Strictly Surface Submarines

Ludwig von Gress

Whilst we Australians have problems with our current submarine fleet, we are not alone. It may or may not be some consolation, depending on how marxist your Weltanschaung is. Perhaps a brief, sorry history of our Collins-class under water vessels is in order for those who missed it, and did not miss more than $1,000,000,000 for the repairs to periscopes, leaks and engines they cost us so far . After all, it is only about $50 per capita and so perhaps $500 per taxpayer. Nobody, I trust, but Bob “pretty-in-pink” Brown and his acolytes, would begrudge the money, had the submarines worked as expected or at least close to it. The saga commenced during the Bob Hawke (ALP) governmenance almost thirty years ago when Oberon-class submarines were to be replaced. For some incomprehensible reasons, i.e. incomprehensible to a citizen hoping to get some protection for the tax extorted from him, but entirely fiscally logical to the politicians, defence procurement specialists, their families and mistresses, a Kockum 471, at the time on the Swedish drawing boards, was selected. In 1987 Mr Ken Aldred, MP mentioned in the Parliament, “…the possibility that the type 471 has been penetrated by Czech intelligence …”. The original estimate of two hundred million per submarine was increased five-fold, a billion each. Of the six only two, sometimes in good weather three, can be allowed to go out, which means three billion dollars of acquisition costs just for one (almost) working boat. It is planned that Collins-class submarines would be retired by 2025. That means about a billion dollars p.a. in maintenance costs for two or three sea-worthy submarines.

Canadian problems

Last year alone the Canadian taxpayers gave $45 million to the Navy to repair/refit the British-built HMCS Windsor. The joke commenced in 2007 and with a bit of luck, the submarine will submerge again in 2013. The other three are doing even better, at least as far as the Chinese People Army Navy is concerned. HMCS Victoria was in water for only 100 days in the last ten or eleven years. HMCS Chicoutimi caught fire on her maiden voyage in 2004 and hopefully will taste sea water again in 2012. So for the original purchase price of $891 million for four, Canadians have one, HMCS Corner Brook, so far, fingers crossed, functional, ignoring of course such inconsequential details as broken torpedo tubes, bad welds in the hull and acoustic tiles falling off.

Russian problems (?)

The Russian Federation of the Most Democratic Republics saved money needed for decommissioning by threatening to sink their obsolete submarines lock, stock and reactor in the Atlantic and thus got money from a US taxpayer to modernise its navy. Naturally. Chinese military expert Sun Tzu was advising to pretend you are weaker: “He who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth, making it impossible for the enemy to estimate his whereabouts… O divine art of subtlety and secrecy!” The Russian military are past and present masters of maskirovka. Hopefully, everybody is familiar with a script allegedly written by Count Potemkin in 1787 when roubles earmarked for regional infrastructure and defence were diverted to other uses; women and vodka in that instance. The script remains the same, US dollars pay for modern submarines and Putin directs the performance. The sub-plot in Le Carré’s 1989 spy novel The Russia House touches on this subterfuge designed for the gullible western eyes.

Perhaps a story from the Eastern Front c.1943 would be a good illustration. A few attacking Panzers came under fire from the Russians’ artillery. One got hit and stopped, the others retreated. Russians, undoubtedly and understandably conserving ammunition, considered the tank to be no longer a danger. Whilst they listened to the German radio communications, they did not understand the German and had no means of knowing which message is from which tank. An hour later, the attack was renewed and this time it was successful. The crew of the disabled tank had the time to observe the Russian defence positions, locations of the guns and reported accordingly. Also, whilst unable to move, it still could fire with devastating effect due to the proximity of the targets. The story is well known, and likely to have occurred, with some variations, more than once. I believe the Russians did finally learn and applied it against Germans. It is more than likely that they are applying the same stratagem today.

Therefore I would not be surprised to learn that the Russian navy is in much better shape than it appears, and is getting better and better every day. Maybe the Russian “problems” are just a Potemkin village; perhaps the all-seeing CIA replaced shortsighted Empress Catherine II.


