Submarine costs spiraling into the stratosphere

Comment by Peter Roberts

There is increasing evidence that Australia’s decision to ditch its indigenous experience building the Collins Class submarine and buy a completely new design from France is turning out to be a costly mistake.

I have always argued that the best path for Australia would have been to build a modified Collins, building on our existing skills and what we learned producing what in the end was a good submarine.

This was the least risky path.

We know the cost of Collins and we can produce the required 12 boats in a reasonable time frame, adding new features progressively as we prove them.

So instead of a lurch to the new, we get a steady progression from the known to embrace new technologies such as lithium ion batteries and pump jet propulsion.

Instead, buying overseas is going to be very costly according to evidence given in Senate estimates by Future Submarine Program manager, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut.

RADM Sammut revealed that the total cost for the turned out vessels was now estimated to be $145 billion, and the total cost of the submarine programme around $225 billion by the time of the vessel’s planned retirement sometime in the 2080s.

“It is only an estimate of the sustainment of the fleet, we are designing the sub today,” RADM Sammut was quoted as saying in defence media reports.

Defence Connect reported the costs associated with Australia’s future Attack Class submarines of between $4.2 and $6 billion per unit compared with the unit cost of the French Barracuda’s on which they are based of approximately US$1.4 billion ($2 billion) per unit.

You have to ask Why?

For this we are getting what increasingly looks like obsolete technologies – lead acid batteries and conventional propulsion.

Defence Connect says that the cancellation fees associated with the SEA 1000 program amount to $404 million.

Looks like a bargain to me.

Picture: Defence

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