Indonesia expects to pay around U.S. $800M for their new subs. The Australian Defence Establishment wants us to believe that they can make 12 replacements for the Collins class for $36B. Given the current ship-building debacle, we should act with extreme caution for any warship wants by Defence.
There are those that still hold on to the tired old claim that a replacement for the Collins sub needs to be big, custom, long range (or at least longer range than any off-the-shelf sub to support their case) and have a variety of features. Features that are “Australian”. Just about any defence product Australia buys will have some “Australianization” to include our current Super Hornets (some navigation aids of no particular concern). Yet, how much is too much? Answer; the Air Warfare Destroyer project, which is only kind of like the Spanish design the public was mislead into believing was low risk.
Those that want the super unobtainable homemade and gold-plated submarine are running a con. They don’t have the skills to back up their claims and they will do and say anything to make sure there is enough backing for this jobs program. The number-one goal is for it to be a jobs program since they don’t have a clue what the design will cost; how long it takes to build; how much it will cost to sustain, or; if it will even work properly. They do not have a CV that deserves our confidence. This camp even seems to prefer that it is their plan or nothing; even if their road map has a good chance of delivering low or no worthwhile combat capability.
So how could Australia fund some gap-fill off-the-shelf subs until (if) home industry gets their act together? Easy. There is $3.2B of unspent commitment sitting out there in fantasy land for 14 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters; AKA, "Faulkner's Folly". As the F-35 is a fearfully high risk program, the government should hand over no money for this purchase. Funds should go toward new off-the-shelf subs.
In any event, all of this depends on a failed experiment known as the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) to manage everything. Which means, any low risk project becomes medium risk; any medium risk project becomes high risk and any high risk project—like 12 home grown subs for $36B (or the F-35)—becomes feeble minded fantasy.
We took Defence and industry on their word before with the Air Warfare Destroyer which is a much less complex project than building subs. We should never do that again. Incredible claims of ship-building skills and project management for submarines needs incredible proof. We should give the Defence Establishment a chance to come up with a properly risk-assessed design, but they should not be allowed to hold our national defence hostage.