Was the french option the best choice for Australia?

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Profile picture for user Y-20 Bacon

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Japan and the US are having its panties in a knot that the Ozzies chose Frenchy.

so what do the armchair admirals think?

I forgot where I read it..but

the advantage of the Japanese design was strategic regional cohesion, offer to build all in Australia, and to use Japanese facilities. Japan seemed to be willing a lot of secret stealth tech transfers too
disadvantage said that the design itself doesn't perform much better than the existing Jason Collins class.

the French design is supposedly quieter with the revolutionary propulsion design

but its said the German design was the best.

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Profile picture for user QuantumFX

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On paper the French one seems the biggest and baddest, but then again I am no expert, heck not even a novice.

Jonesy we need your wisdom!

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On paper the French one seems the biggest and baddest............

For my money I cant see why you wouldnt go with the Soryu. Problems with the French boat are:

  1. Its been designed as a nuke.
  2. Its been designed for colder European waters

Essentially its an untried design based on, from what I can see, an unsuitable hull. If you're going to do this buy the nuke version and cut your order back 30%. By all means then go with the French hull....its letter perfect for Aussie needs. This looks to be a hull that is built on the basis of having a nuclear plant to push it. Replacing that with far less powerful propulsion is going to necessitate a big AIP fit with a lot of fuel bunkerage. Size is only an advantage for conventional subs up to a certain tipping point...after that point is reached you hit a destructive spiral whereby every increase in dimension adds hydrodynamic drag and requires more power and fuel (for a given range) the addition of which adds a further increase in dimension...or a reduction of useable internal volume....negating the point of the larger hull.

Against this the Soryu is virtually a de-risked hull. Its designed for precisely the self same, warmer, waters that the RAN operate in, so the power budget for HVAC under real conditions is a known quantity, and is optimised for essentially the same sensor/weapon fit that the RAN have experience with and want to use.

No-one can say that the French boat is going to be a bad choice. IF the propulsion fit matches the hull and doesnt need the hull to be one big fuel tank.....IF the HVAC is properly calculated for operations in warmer water.....if the weapons/sensor integration happens as the RAN wants then it could be a very interesting design. There are just some absolutely massive "IF's" there that the Japanese boat has pretty much already got answers for.

There is also the intangible benefit of sharing a basic platform with a leading regional military power....not a principle reason to make a selection of course, but, something you'd consider a major benefit in operations terms over the years not least in terms of platform development. Who else is a likely customer for a French diesel converted nuke boat?.

Looks a pretty odd decision to me....just in operational terms.

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very interesting commentary. Does anyone else get the feeling though that if the teething issues are not to great this will put DCNS in favor for any future bid for Canada when it comes time to replace the Upholder class?

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very interesting commentary. Does anyone else get the feeling though that if the teething issues are not to great this will put DCNS in favor for any future bid for Canada when it comes time to replace the Upholder class?

Thank you.

Its going to depend on the actual Canadian requirement I guess. At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader for the Japanese submarine industry I'd think that the willingness of the Japanese to sell might be just as impactful on Canadian thinking.

Canada has no submarine building industry as far as I'm aware and they are noted for their appreciation of saving a few coins where they can. The word 'metronomic' is used in music and in reference to Japanese submarine builders almost exclusively!. If the Canadians are willing to allow construction in Japan it could be they get their hulls very reasonably indeed. I read somewhere that Japan had suggested a Soryu purchase to Taiwan at something like US$500mn a throw. I dont know how legit that story is but, at that price, I'd have snapped their hands off at the elbow doing the deal.

Then the submarine itself. Soryu is a semi double hull design. This means she's strong and has good reserve buoyancy. If I wanted to run ops in ice-strewn northern waters I would be looking favourably on those qualities.

Of course if the Canadian requirement details the need for roving oceanic patrols far out from their coast...on paper...the French boat has to be, following a successful RAN service entry, a very viable candidate. Strictly for northern waters though I'd want the smaller, (theoretically) more nimble double-hull though.

