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Collins Replacement $3 billion each!

October 29, 2009

A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute predicts astronomical cost growth on future submarines home-built in Australia. This story is from Adelaide Now:

But a report out today warns that trying to build the new subs in Australia would be fraught with danger and the purchase of smaller, short-range “off-the-shelf” overseas submarines should not be ruled out.

The report, from the Government-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute, predicts the Australian-made subs would cost a “staggering” $3 billion each – three times the price of the older Collins Class boats.

The bill for the project is more than the annual $35 billion federal education budget, just shy of the $42 billion spent on the Government’s stimulus package and more than a third of the $100 billion the nation spends on health each year.

Now we are getting into nuclear attack submarine territory, without the speed, range, and endurance. We certainly support the increased lethality of conventional submarines, but not at this price. The first paragraph echoes our own thoughts, that European or even some Asian subs would be a much better bargain.

Sure, a 3000 ton boat has better accommodations and range, than a German Type 212, but if your weapons stay in drydock constantly from technical issues, what are you really losing here?

Hat tip to Combat Fleet of the World!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2014 12:35 pm

    I savor, cause I found just what I used to be having a look for.
    You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 2, 2009 4:17 pm

    Heretic, that is an excellent proposal, and a great capability for the Aussies without busting the bank!

  3. Heretic permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:09 pm

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but … if you’re wanting to “mod up” a 212/214 for additional missions, you’re actually going to want a split buy for different options.

    Type 212 is the “shallow” boat optimized for getting close(r) to shorelines. Put any spec forces insertion/extraction capability into this type.

    Type 214 is the “deep” boat optimized for blue water operations and going deep(er). Put any TLAM capabilities into this type.

    RAN places an order for six “Oz-ified” Type 212s and six “Oz-ified” Type 214s, giving them a shallow/deep mix of capabilities. Heck, with the prices for 212/214 being so much lower than $3 billion AUS, the RAN could probably afford to have TWELVE of each type (for a total of 24, not 12, or 6) … and still be able to crew them all with the “survivors” of the Collins debacle. Order the whole thing in bulk and the RAN could probably get a *great* deal for the entire project, with each 212/214 probably clocking in at around (if not under!) $500 million AUS or so per boat.

    Good thing the RAN isn’t that bright, eh wot?

  4. Graham Strouse permalink
    November 1, 2009 7:25 pm

    All this corruption and Australia isn’t even a US State! That’s impressive.

  5. October 31, 2009 11:17 pm

    The efficiency and value for money of the Collins and future Australian submarine appear to be secondary considerations.

    What is important is pork barreling. For massive funding to South Australia the Australian Federal Labor Government buys votes and electorates. Equally Australia’s trade unions and the sub builder ASC regularly threaten the federal government with political damage whenever the government considers buying off the shelf.

    So while a longe range HDW 212 would be the best choice it is unacceptable for the main reason – the Federal Labor Government wishing to remain in power through buying votes.


  6. Tarl permalink
    October 31, 2009 9:26 am

    the Russians noted the greatly disproportionate force needed to counter the U-boats, and planned accordingly.

    Um, the Russians (specifically Sergei Gorshkov) asserted that the reasons the Germans lost was that their fleet was too unbalanced in favor of submarines, allowing Allied ASW forces to operate with impunity. Thus Gorshkov argued for a “balanced fleet” that included surface forces and aviation in order to protect Soviet submarines from NATO ASW. That is what the Soviets planned to do, not create an all-submarine force.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 31, 2009 7:15 am

    This quote appeared in a post by Jane’s:

    The ability of the world market to provide an off-the-shelf solution as the basis of the new fleet should not be abandoned early, the report stated.
    “For example, an acceptable compromise might be the spiral development of a smaller, but still lethal, submarine based on an existing design. It could be the case that even this modest suggestion will push us to the limits,” said the report.

  8. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 31, 2009 12:36 am

    South Australia has some other issues. It is not a viable place to build boats. And let’s be honest. Sweden, Germany, South Korea, Japan and to some extent, the UK, can build boats. Australia can’t. They surf (get eaten by sharks), swim fast (the ones the sharks don’t catch), but they can’t build boats.

