A lot of peeps at my other stack were expecting me to write about the AUKUS submarine last Friday, and I’ll admit I spent a whole heap of time reading into it and searching the web for hot takes. But I’m still no closer to figuring out a coherent position.
The French boats looked to have imported all the lessons of the Collins Class saga – all the wrong lessons, unfortunately. They were going to arrive late and over budget, and then spend ten or fifteen years in the naughty corner while Defence begged the USN to help them get up to spec. That wouldn’t have been France’s fault but ours for insisting on a bespoke redesign of a nuclear powered platform into a diesel-electric substitute.
Like the Collins class boats, once that tortuous path had been walked, they probably would have been pretty capable in current terms. But that would have been around 2060 and advances in AI controlled drone tech would likely have completely changed the shape of the battlespace in all five domains (land, air, sea, space and online) many decades earlier.
By 2060 too, whatever Thucydidian conflict is coming with China would have come and gone with the world remade or destroyed in its wake. (My bet for everything going pear-shaped is early 2025, while the US is distracted by Republican attempts to nullify a Biden win, or even more spectacularly by Trump’s return to the White House. Either way there will be a two month period during which the Chinese believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have freedom to act. After 2025 the demographic collapse that Xi is racing to get ahead of will accelerate beyond all hope of catching up).
I don’t think the long lead time for delivering the boats will matter. Look to the RAN leasing at least three and up to six boats in the interim period.
More critically, the loophole used to transfer the reactors to Australia, will almost certainly be exploited by state actors such as Russia, Iran and ironically by China to proliferate nuclear technology within the constraints of the Nonproliferation Treaty.
There are, of course, the other aspects to the wider UKUSA agreement, the repositioning of US and to a much lesser extent UK assets within Australian territory, and the increased concentration on militarising AI, cyber and quantum technologies, that also got a mention at the presser, but which are probably up much greater significance than the boat deal.
Also, poor old France. Fucked by Scotty from marketing.
I think we made the right decision, but at the wrong time. And ballsing up submarine projects have existed as long as the RAN has had submarines. Have a read of the Collins Class Submarine Story, and stop yourself from shaking your head and muttering under your breath.
First of all, the war with China will be known as the Five Minute War because how the fuck does Australia go to war with China.
Second, why doesn’t Australia ever buy something off the shelf instead of going for some insane customisation like we’re so special?
Third, I’m concerned about what the “gyn and sauna” entails in your image. Really hoping it’s a typo.
Remember when Scomo got some bad press coz he didn't meet Biden alone?
We now know why, they were doing sub deals with Boris.
Also notice how UK an US have aggressive carbon abatement policies and Scomo doesn't? He says we are waiting for a technological solution, and our anglophone friends aren't giving us too much curry about it?
What's the bet that sometime in the near future , it will be "vital for national security" that our new subs have a domestic nuclear industry and wahlah! Scomo solves our carbon problems in one fell swoop.
I have no strong opinion either way, just reading the tea leaves.
As a business analyst, the thing that troubles me with the whole submarine procurement thing in general is "what problem are we trying to solve?" I get that buying submarines is deemed a necessary investment, but what do we want them to do? Is it to defend the Aus mainland and territories, or is it to be the deputy sheriff to the US in its proposed wars in Asia? Because if we just want subs for self defence I feel like that's a very different set of requirements to being Uncle Sam's sidekick.
Scotty has clearly decided that HIS requirement is to be a deputy sheriff but that argument needs to be made to the Australian people (and also opens up the eternal analyst question of "Why?" How does being the US's imperialist toady in Asia serve our interests vs buying off the shelf conventional submarines to patrol the coast in a self defence strategy?) Being the US's deputy sheriff is not the clear cut obviousness it used to be, particularly only weeks after the humiliating retreat from Kabul and the existential questions around what purpose the 20 year war in Afghanistan served for any of the countries involved in it.
No offence to our American friends in the Cheeseburger community, we still love you ❤
Speaking as a Yank, this is win-win for all of us. We add some more teeth to our relationship with Australia and show the French their true place in the universe.