Future submarines renamed ‘Attack class’ but concerns remain about project rollout

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December 13, 2018 16:07:42

The old saying goes ‘attack is the best form of defence’, and the Federal Government seems to have taken note when it comes to the name of Australia’s next generation of naval submarines.

Key points:

  • Australia’s new model of submarine has been officially named the “Attack class”
  • A retired rear admiral said the move was a “step forward”
  • But he said there were fundamental concerns about the project’s cost and timing

In Adelaide Defence Minister Christopher Pyne today announced the 12 vessels would “henceforth be known as the Attack class”.

It has replaced the term “future submarines” which has been routinely used in Defence documents.

“Today we name the submarine the Attack class. The first one will be called the [HMAS] Attack,” Mr Pyne said.

“The Attack class represents the inherent stealth, long-range endurance and lethality of a submarine.”

The first of the new fleet is not expected to hit the water until at least the early 2030s, gradually replacing the Collins class submarines, but not everyone thinks the name change is a priority.

A retired senior naval officer told the ABC it would do nothing to resolve underlying concerns about a looming “gap” in Australia’s submarine capability.

“It’s a step forward to have a class name, something nice and aggressive which is suitable for submarines [but] it doesn’t go to any of the issues that have been raised recently,” Rear Admiral Peter Briggs said.

“This is a highly developmental program and the probability is that it will be later than is currently being predicted.

“If it were to slip to 2040 — not that big a slip in the scheme of submarine projects — then we would start dropping below six submarines, and as soon as we do that we start losing our capacity to train and grow crews.”

Rear Admiral Briggs is one of three signatories to a joint letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to rethink aspects of the submarines program, including its $50 billion cost and rollout.

“It’s too slow to meet the strategic circumstances that we face,” he said.

“Either we have to accelerate the program that we have underway or we have to look at a second option.”

Vice Admiral Mike Noonan today rejected those claims, and said that there were “very advanced” contingency measures in place.

“If there’s any speculation that there’s going to be a submarine capability gap, I don’t believe that’s the case,” he said.

“There is a very advanced plan that will see a number of current Collins class submarines go through a life extensions program which will ensure that capability gap does not exist.”

Negotiations ‘harmonious’ despite reports of tensions

French company Naval Group has been selected to build the 12 new vessels, but the project has already run into difficulties.

It was revealed in September that negotiations over a Strategic Partnering Agreement (SPA) to guide the massive project had stalled.

Mr Pyne today acknowledged there had been “issues” but said negotiations “were concluded” following a discussion with French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Thursday.

“We have completed negotiations with Naval Group and the French Government to sign the Strategic Partnering Agreement with Naval Group and with France,” Mr Pyne said.

“The negotiations have been conducted in a very harmonious spirit and I’m pleased to say that all issues are resolved.

“We will sign that agreement in the early part of 2019, hopefully in February.”

Today, Mr Pyne announced multinational engineering firm Laing O’Rourke had secured the contract to construct a new submarine yard at Osborne near Port Adelaide where the vessels will be built.

“This will be a local build. A local build is defined as being around 60 per cent plus,” he said.

“That’s what we’ve achieved on the Collins class.”

Topics:

defence-industry,

navy,

defence-forces,

defence-and-aerospace-industries,

defence-and-national-security,

federal-government,

federal—state-issues,

government-and-politics,

adelaide-5000,

sa,

australia



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