  9. - Alex 2.0 permalink
    October 30, 2009 9:56 pm

    LOVE Alex 2.0!

    however it is much easier to use such a platform as the potential delivery system of a nuclear missile than that which is to routinely deploy with and launch cruise missiles among other systems, not saying it wouldn’t be possible to modify 212 for Aussie requirements but it would be such an extensive modification that it wouldn’t be much more of a burden to build from scratch incorporating lessons learn from previous studies and when building from scratch it’d surely be beneficial to use a larger more capable design and when the planned number is 12 theres simply too much money involved to provide and satisfy German jobs and Industry rather than those of South Australia. and in a planned class of 12 there is definitely the money to produce something that’ll satisfy the requirements rather than a botched modification of something less capable than envisaged.

    – Alex.

  10. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 30, 2009 8:14 pm

    Alex 2.0,

    The Dolphin 209/212 variations have enormous strategic capacity when mofidied. Israel is sometimes too subtle for its own good. Those added 650 mm tubes are cruise-capable. The Popeye is a 200 kt nuke missile. Launched from a silent sub in tight waters, it’s roast & toast. The question is whether the Israelis would use a tall air-burst to obliterate the electronics of Islamic nations or whether they’d just burn them down. I’d guess the former for political reasons. And moral reasons. Israel goes to extreme lengths to try to protect civilians–it backfires against them a lot.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 30, 2009 6:59 pm

    Graham said “Give Fritz some credit. He knows how to build U-boats.”‘

    Amen. Two world wars nearly won to their credit. Sure they lost, but even the Russians noted the greatly disproportionate force needed to counter the U-boats, and planned accordingly.

    Eric makes a good point, and we often look at what these small craft can’t do, rather than their considerable capabilities. Compared to a 3000 ton boat or even a nuclear sub, they can seem insignificant, but to a merchantman or unsuspecting man of war, they can be just as lethal.

  12. October 30, 2009 6:29 pm

    12 unaffordable home-built dock queens vs. 12 212 or similar… very affordable lethal subs that would create a lot of grief for anyone in the next 30 years that wants to do a power-play against any Australian interests.

    And man is terrible about predicting future wars. The Boy Scouts have it right: “Be prepared”.

  13. - Alex (the new'un). permalink
    October 30, 2009 6:07 pm

    Smaller submarines lend themselves to patrol duty and against reasonable defences are limted in hunter/killer capabilties, cramming TLAM and facilities to support and insert special forces, UUVs etc.. isn’t going to be sucessful on a submarine less than 2,500T (ideally 3,500T region) although for a diesel sub to be a true attack sub it’s going to need to be able to break the 20kt barrier! (preferably by 25%)

    I’d wager that the $3bn AUD is scaremongering, the project is in it’s infancy and the projected costs have already escalated 50%?

    – Alex.

  14. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 30, 2009 5:18 pm

    Again, I agree that the German 212s would be a FAR better solution. Give Fritz some credit. He knows how to build U-boats. And he does custom-work. The first 3 209-based German-built Israeli Dolphins are basically enlarged versions of the basic design with Spec Force & cruise missile capability. I’m guessing the new 212-based AIP Dolphins are being built to order as well. Much easier for Australia to call on Germany. So they have different mission requirements? I’m sure Germany could be convinced to pimp-out some Aussie 212/214s. German U-boat bling is surprisingly affordable.

  15. Heretic permalink
    October 30, 2009 4:09 pm

    No Alex (the new’un) … I don’t recall off the top of my head what you’ve written twice already about the Gotland/212 being far too small (for RAN). What about them makes them “too small” for the RAN? Weapons loadout? Crew complement? Range?

    Can’t be reliability, can it?
    Couldn’t be range, since a 214 sailed from Europe to do exercises with the USN off the Atlantic seaboard.

    Could it be that the Gotland/212 types are simply “too cheap” … meaning that the RAN could easily buy (and crew?) four of them for less than the price of a Collins (let alone one of these $3 billion vaporware dreamsicles)?

  16. - Alex (the new'un). permalink
    October 30, 2009 3:42 pm

    Has anyone read what I’ve said twice already? Gotland/212 is a no go zone, far too small.

