Sea State
23 Feb 2015| and

Soryu-class submarineIt was another big week for submarines here in Australia. Early last week the Defence Minister’s office said that the competitive evaluation process for the Collins-class submarine replacement will involve two distinct stages—a request for information, followed by a request for tender.

By the end of the week, wrote Greg Sheridan in The Australian (paywalled), there had been a full Cabinet meeting on Thursday night, following

‘two meetings earlier in the week of the National Security Committee of the cabinet. There had been sharp divisions within cabinet. Tony Abbott has long had a partiality to Australia acquiring Japanese Soryu submarines and adapting them for Australian conditions.

This is no longer exactly the government’s position. Now there will be a formal, relatively transparent process with Germany, France and Japan invited to participate in the competitive evaluation process.’

The Australian Government has apparently ruled out Swedish company Saab, much to the displeasure of the South Australian State Government—Saab had previously said it would build the submarines in Adelaide. The Federal Government has promised that at least 500 jobs will be created through local industry partnership with shipbuilders from Japan, Germany, or France. According to the Defence Minister,

‘The Government expects that significant work will be undertaken in Australia as part of the build phase of the future submarine including, but not necessarily limited to, combat-system integration, design assurance and land-based testing.’

Here’s ASPI’s Andrew Davies talking about submarines—particularly the Japanese options—midlast week.

Meanwhile, the Australian Submarine Corporation was at Senate Estimates last week. Here’s Catherine McGrath’s piece on that appearance, and here’s the full transcript.

Two stories on the future of maritime warfare. Adm. Jonathan Greenert of the USN stated in a speech at the Australian National University that lasers ‘are a thing of the future’, noting the significant savings on gunpowder.

And the Kazakh national defence company Kazakhstan Engineering announced on its website that it’ll be working alongside the French firm ECA to produce ten unmanned underwater vehicles. Whilst UUVs won’t be replacing submarines any time soon, Kazakhstan plans to use them for non-combat tasks. For more on the topic, see our own Rosalyn Turner’s article on the future of UUV’s in Australia here.

Immediately to our north, Indonesia’s House of Representatives agreed to inject an additional IDR726.3 trillion (AU$72.2m) to their newly-founded maritime security agency, Badan Keamanan Laut, following suggestions that the initial allocation was insufficient to allow the agency to perform its functions.

There are some new pictures (also here) of China’s land-reclamation efforts on various reefs in the South China Sea. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, the authors note that

‘China appears to be building a network of island fortresses to help enforce control of most of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping routes—and potentially of the airspace above, according to experts who have studied the images.’

CSIS has this before/after series of Chinese construction in the South China Sea.

On the South China Sea, the USN said last week that four of Washington’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) will operate out of Singapore by 2018 on rotational deployment. And Foreign Affairs has this piece this on the case for ‘archipelagic defence’ in the face of an increasingly assertive and aggressive China. The article argues that by creating a series of linked defences, Washington and its Pacific allies will be able to ‘convince Beijing that it simply cannot achieve its objectives with force’.

Harry White is an analyst at ASPI and Amelia Long is an intern at ASPI. Image courtesy of Flickr user Seong-Woo Seo.