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Hi Jonesy, I actually take the reverse view. About a week ahead of the choice I was pondering the three choices and personally concluded the DCNS was the best choice with TKMS second and the Soryu in third.

Against this the Soryu is virtually a de-risked hull. Its designed for precisely the self same, warmer, waters that the RAN operate in, so the power budget for HVAC under real conditions is a known quantity, and is optimised for essentially the same sensor/weapon fit that the RAN have experience with and want to use.

Looking at more recent reporting the Soryu was not as de-risked as first suggested. It had the shortest range and required a hull plug, it had a shorter designed life span and like the other options required a US Sonar and combat system integrated. I don't think the Japanese Submarine industry has as much project management experience integrating third party technology as TKMS or DCNS.

Looking at what Australia wanted they clearly wanted a Nuclear Submarine without the nuclear bit. Both the Soryu and Type 216 required hull plugs and significant reworking whilst the Shortfin Barracuda whilst being the largest actually get a small hull shrink.

I agree that there is a fair amount of risk adapting a nuclear design, lets hope for Australia it is not insurmountable but add in the build fully being in Australia in the run up to an election and the DCNS solution is attractive.

On Canada when the DCNS solution was announced I also thought that it would be a very interesting solution for them, the Upholder are less than ideal for their patrol area and a larger longer ranged design with a US combat system and Sonar must be attractive. Canada has no chance of building a domestic submarine so its an off the shelf solution, Shortfin Barracuda is the only design which has US fighty bits! Considering Australia is going to struggle immediately integrating double the amount of Submarines into their navy isn't there an opportunity for Canada to slip in an order for three to four Shortfin to Australia to be delivered about mid program. This would allow the Australians to iron out the bugs, extend their order book and allow their navy more time to build up to the full fleet. Canada could support the adoption into service of the first Australian boats with crew transfers of key personnel.

Just an interesting set of musings!

On a final side note the Shortfin Barracuda is by far the most attractive design on offer!

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Agreed that Australia actually has an SSN requirement Fed....not an SSK one. In their position I'd take 6 Barracuda over 12 of any of the designs on offer. French nuclear tech is generally top drawer as well.

Seeings that they dont seem to want to bite that bullet the questions are how close to nuclear can conventional get and how much risk will you accept to get it. Comparative to a completely on-paper design, with a propulsion system thats also still on-paper, I'd be far happier moving ahead with a modification to an as-built hull personally. In terms of technical risk DCNS is the highest, has to be, as the German hull was at least conceived as a conventional boat. Any way you cut it the Japanese boat is the least risky.

The 20yr stated lifespan of the Japanese boat, on paper, looks like a limitation. My question would be, knowing Japanese build quality, is whether that is an arbitrary 20 years to fit in with their industry build cycle or whether 20yrs actually represents a genuine hardware limit. I'd believe the former to be honest...though I cant substantiate it. Everyone smart usually builds in a bit of a margin anyway to cope with a few extreme events (like Swiftsures' early 'deep' dive!) without too severe an impact in hull operational lifespan. I wonder if that 20yrs, in reality, is actually more like 25 and whether that would change the nature of that point a bit.

Other than that the only issue realistically, as the French and German performance figures are theoretical at this point and likely to come down not go up, is Japanese inexperience in overseas project management.

Has to be said that is a very legitimate concern. It is one that is commonly encountered in business though. If you think you are going to have problems entering a market culturally or technically you build an interface. In this context engaging a 3rd party project consultancy...someone like BMT...or a US equivalent (if the US were so keen on the deal ask them to facilitate!) and let them handle the detailed project management. Essentially you outsource for the skills you dont have. Adds a little to the bottom line of the deal, but, you are further reducing risk.

Coming back to performance its fascinating, to me, that the Japanese are actually moving away from AIP. The Stirling AIP system that the current Soryu's have seemingly being replaced with advanced batteries. AIP does seem to have this near-mythical status that its somehow nearly as good as a nuclear reactor. In truth its very complex technology just to charge the batteries in a generally quite modest manner!. It'll be interesting to see if the Japanese continue the move away from AIP with their Soryu follow-on.