    PS: Astutes will cost more than anything the Aussies do, I also get the dreadful feeling the project will be cancelled soon and the RN will be left with 4 SSNs although alot of cash has already been laid out for 5,6&7.

  17. October 30, 2009 12:17 pm

    So, at $2.7 USD then what is the rate of ascent and estimated time required to reach orbit around earth or making the translation over to lunar orbit for these spaceships? :-(

  18. B. Walthrop permalink
    October 30, 2009 12:08 pm

    Wow. $3B AUD in USD is $2.7B. Virginias aren’t even costing that much now that they’re in serial production.


  19. Heretic permalink
    October 30, 2009 10:46 am

    If the RAN were smart, they’d either simply buy a 212/214 direct from the German yards that have experience in building the boats … or … they’d start talking to Kockums about getting in on the ground floor of the A26 project, so they could have at least some say in how the finished product turns out.

    Good thing the RAN isn’t that smart …?

  20. Distiller permalink
    October 30, 2009 5:58 am

    They are talking AUD, not USD. (Acquisition, not total cost of ownership).

    Compare: The new JMSDF 16SS are estimated at around 750 million USD per (and that’s a lot for such boats!).
    What should a new RAN boat have to make it three-and-a-half times more expensive?

    At 3 billion AUD acquisition per they are far, far into SSN territory.
    Compare: The total cost of ownership over 40 years of a Virginia SSN is estimated at somewhat above 3.5 billion USD (current FY dollars, incl two refits).

    The ROKN 214 intepretation Sohn Won-Yil (including switching the yard) are estimated at around 350 million USD per. And the total cost of ownership for such a boat over 40 years is probably somewhere around 500 million USD (current FY dollars, incl upgrades, oil price increase). In any case the total costs of the boat should be south of 1 billion USD over a 40 years lifetime.

    SSK acquisition costs of more than 1 billion USD just don’t give good operational value for the tax money spent. At 3 billion AUD per better ask for some lend/lease Astutes or Virginias. As I said in an earlier post, there is no point in the RAN replicating USN SSN blue water capability. Better concentrate on the islands and shallow waters in the north and north-west and buy the right boats for that, like the 212/214.

  21. Graham Strouse permalink
    October 30, 2009 2:07 am

    Is it just me or is anybody else here wondering whether Western Navies are secretly hiring contractors from the Empire? Why do I have a feeling the the Gerald Ford class is going to have an open exhaust port leading directly to the reactor:

    “Stay on target. Stay on target…”

    (Sorry, my innate geekiness leaks through sometimes…)

  22. - Alex (the new'un). permalink
    October 30, 2009 12:33 am

    They want SSNs with TLAM, however there is 0 chance of a nuclear powered sub in Australia, not suggesting Aus get American help in designing the whole ship, just combat systems, sensors etc.

    BMT Vidar-36 is the sort of solution the Aussies are looking at.

  23. Tarl permalink
    October 29, 2009 11:56 pm

    Aussie yards don’t have the skill and practise of building powerful attack submarines, American help is needed to keep costs low

    American yards don’t know how to build diesel attack subs either.

    Americans don’t know how to build anything and “keep costs low”.

    Gotland or Type 212 is the way to go. Buy it off the shelf. Why didn’t they do that in the first place?

  24. - Alex (the new'un). permalink
    October 29, 2009 10:50 pm

    Aussie yards don’t have the skill and practise of building powerful attack submarines, American help is needed to keep costs low much the same as what was required to stop Astute spiraling out of control(too little too late but nevermind that for the minute) after British submarine yards spent a decade idle(and the last work was on the bombers, there was 16 years between the last Trafalgar(Triumph) and Astute being launched

    RAN want SSNs but for politcal reasons it’s not going to happen, hence the requirement for SSNs in an SSK’s shell Vidar-36-esque.

    – Alex.

  25. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 29, 2009 5:09 pm

    That must be total cost for the program, Chuck, which is how you can also get a $350 million each price for the F-22 Raptor. But they are still seeking 12 subs.

  26. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 29, 2009 4:59 pm

    So they are talking 13 subs?

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