Australia has been beefing up its naval force with the strategic shifts in its region.  Communist China has grown its naval force considerably over the last two decades, moving from a wholly littoral force to a blue water navy.

Strategically, one can look at a map and get a pretty good picture of the ongoing situation.  China has pushed into the South China Sea and the Spratley Islands.  The PLAN – “People’s Liberation Army Navy” – will regularly warn ships that they are transiting China’s waters when, according to an international ruling, the waters are entirely within normal passage on International Waters.  China would seek to curtail shipping to major US Allies like South Korea and Japan.  At the same time, these Allies plus the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia would like to ‘box in’ China’s maneuverability.

So Australia sought a more advanced nuclear submarine with US and UK technology compared to a French diesel-electric submarine deal.  However, these nuclear submarines are challenging to operate and require a lot of infrastructure – though they are very potent weapons.

Much like my “Stealing Thunder” model series,

Australia could buy used submarine’s from Japan, thus improving its strategic and tactical abilities in the short-term too.  Check out the article which suggests:

  • Australia’s first nuclear submarine won’t be ready until about 2040 if it’s built in Adelaide. By importing nuclear boats, that might be brought forward to 2031 or even 2030. But that would still leave the submarine force at its current, inadequate level in the 2020s, which are looking increasingly dangerous.
  • The submarines we might lay our hands on are contemporaries of the Collins class, the Oyashio class, commissioned between 1998 and 2008.  Their surface displacement is 2,800 tonnes, compared with 3,100 tonnes for the Collins class. Their endurance and range are probably adequate for Australian missions. Their silencing and sensor performance are unlikely to be second-rate, but their crew size is largish at 70.
  • Since Japan’s submarine fleet still needs to expand by one, we should assume the country won’t decommission an Oyashio in 2022 as it takes delivery of a new vessel. Instead, the oldest frontline boat of the class, the Uzushio, may become available in 2023.