|Royal Australian Navy Collins class Submarine|
It’s time to review the arguments for 12 next generation submarines; the more so because eight seems to be the conventional wisdom of the day!
Any consideration on this subject should start with why Australia requires submarines. Submarines offer the Government unique options in dealing with the increasingly challenging maritime environment in our region, where the presence of overt ADF assets is likely to be seen as escalatory and these assets will be at risk if safety catches are off.
The arguments for 12 long range-submarines (part 2 here) were accepted in the 2009 and 2013 Defence White Papers. Both DWPs also concluded that our geography requires a large submarine with long range/endurance and large payload. Our strategic environment hasn’t changed for the better.
The Northwest Pacific is the strategic focus of the Asian Century. Based on this transit distance—a not unreasonable for Australian submarines—12 submarines is the minimum force size to enable Australia to sustain one deployed (in a demanding but practical cycle) and provide one operational submarine available for other tasking.