Luckily Israelis have no such problems, though their luck is entirely self-made. TheIsraeli navy currently has three submarines of the Dolphin class and is about to get two more brand new German made and updated Dolphins. Recruitments to submarine service increased by 30% and Israeli submarines carry cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. For those that may not be familiar with geography, the Australian coastline, which has never been protected by more than three submarines at any one time, is nearly 100 times the size of Israel’s. Hmm…

Meanwhile back in Australia

For a frighteningly long time there has been no parliamentary will to build and maintain something at least resembling credible defence. The White Paper – Defending Australia in Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, provided for twelve long-range submarines (again not even on a drawing board) but White Papers are written by public servants who have nothing to do but to be ignored by politicians who have better things to do. [see Ludwig von Gress: Kos prani a kytice slibu, (June 2009 ) and among others also published here on Fog of Chaos, 25-07-2011] In her very first Federal Budget Julia Gillard reduced the Defence funding by a staggering $4 billion. The people’s will is another matter altogether, and as I am not a Marxist, I am not going to claim I speak for the masses. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that people are interested in defence matters and are more aware of potential threats to Australia than the public service experts would lead us to believe. Our 1.8% of GDP for defence of very vulnerable Australia is laughable. Thankfully, some experts woke up and started writing about our Strictly Surface Submarines, so perhaps I ought to leave it to them. After all, whatever I would write today, they will undoubtedly discover on their own in three years’ time.

* * *



About Ludwig von Gress

Born in communist Europe, interested in defence matters on a macro scale, with a cavalry “devil may care spirit” from his grandfather and cautious effectiveness of asymmetric warfare approach from his guerilla father. He sometimes despairs that he may be the only one taking the defence of Australia seriously.
This entry was posted in Australia, Military and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Strictly Surface Submarines

  1. Pingback: Astute austerity | Fog of Chaos

  2. Ultimate Nitche says:

    I just like the valuable, pithy information you provide for your articles, Ludwig. It could be found elsewhere perhaps, but would take time. Good luck for the next! Brazilian Navy?

  3. Diovaldo says:

    Not only submarines, but the whole defense is badly served by Labor government. I hope more people read this and write to their MPs.

  4. Danilo says:

    I agree with everything you have written, but the fact is there are no money in the federal till. Still, it is very good to know there are people who care.

  5. Circum says:

    So many countries now buying subs that there will be shortage soon. It looks that even Swiss would get one, and Australia is looking to 5 to 10 years submarine gap. Labor has a lot to answer for.

  6. Dirk says:

    I would like to know what is the real situation with US Navy subs. I don’t trust the DoD propaganda.Keep up the good work.

  7. Arius II says:

    Your post may need updating, especially as far as Russian submarine fleet is concerned. Russians are hiding their better stuff, so as not to give US ‘hawks’ any ammunition against Obama’s defence cuts.

  8. Angelina says:

    You write your posts with so much whimsical humour that is very nice reading them. Depressing on whole, though…

  9. de messine says:

    I appreciate your helpful post – first class work. I hope you write others. I will continue reading.

  10. animus says:

    Labor is dismantling our defence. I despair, for Coalition will continue in appeasing Chinese.

  11. Matelot says:

    You are absolutely right.

  12. Scarf-face says:

    Swan will sell them for scrap to save his budget.

  13. Cogscrew says:

    As long as they are capable of flying white flags…

  14. Hefty says:

    The way ALP is going they would be sold for scrap to China soon to provide election funds.

  15. very weary says:

    It is all very sad. The Republic of China will have to design and build its own submarines, because US of A is reluctant to sell them any. Ten years of negotiations down the drain, to the obvious joy of Communist China.

  16. isabela morant says:

    It is so depressing. Is there any way out?

  17. bleakmange says:

    Save a thought for those poor sailors. Would you risk your life for Gillard, Conroy, Rudd and the other scum?

  18. link master says:

    Yet another reason to get rid of those Labor traitors.

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  24. サングラ says:

    We take actions because that’s what’s worked for individuals in similar situations in the past. But perhaps surrender to the superior, both militarily and moraly, force is a better option?

  25. that no solution says:

    and if our submarines worked, and if there was any danger to Australia, our unions would go on strike to keep them in ports…

  26. Mr Bolter says:

    So now we are promised what 9? 24? submarines? Makes absolutely no difference. Submarines will go the way of our aircraft carrier.

  27. Andrew Poid says:

    There are now many to fix the Defence after so many years of neglect. The Coalition is powerless, and in any case, does not have the will.

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  29. Ivan Cherboff says:

    It is unlikely that the new government will fix the problem, or even want to. They have sold out to China long time ago.

  30. Bourse Agent says:

    Australia does not take its defence seriously. It is unlikely that it ever will.

  31. Smith King says:

    Nobody is interested in the defence of the nation. Except the military equipment procurers.

  32. Sin Wong says:

    Surrender, roundeyes!

  33. hairdonot says:

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for barber chairs.

  34. Roger Trauter says:

    I do not see any solution. Australia simply does not wish to defend itself, not to mention to pay for it. Perhaps somebody, from somewhere, will help.

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