that has become popular with the military. At issue are 144 satellites the agency wants industry to build for its National Defense Space Architecture, a proliferated constellation to be made up of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit. The satellites are meant to expand the so-called Transport Layer, a mesh network composed of satellites connected by optical links on orbit that can rapidly move data from space sensors to any location on the planet.
SDA issued a request for proposals for the satellites in August, with submissions due by Oct. 8. That same day, satellite operator Maxar Technologies filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. While SDA wouldn’t comment on the substance of the protest, Director Derek Tournear said there was an appearance the agency favored a certain size or type of company over others.
“We want to avoid even any perception that [the Tranche 1 Transport Layer] competition is limited in any way. And because of that, we’re going to cancel that initial RFP, the RFP that closed on Oct. 8, and we will reissue our solicitation shortly that will be based on other transaction authority that will allow us more flexibility and the ability to remove clauses in question that gave this appearance of limitation,” said Tournear.
Because the OTA process is more streamlined than traditional contracting, Tournear said the move will have a limited impact on the agency’s schedule while giving it more flexibility in selecting the best contractor. Awards could be issued a month later than expected, but the satellites are still expected to launch in 2024, he said.
Tournear said his agency has struggled to convince industry it will be able to avoid vendor lock, something that has plagued Department of Defense space programs for years. In that environment, there is an expectation that whoever wins the initial contract will win all subsequent contracts, ensuring a long-term stream of revenue for the company while locking out everyone else.
Tournear has repeatedly said SDA will do things differently. The agency is building the National Defense Space Architecture in two year tranches, basically building out and replenishing the constellation with new contracts every two years. According to Tournear, the agency will hold full and open competitions for the next tranche of satellites every two years with a goal of avoiding vendor lock.
Despite that messaging, Tournear said industry was acting on the old way of doing things, where the failure to win an early contract meant they were shut out from future competition.
“That mentality pervades some of the industrial base and we’re trying to shift them, but I can understand that hesitation,” he said. “Until we actually demonstrate that through multiple acquisitions, I think you’re always going to have this mentality that people are going to want to ensure that they can fight as hard as they can to get an early award.”
In response to SDA’s decision to reissue the solicitation through an OTA, the Government Accountability Office dismissed the protest.
This isn’t the first protest SDA has faced. After the agency issued two contracts for its first batch of missile warning satellites in 2020, two companies filed protests with the GAO. SDA opted to reevaluate its decision making process in response, ultimately confirming the original awards. SDA said the new solicitation would be issued shortly. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
REST OF THE WORLD
03 Nov 21. New RFI released for Australian naval infrastructure project. Defence is seeking industry feedback to inform the future management of naval infrastructure at Garden Island. The local defence industry has been invited to support the ongoing management and operation of the Captain Cook graving dock at the Garden Island Defence Precinct in Sydney.
A request for information (RFI) has been issued as part of a full appraisal of the operation and support arrangements for the dock, which supports naval sustainment operations by dry docking Royal Australian Navy vessels.
“As we plan for an evolving regional landscape and implement Plan Galileo – our national approach to sustaining our Navy’s existing and future capabilities – it is appropriate to review the management of critical Defence assets such as the Captain Cook graving dock,” Head of Maritime Systems at the Department of Defence, Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm said.
“Australian industry has an important role to play in ensuring we develop optimal future arrangements.”
Industry has been invited to respond to the RFI, released via AusTender, over the next three weeks. Once receiving feedback, Defence is expected to consider key themes before shaping a future procurement strategy. (Source: Defence Connect)
02 Nov 21. Aussies To Pick ‘Mature’ Nuke Sub Design; Is UK’s Astute Class Frontrunner? Analyst Tim Walton thinks it’d be wise for Australia to field other, complementary undersea warfare capabilities such as “the Transformational Reliable Acoustic Path System and mobile sensors such as Wave Gliders with towed arrays to inexpensively monitor straits and ocean areas.”
In light of remarks by the top Australian admiral in charge of the plan to buy nuclear powered attack submarines, the British Astute design looks like it may be the frontrunner over an American capability.
The head of Australia’s nuclear submarine taskforce, Vice Adm. Jonathan Mead, told a Senate committee last week that his country intends to select a “mature design” for its nuclear submarine, to be built under the AUKUS security partnership, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It is our intention that when we start the build program, the design will be mature and there will be a production run already in existence,” Mead told a hearing in Canberra about what Australia calls “estimates,” which is basically their term for the budget.
Brent Sadler, a former nuclear submariner who served in the Indo-Pacific theater, said Australia knows “that a completely indigenously built sub with a new Australian design would be a 15- to 20-year endeavor.”
“They’ve realized they need submarines sooner than that,” Sadler, a sub expert at the Heritage Foundation, told Breaking Defense. “If you follow the math and the engineering, then that’s the logical conclusion if you want a sub before 2035.”
While Mead said “all options are on the table” as far as the sub’s design goes, Sadler thought the British Royal Navy’s Astute class submarine “makes the most sense.” This may well be the main reason that the United Kingdom was included in the new defense agreement.
This doesn’t necessarily mean all the Australian boats will be built by Britain, Sadler said. The probable approach — the one that will meet the requirement for a mature production line — would be to build the first two in Britain and then one or two in Australia. There’s tremendous domestic political pressure to build as much as possible in the Lucky Country, but the Australian government is facing extensive difficulties with current shipbuilding.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported in August that “every major Australian naval shipbuilding project is now considered to be running late, including the $90 bn future submarines project and the $45 bn development of a fleet of Hunter-class frigates.
“Even the relatively simpler and smaller project to construct a $4 bn fleet of offshore patrol vessels is behind schedule,” ABC said.
Building nuclear submarines, with the highly sophisticated and unique welding requirements, the advanced physical security needed, plus the much greater size of the nuke boats means Australia would have to take years to either build new facilities or expand and refine those that will be required to improve and extend the life of the Collins class submarines.
Those modified Collins subs will require extended hulls, so that may take care of some of the changes needed.
“There’s an opportunity in there to fix any problems they have with the logistics and fabrication and shipyard elements, while at the same time they try to grow their capacity to build the nuclear boats,” Sadler says.
One major reason to go with the British Astute instead of the American Virginia or Los Angeles classes is that its nuclear power plant uses less highly classified systems, Sadler said. Though the power plants have been modified considerably since the original agreement between the US and UK in 1959, they are still derived from the S5W reactor. “It’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t get into really sensitive nuclear engineering stuff,” Sadler said.
Over the decade or so it is likely to be before Australia deploys its first nuclear boats, analyst Tim Walton at the Hudson Institute said he thinks it’d be wise to field other, complementary undersea warfare capabilities.
“Families of unmanned systems focused on narrow mission sets could fill existing gaps this decade. For example, Australia can field more fixed and relocatable undersea sensors such as the Transformational Reliable Acoustic Path System and mobile sensors such as Wave Gliders with towed arrays to inexpensively monitor straits and ocean areas,” Walton said in an email.
“Extra-large unmanned undersea vehicles such as Orca — in essence small, unmanned diesel submarines — could tow larger sensors, deploy mines, or even employ torpedoes, when commanded, in chokepoints. And in the air, UAVs such as MQ-9B, could augment the RAAF’s high-demand P-8As and forthcoming MQ-4Cs to provide maritime surveillance, monitor sonobuoy fields, and deploy sonobuoys or compact torpedoes themselves.”
These systems “can be acquired cheaply, quickly, and at scale in the next few years,” he said. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)