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Australia mulled leasing US Virginia class SSNs?


Army.ca Fixture
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Starting a new thread to separate this from the "Australia mulls Soryu class SSK" thread

If Australia seriously considered this and a sale went forward, wouldn't the anti-nuclear lobby groups there would become just as vocal as the ones here in Canada were in the late 1990s when the then-Chretien govt. was mulling between buying a British and French SSN? ( but chose our Victorias/Upholder class SSKs instead)


Australia’s Submarines: The US Option

Why leasing U.S. boats might be Canberra’s best option.

Lost in the debate surrounding the Collins-class replacement was serious consideration on leasing Virginia-class boats from the U.S. According to a former Bush administration official, conversations were held but failed to progress due in part because Canberra was not entirely confident the U.S. government would agree. No less a strategist than Hugh White, in a recent op-ed, urged Australia’s new defense minister to “…ask very searching questions about what submarines we are trying to buy… (and she should) satisfy herself that the submarines’ operational roles have been properly thought through, and fit with Australia’s strategic needs over coming decades.”


Not only would the Virginia-class provide Australia with a substantially greater capability to defend the so-called “air-sea” gap, it would significantly enhance Australia’s contribution to collective security in the region. The Virginia-class are equipped with Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles, for instance, which would give the Australian armed forces a vast amount of operational flexibility, not to mention credible strike capability in the event of hostilities with a strategic competitor, providing a greater range of military options in the event of a conflict. Indeed, one of the reasons for acquiring such long-range strike capabilities would be as part of a larger effort to become more of a team player with the U.S. as tensions increase with China over possible future freedom of navigation patrols and faits accomplis in the South China Sea.

The only limit to the time a nuclear submarine can remain submerged is the crew. This would provide Australia with a powerful deterrent as well as a persistent attack capability and become an important step in strengthening and demonstrating extended deterrence in the form of nuclear sharing.

How would it work? The U.S. Navy and the RAN would jointly crew the platforms – mixed-manning. One issue for potential eyebrow-raising is the fact that these subs are nuclear-powered and Australia has no experience with nuclear reactors in naval propulsion. Australian forces operating with nuclear reactors should not be controversial in the first place, since the South Australian government has recently seriously explored establishing a nuclear power industry in the State. In addition, Westinghouse has recently been negotiating with the government in Canberra to set up an industry in the country. If this comes to pass, Westinghouse could extend its capability to include a full array of training for RAN personnel. Even if the lack of experience in the RAN did come to be an issue, the solution would simply be for American naval expertise to man the reactors.

Get your governments straight SMA: The Canadian nuclear option was entirely - 100% done, then abandoned under the Mulroney conservative government.

The Navy had put up its replacement plans for the O-boats to be replaced by other diesel boats. Then the Mulroney government Minister of defence asked "Why not nuclear boats? Consider nuclear boats" And this led to their inclusion in the White paper. After the wall fell, however, and the economy went pear shape, the government changed its views again and told the Navy to go back to diesel boats, which the Navy did and actually even proposed getting the Upholders that the UK was about to shelve.

The Navy obliged and then, Chretien came into power and basically froze all military purchases. At one point, somebody pointed out to the Chretien Libs that the O-boats were at the point where they did not meet the safe diving requirements and MUST be replaced, otherwise the whole capability and knowledge base would be lost. The Chretien government finally decided to look at the used Upholders, as a "cheap" solution rather than actually purchasing new boats, but by then they had been laid up too long and we know what happened next.
I'm still waiting for someone, hopefully of these 'experts' that get so much media attention, to explain precisely what Virginias the RAN could actually lease?

It will come as something of surprise to the USN that it has a surplus fleet of V-boats, just laying around, waiting for someone else to use them.......