By Christopher Skinner
Executive Committee Member, Submarine Institute of Australia
Jon Stanford’s media commentary continues his earlier thesis that we cannot afford the future submarine program (FSP) and questions its relevance to Australia’s geo-strategic posture. In contrast to this view are the continuing activities of most other important nations in the Indo-Pacific region, which are acquiring submarine capability by a variety of approaches.
However, the most fundamental issue to be set right is the current Collins-class submarines, acknowledged as the most potent conventional submarines anywhere, even if it has been a difficult process to achieve this excellent state. Commitment to further enhance these assets over their significant remaining pressure hull life provides the time to design and plan their successors with world-class designer, builder and systems integrators.
Mr Stanford is qualified to address the more important questions on value-for-money of the FSP, yet he chooses to consider only the lump-sum costs, when we should be considering cost-of-ownership over the life of the capability assets and their dedicated infrastructure – as does any multi-national resources company. On that basis, the FSP is affordable and excellent value to achieve what has been acknowledged is Australia’s only strategic deterrent capability – causing any reckless nation to think twice about interfering with Australia’s economic lifelines and other national interests.
Finally, the FSP will cover a period of unprecedented geo-political change in our region and we must exercise self-reliance in our diplomatic and defence posture to influence change in our best interests. The FSP clearly does that and at the same time, it covers a period when Australia will probably go through a challenging process of acceptance that nuclear power is unavoidable to achieve reliable, affordable and accessible energy for the community. In the same period, we will address nuclear propulsion for the submarines that come after the FSP.