Appreciate this is all musings anyway Fed...as anything is going to be at this stage!. The amount of risk, built on risk, with the French boat though is quite remarkable in my view. Whoever got this across the line for DCNS must have been one hell of a salesperson!.

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I agree it will be fascinating to see how close the Shortfin Barracuda can get to Nuclear without the nuclear! Personally I think that will be a struggle, there is a reason why countries that operate SSN stick to them!

Project management is a clear risk and I think the Australians have learnt a bit from the Collins fiasco when it comes to the consequences of poor project management and working with a foreign yard (Kockums) that didn't have much experience integrating foreign kit or adapting to external requirements around detail specifications, the types of welds used being a case in point. The Swedish navy always requested partial penetration welds for their submarines, while the RAN wanted full penetration welding, but had not made this clear to Kockums. Wanting a revolutionary and conceptually new combat system rather than adopting a modern but mature one off the shelf was another sign of poor project management and specification setting.

I also did ponder about the whole 20 year life thing for Japanese submarines being arbitrary.

I found this very interesting talk about Taiwan's future submarine program that really goes into the importance of project management for this kind of national endeavor:

Looking back at the Shortfin Barracuda lets say that it does go off with minimal problems (there are always problems with new submarine classes), potentially Australia/France has an exportable design here working with DCNS for countries that want a long range Diesel SSK with American combat systems.

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Just my two cents to clarify a few things :)

Firstly DCNS has not been awarded the contract to build the 12 Subs, the have won the exclusive right to negotiate with the CoA on the 12 Future Subs. That is what the CEP process was all about, death by powerpoint so to speak. The Shortfin Barracuda has not even remotely been designed, it is a powerpoint, vapourware design concept only.

What DCNS now has to do over the next 18 months is build their technical case for the claims/capabilities as presented, present it and get through the next stage, if they can't come up with the goods within the next 18 months the Government then has the ability to go back to the next tender in the CEP process and engage them.

If DCNS can prove their case, then the submarine will actually be designed, with first steel cut around the 2025 ish mark.

In the DCNS proposal, they are indicating a sonar system from Thales, not a US system, but will be US AN/BYG-1 Combat System and the joint US/Aus developed Mk 48 Torpedo. Regardless of who builds the Sub, be it the French, German or Japanese, none of them will ever see the US kit, they will not install it, they will not integrate it, this will all be done as stipulated by the US State Dept with a nominated US company to do the integrations, be it Raytheon, Lockmart and possibly BAE.

So for my liking the DCNS option is absolutely the riskiest way to go.

The German design would be second, yes it is an upsized 214, so it is not as simple as putting in a plug to make it bigger, so much more to it than that, but you are no designing a brand new concept from scratch. France has built how many submarines ? V Germany who has built ?

The Soryu, or what would actually be an evolution of by the time it was built, was the least risk of all by a long shot. Yes it involved a plug etc etc, but at least it is in the water. Lifespan is not an issue, the Japanese do the 20 years to fit in with build cycle as was mentioned above. It has been stated that the hulls would have no problem with a 30+ year life span. The Japanese have been doing a continuous and evolutionary build program for decades, Soryu's, Oyashio's, Harushio's etc.

The Japanese have done away with AIP, all future builds will be Li. AIP for the space taken, just simply does not have the energy density that you can get with diesel and even Lead Acid batteries, let alone new tech Li. Now don't get me wrong, AIP has its place, especially for European navies based on geography and their use. For Australia and the distances involved and the requirements AIP just does not cut it. Australia did actually get an AIP unit, still sitting in a container in Adelaide :)

The listed distance for the Soryu ? don't worry about what is publicly stated, Japanese, as are most countries, very coy about their capabilities :)

Did we fall for a best dog & pony show ? I think so !! Can DCNS pull it off ? time will tell, they have 18 months to convince us :)

Cheers

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Just my two cents to clarify a few things :)

Firstly DCNS has not been awarded the contract to build the 12 Subs, the have won the exclusive right to negotiate with the CoA on the 12 Future Subs. That is what the CEP process was all about, death by powerpoint so to speak. The Shortfin Barracuda has not even remotely been designed, it is a powerpoint, vapourware design concept only.

