|Mark Dodd | September 11, 2008
AUSTRALIA will need to buy up to 15 new-generation Collins Class submarines to meet Kevin Rudd's ambitious aim to boost the nation's naval capacity to keep pace with an Asian arms race.
Ready for service by 2025, the fleet of new super-stealthy cruise missile-armed subs would be capable of 90-day stints at sea and would be double-crewed by tech-savvy matelots on market-rate salaries.
The Prime Minister's speech on Monday calling for a sharper focus on Australia's naval capability has been praised as "very sound and substantial" by leading defence and strategic analysts. But they warn that the current $100 billion defence equipment order book will have to be substantially reconfigured.
Leading defence strategist Allan Behm, who has provided advice to the Government on defence policy, said: "The best bang for your buck comes from submarines."
To cover Mr Rudd's ambitious military plan, the federal Government would have to review its current 3 per cent annual growth cap on defence spending.
Under the Behm plan, the army would escape largely unscathed but the RAAF would be forced to halve its $16 billion order for 100 futuristic F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to cover the cost of the new generation subs.
Another $2.5 billion of savings would be achieved if the Government decided not to proceed with a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer.
At least 12-15 new generation submarines would be needed to provide the sort of capability edge envisaged by Mr Rudd, Mr Behm said.
Unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Global Hawk spy plane would play an increasingly significant role.
The Australian National University's Hugh White cautions that Mr Rudd might have "underestimated the difficulty of the choices and challenges" he faced.
Professor White said that to achieve the sort of strategic vision referred to by the Prime Minister, stealthy conventionally powered submarines and a formidable airborne strike capability were needed.
AND this one as well:
"Another navy sub forced to dry-dock because of crew shortages"
Mark Dodd and Matthew Franklin | September 11, 2008
THE Royal Australian Navy is set to move the fourth of its six Collins-class submarines into dry dock because of crew shortages, undermining Kevin Rudd's plans for a massive upgrade in naval resources to counter a military build-up inAsia.
Crew shortages have put a fourth sub in dock and undermined plans for naval expansion.
Defence analysts warned yesterday that severe skills shortages meant the navy could not crew its existing vessels, let alone new assets proposed by the Prime Minister in a major speech to the Returned and Services League on Tuesday night.
Mr Rudd told the RSL that financial prosperity in the Asian region was fuelling an arms race and that Australia must respond by upgrading its military forces, particularly the RAN, which has just 37 vessels, including six submarines.
While Mr Rudd mentioned no particular nations, his comments have been widely interpreted as a warning about China's continuing expansion of its navy, particularly its fleet of nuclear submarines.
As Mr Rudd intensified his language yesterday, saying Australia needed to be a "maritime power" and protect its shipping lanes to maintain trade, defence analyst Allan Behm said the RAN was struggling to retain highly skilled technicians.
Mr Behm, a consultant to universities and the defence industry, said that with three Collins-class submarines now inoperable because of crew shortages, the navy faced the real prospect of mothballing another within six months.
"This is now a real problem for the submarines and somebody has to be brought to account," Mr Behm told The Australian.
"(Chief of Navy) Vice-Admiral Russell Crane has a big task ahead."
Lowy Institute fellow and Australian National University professor Hugh White accused the Government of failing to demand action from senior Defence officials.
"Defence and navy has not delivered the capability required of them," Professor White said.
"Imagine what would happen if this was BHP and half their truck fleet was out of service."
Replying to questions from The Australian, Defence last night did not deny the allegations and defended its crewing arrangements to protect its submariners from stress.
"The RAN has over 400 submarine-qualified personnel. Not all six submarines need tobe crewed at any one time asa proportion of the force is inmaintenance," it said in a statement.
"Crewing every submarine would not be the best long-term outcome as this would impose stress on the workforce.
"The number of submarines that are crewed therefore varies to ensure the longer term sustainability of the workforce."
The Australian revealed in March the RAN was suffering a 37 per cent shortfall in its crewing requirements for the Collins Class submarines and had been forced to slash the number of sailing days for t