About Submarines for Australia

We are a group of Australian citizens concerned about the Australian government’s current programme for the replacement of the Collins class submarines.

We believe the current plan for the design and construction of 12 Attack class submarines by the French government-owned company Naval Group is fundamentally flawed.

It has a similar or higher level of risk than the failed Super Seasprite Program but with vastly more public money being at stake. As the largest ever defence procurement contract and indeed the largest infrastructure project in our country’s history, and a critical capability in Australia’s future defence force structure we cannot stand by and not seek to make our concerns heard.

Specifically, as we have analysed this program over the last three years our major concerns about the following features of the program have grown:

  • The first submarine is not expected to be in service until 2035 at the earliest, which is far too late from both a strategic and an operational perspective and will likely leave our defence forces with a major capability gap
  • The already excessive cost has blown out by 60 per cent before even a preliminary design has been produced and at $80bn for design and construction and $225bn for total through life cost the submarines are outlandishly expensive
  • As an ‘ab initio’ design, the Attack class faces major technical risks and will almost certainly be delivered late
  • The submarines are designed to undertake covert operations with the US Navy in the South China Sea and even if America is still engaging in such activities in the region in the mid-2030s, the effectiveness and survivability of conventional submarines in that theatre by that time must be in doubt
  • The reason we build submarines in Australia is to be able to sustain them, while Naval Group will aim to maximise French industry involvement – currently without any competition in the process there is an inadequate level of engagement between Naval Group and Australian suppliers.

While there has been some recognition of the ‘extreme risks’ that this program entails by the leaders of the ADF there is no evidence of the substantial re-evaluation and mitigation efforts that are required. This site is designed to inform interested parties of the issues that have been and continue to be raised to change this situation.

 

Our background

Submarines for Australia was founded by Gary Johnston, the owner of Jaycar Electronics as well as a number of other companies. All members of the group are independent of any organisations involved in any way in the SEA 1000 future submarine acquisition. Gary continues to provide generous financial support for a substantial programme of research on the future submarine acquisition led by Insight Economics.

Gary first became concerned at the capacity for the Defence department to waste vast sums of public funds – money that could be spent on health, education, infrastructure, etc – with the fiasco that was the planned acquisition of Super Seasprite helicopters for the Navy. After outlaying $1,400 million, Australia did not receive a single helicopter – not one – while the ANZAC frigates were left for over a decade with no effective anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

This is not to say we oppose the increase in the Defence budget to 2 per cent of GDP or more – we do not, but the money must be spent efficiently and effectively. With Australia’s strategic environment becoming more uncertain and with heightened tensions in the South China Sea, our acquisition of new military equipment for the ADF must also be undertaken in a timely manner. Unlike in the past when the level of threat was much lower, we cannot afford any gaps or deficits in Australia’s essential military capabilities.