Australia’s next generation of submarines

Australia’s next generation of submarines will be built at the Adelaide shipyard, in a partnership between the Federal Government and French naval shipbuilding company DCNS. The Future Submarines will be powered by pump jet propulsion, providing them with a tactical advantage over other similar submarines.

Identified in the 2009 Defence White Paper, the Federal Government’s Future Submarine program was established to deliver an affordable, regionally dominant, conventional submarine capability to Australia, sustainable into the foreseeable future.

Submarines are the most complex, sensitive and expensive Defence capability acquisition a government can make.

They are of strategic importance to Australia, and a critical element in our maritime security planning, with our national security and economy dependent on secure sea lanes.

The Future Submarine program represents an investment in the order of $50 billion in Australia’s security, and will be defined by a capability design, construction and sustainment challenge of unprecedented scale and complexity, spanning decades.

Australia’s location and geographic characteristics mean that there are no off­the­shelf submarine options that meet our unique submarine capability requirements.

As a consequence, in February 2015 the Federal Government commenced a competitive evaluation process to select an international partner to design and build the next generation of submarines.

French partner

Three groups were invited to participate in a Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) to select the manufacturer of the Future Submarines: DCNS of France, TKMS of Germany and the Government of Japan.

In April 2016, it was announced that DCNS had been selected as the preferred international partner for the design of the 12 Future Submarines.

This rigorous and independent CEP was led by the Head of the Future Submarine Program, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut AM CSC, and General Manager Submarines, Rear Admiral Stephen Johnson USN (retired), who was previously in charge of the program to replace the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines.

The process was overseen by an independent Expert Advisory Panel, chaired by former Secretary of the United States Navy, Professor Donald Winter.

It was peer reviewed by Vice Admiral Paul Sullivan USN (retired) and Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles USN (retired).

The decision to work with DCNS was driven by their ability to best meet all of Australia’s unique capability requirements.

These included superior sensor performance and stealth characteristics, as well as range and endurance similar to the existing Collins Class submarines.

The Government’s considerations also included cost, schedule, program execution, through-­life support and Australian industry involvement.

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DCNS will provide Australia with a derivative of its Shortfin Barracuda class of submarine. The Barracuda class submarines have an extremely long range and endurance capability; superior sensor performance (particularly in the sonar suite); state­-of-the-­art stealth technology; and habitability for extended periods at sea, across both open oceans, and in high intensity operational scenarios.

The Shortfin Barracuda is 97m in length and displaces 4,500 tonnes of water when it surfaces.

The Shortfin Barracuda is powered by pump jet propulsion, which means it can move more quietly than submarines with obsolete propeller technology.

In a confrontation between two otherwise identical submarines, the one with pump jet propulsion always has the tactical advantage.

Australia’s Future Submarines will use a pump-­jet propulsor that combines a rotor and stator within a duct, to significantly reduce the level of radiated noise and avoids cavitation.

This technology replaces obsolete propeller technology used in older submarines.

The sonar suite performance will be the best available ever for a submarine this size.

It is this coupling of excellent acoustic discretion, leading edge detection capabilities and pathways for technology development that will keep Australia ahead of any regional adversary now and in the future.

According to DCNS, “The Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A, designed by DCNS specifically for the Royal Australian Navy, will be the recipient of France’s most sensitive and protected submarine technology and will be the most lethal conventional submarine ever contemplated.

“The Shortfin Barracuda is a magnificent, inspiring submarine which will remain technologically superior until well into the 2060s.”

Made in Australia

A requirement of the CEP was that the submarines be built in Adelaide, creating a sustainable Australian naval shipbuilding industry and provide the certainty that industry requires to invest in innovation and technology and grow its workforce.

DCNS has committed to building a new mega submarine construction facility in Adelaide which will rival any other in the world.

The $50 billion investment in the Future Submarines will directly sustain around 1,100 Australian jobs and a further 1,700 Australian jobs through the supply chain.

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