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For Australia Buying nuclear-powered submarines now doesn’t make sense strategically, and it doesn’t make sense operationally.

White says Australia is now tied more closely to the US strategy against China, which is aimed at stopping Beijing from challenging American primacy. Australia’s eventual acquisition of eight nuclear-powered submarines is not going to make any difference to Xi Jinping’s calculations.

And if deterrence fails, and we end up going to war, will eight Australian submarines make any difference to the outcome? I don’t think it will,” White says.

Nuclear family: Setting a new course in submarine policy

The acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines promises to transform the Australian navy, but there are some uncomfortable realities Australia must also confront. AFR Andrew Tillett correspondent  ’17 Sep 21
, ‘……………. n Thursday, the Prime Minister unveiling plans to build nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide with the help of the United States and United Kingdom.

Morrison, who places a high premium on secrecy, had explored the proposal with a tight-knit circle of aides and officials for 18 months. So classified was their work that officials in Defence’s Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group, including those overseeing the $90 billion French submarine project, found out the dat before. Morrison effectively destroyed one of the shibboleths of Australian public policy – that nuclear technology falls in the “too hard” basket.

…………….. “This is a big policy shift in Washington, DC,” says Hugh White, Australian National University emeritus professor of strategic studies.

Buying nuclear-powered submarines now doesn’t make sense strategically, and it doesn’t make sense operationally.

The acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines promises to transform the navy – just a handful of countries operate them – but there are some uncomfortable realities Australia must also confront.

…….. A Defence-led taskforce will spend up to 18 months assessing whether the British or American submarine is the best option, along with workforce, shipyard and training needs. The government maintains construction can still start in the latter part of this decade, but the new submarine will be delivered a couple of years later than the French one would have been.

But this is predicated on the project going well. If Australia wants to tinker with the design, that will add time. There are also capacity constraints in the US and UK. Their shipyards are busy and the construction of Australian reactors will need to be squeezed into production schedules.

And despite assurances that reactors will be sealed and Australia effectively just has to “plug” them in, it goes without saying this is technology that has never been used here before. So even a 2040 delivery date may be optimistic.

China challenge

By then, it may be too late. “The challenge we face from China is not a challenge that is going to emerge in the 2050s. It’s happening now. The timeframe is wrong,” White says. “[Buying nuclear-powered submarines now] doesn’t make sense strategically, and it doesn’t make sense operationally.”

White says Australia is now tied more closely to the US strategy against China, which is aimed at stopping Beijing from challenging American primacy. Australia’s eventual acquisition of eight nuclear-powered submarines is not going to make any difference to Xi Jinping’s calculations.

And if deterrence fails, and we end up going to war, will eight Australian submarines make any difference to the outcome? I don’t think it will,” White says.

…… White says he is not against eventually acquiring nuclear-powered submarines but the question Morrison should be asking is what boats best suit Australian objectives, not American.

White says the navy’s priority should be using submarines closer to Australian shores to protect shipping lanes. He says for the cost of 12 French submarines, or eight nuclear-powered ones, Australia could buy 24 Collins class size conventionally powered subs.

“The reason we have been driven towards a big boat is we have decided our most important role is helping the US to hunt Chinese submarines in the South China Sea and East China Sea,” he says. “You would sink more enemy ships with 24 boats than you would with eight nuclear-powered ones.”…………… https://www.afr.com/policy/foreign-affairs/nuclear-family-setting-a-new-course-in-submarine-policy-20210916-p58s9t

September 18, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international

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