...and now the pieces fall into place. So this wasnt a traditional maingate decision.....it was a downselect for a preferred bidder pre-maingate.

That makes vastly more sense. This one was just so far out of left field as a maingate decision as to defy all sanity!

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Exactly, and unfort it seems most mainstream media has missed this point and reporting as DCNS getting the contract. So yes down select from the CEP process, they have 18 months to prove to us they can before we sign contracts and go to design phase. It was also a very politicised decision with the current situation in Australian politics, last 6 years has seen 5 different Prime Ministers (one of them twice) it is a joke over here at the moment !!

I suppose you can maybe look at it another way, if they are smart enough to think of it ? What if ? DCNS has been selected because the proposal is so far out there, that they may actually be able to get it to work ? what if the can convert a nuke into DE and make the pumjet work, give it the legs ? they have that 18 months to prove their concept.

If they don't we have then the legal ability to go to back to the Germans and the Japanese, the least risk, they both would have plenty of time to make this happen, first steel does not need to be cut until 2025 to replace the Collins, that is plenty of time for either TKMS or MHI/KSC to finalise plans and start building ? Are our politicians smart enough to have thought of this play ? Probably not :)

Cheers

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If that is the truth then the Aussies have just gone for the best dog & pony show regardless of vapourware content. Really hope, for their sake, the DCNS lads can deliver or they're going to redefine the definition of 'mugs'.

Jonesy, wasn't the Shortfin Barracuda also offered to Brazil by DCNS? Though IIRC the Brazilians went for a nuclear submarine which is supposed to be derived from the Barracuda Class.

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Jonesy, wasn't the Shortfin Barracuda also offered to Brazil by DCNS? Though IIRC the Brazilians went for a nuclear submarine which is supposed to be derived from the Barracuda Class.

The deal with the French was back in 09 as I remember it. At the time the suggestion was that SSN-BR would be something that evolved out of the Marlin SSK project. Itself a larger evolution of the Scorpene. I'm not sure Shortfin had actually arrived as a concept back then. It seems that SSN-BR has now shifted more towards a Barracuda class than the quasi-Rubis that wouldve resulted out of the originally mentioned concept. Not sure there's much solid in the public domain about the deal.

There was a poster here with a defence site solely keyed into the Brazillian scene, Zone Militar think it was called, perhaps he can offer a bit more insight?

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The deal with the French was back in 09 as I remember it. At the time the suggestion was that SSN-BR would be something that evolved out of the Marlin SSK project. Itself a larger evolution of the Scorpene. I'm not sure Shortfin had actually arrived as a concept back then. It seems that SSN-BR has now shifted more towards a Barracuda class than the quasi-Rubis that wouldve resulted out of the originally mentioned concept. Not sure there's much solid in the public domain about the deal.

There was a poster here with a defence site solely keyed into the Brazillian scene, Zone Militar think it was called, perhaps he can offer a bit more insight?

Thanks Jonesy.

One last question about the Australian Shortfin Barracuda.

Will the choice of a torpedo be dictated exclusively by the type of combat management system (CMS) & its associated torpedo fire-control system on the Shortfin Barracuda? Or will they be able to use torpedos from other countries like the US, for example the Mk 48?

The reason I ask this is because French submarines like the Scorpene, generally use the SUBTICS CMS that are all programmed to accept only certain type of torpedoes for example Black Shark.So maybe they won't be able to use other torpedoes like Mk 48, DM2A4 or the Spearfish.

That being said I checked the website of Atlas Electronik and they state that the ISUS-100 CMS is a COTS PC based modular open system architecture. This means it can be configured for any type of submarine.

https://www.atlas-elektronik.com/what-we-do/submarine-systems/isusr-100/

I suspect the French CMS on board the Shortfin Barracuda is not based on open architecture which is why the Aussies will have to stick with French torpedoes like the Black Shark/F-21.

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Thanks Jonesy.

One last question about the Australian Shortfin Barracuda.

Will the choice of a torpedo be dictated exclusively by the type of combat management system (CMS) & its associated torpedo fire-control system on the Shortfin Barracuda? Or will they be able to use torpedos from other countries like the US, for example the Mk 48?

The reason I ask this is because French submarines like the Scorpene, generally use the SUBTICS CMS that are all programmed to accept only certain type of torpedoes for example Black Shark.So maybe they won't be able to use other torpedoes like Mk 48, DM2A4 or the Spearfish.

That being said I checked the website of Atlas Electronik and they state that the ISUS-100 CMS is a COTS PC based modular open system architecture. This means it can be configured for any type of submarine.

https://www.atlas-elektronik.com/what-we-do/submarine-systems/isusr-100/

I suspect the French CMS on board the Shortfin Barracuda is not based on open architecture which is why the Aussies will have to stick with French torpedoes like the Black Shark/F-21.

I'd say, and maybe Aussienscale can corroborate this, that its impossible to see the new boats main torpedo armament will be anything other than the Mk48mod7. The CBASS was a joint US/Australian development so they have every vested interest in keeping it in the fleet. As far as I understand it the build programme here will be split for hull, propulsion and habitation going to France and all the 'fighty bits' going to the US.

Dont see there will be a lot of scope, at this point, for French HWT's, SM39 or SCALP though I imagine that there will be 'suggestions' all through build that Thales and MBDA could streamline into build very efficiently and at highest bang for buck. Especially if cost overruns start creeping in!

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As far as I understand it the build programme here will be split for hull, propulsion and habitation going to France and all the 'fighty bits' going to the US.

Interesting! This means the CMS can very well be from the US. And maybe it will be Open Architecture. IIRC, Boeing managed to integrate Harpoon missiles into German HDW submarines operated by the Indian Navy.

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I'd say, and maybe Aussienscale can corroborate this, that its impossible to see the new boats main torpedo armament will be anything other than the Mk48mod7. The CBASS was a joint US/Australian development so they have every vested interest in keeping it in the fleet. As far as I understand it the build programme here will be split for hull, propulsion and habitation going to France and all the 'fighty bits' going to the US.

Dont see there will be a lot of scope, at this point, for French HWT's, SM39 or SCALP though I imagine that there will be 'suggestions' all through build that Thales and MBDA could streamline into build very efficiently and at highest bang for buck. Especially if cost overruns start creeping in!

Correct Jonsey, it will be US supplied, relevant quote from the DWP

4.27 Australia’s new submarines will be supported by upgrades to enablers
and facilities such as wharves and port facilities, as well as simulators,
training and submarine rescue systems. The key strategic requirements
for the future submarines include a range and endurance similar to the
Collins Class submarine, sensor performance and stealth characteristics
which are superior to the Collins Class, and upgraded versions of the
AN/BYG-1 combat system and Mark 48 MOD 7 heavyweight torpedo
jointly developed between the United States and Australia as the
preferred combat system and main armament. The new submarines will
have advanced communications systems to link with other Navy ships
and aircraft to conduct anti-submarine warfare operations.

There has never been any question that it will be the AN/BYG-1 or the Mk 48 Mod 7, which is what is currently used on the Collins Class. Along with sub launched Harpoon. There has also been talk of a land attack missile as well, but no recent "mentions". The biggest issue with this now as mentioned previously will be the IP firewall issues for integration, but not impossible to overcome.

Everything else other than this is just guess work at this stage, have seen some reference to the sonar being done by Thales, who have strong links already in Australia, but that is about it at this stage.

I have also seen a suggestion that we would be looking at photonics mast, which would make sense as it is much better for internal layout, but once again nothing official as yet, or who would supply it ? but if Thales is a potential for the sonar suite you never know, could be something like on the Astute's or we could get US kit like the Virginia's

Cheers