Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Australia's naval "strategy" and ship-building industry explained

Via White, Australia's naval "strategy" explained. Here are just a few things.

1. The Air Warfare Destroyer is not a worthy project.
2. The Air Warfare Destroyer is a waste when we could get Burkes for $1B each.
3. The idea that the Air Warfare Destroyer (or some similar projects) provides industry worth may not be accurate. It takes useful (and limited) skills away from non-military sectors.
4. The amphibious flatops are also a waste. One reason is we won't be able to protect them.
5. Sea denial should be the strategy, not force projection. Simply because of our limited resources.

White mentions subs, but given everything stated so far, it is hard to believe we have credible skills to build those at home.

I would quote a few things, but it is all good. He hasn't always hit the mark but this is White's best work.



Anonymous said...

Very cheap, super-modular and very off-the-shelf ready to sail...

Austal JHSV.

Base price about $250m.

Range, no problem. Speed, faster than an LCS. Internal space to accommodate mission, better than anything on the high seas.

IMHO, buy 10-14 hulls and modify 4-5 as Air defence launch hulls, equipped with VL SM-6 variants and ESSM. Network with airships, future UCAV and other air and sea integrated assets. Perhaps 2-3 could be surface warfare enhanced and armed with a variety of next-gen stand-off ASuW systems. Perhaps VL MICA-IR option for self-defence. Another 6-7 could be adapted for ASW/CMW + Spec op + UAS recon operation? Perhaps Thales could supply the towed ASW sonar.

Or something along that line of thought... you get the drift.

For other hull type requirements or subs, I'll defer that issue to others.

Gobsmacked said...

There is nothing wrong with building vessels here. The problem is propogated by Defence and DMO with the stop start crap.
Give the industry long term certanity and continuity and these problems do not occurr.
For instance we waste over $4 billion a year in foreign aid,soon to be doubled by our frenetic Foreign Minister, most of which is cash, which is then stolen.
Turn a small amount of it into defence products, such as patrol boats, small frigates, tugs , minesweepers, landing craft etc etc over say 10 year cycles.
Gift or sell on favourable subsidised terms to places such as the Phillpines, PNG, Thailand etc instead of cash which disappears
You then have an industry which offers training and long term stability and able to produce quality products.No further cost to the country or budget.Skills are built up and protected.

Horde said...

Great OpEd by Hugh White.

To Gobsmacked:


...and you establish and build relationships within the Region which are founded on the maintenance and sustainment of peace which, after all, is what having a Defence Force is all about - the raison d'etre for having a Defence Portfolio in our Government.

To Anon:

Such good critical thinking shouldn't be hidden behind the shield of anonymity.



Gobsmacked said...

Horde re relationships, I actually remembered later the importance of that.
Most important and often overlooked by commentators.

Anonymous said...

And the same ships built in Spain costs almost half than built in Australia...

Anonymous said...

All naval ship building should be undertaken in Australia. Australia is a first world country with a third world economy, we dig it up and sell it, this cannot last forever. The defence budget is a source of money that can be used to improve our technology base and create employment. To those that say buying ships overseas is cheaper, they are taking a very nearsighted view. When we procure off the shelf from a foreign source, there is a large negative impact on our balance of payments. If we build the same product in Australia, the DoD might pay a 25% premium, but every employee is paying income tax, the company is paying corporate taxes, these paid employees are keeping others in work, the company might actually create further products in the future and, god forbid, export them. It is not a simple equation of "it's cheaper to buy from overseas". The net gain in wealth to Australia of building them onshore is well worth the DoD paying a 25% or even a 35% premium. What is needed is for the Australian government and tax department to recognise this in law and the DoD to be compensated accordingly.

Gobsmacked said...

Contains a more detailed idea of the economic benefits.
You must also take into account the strategic reasons.
Remember the number of European Countries who cut off support for various weapon systems during the Vietnam war.

ELP said...

This is just creative money laundering of taxpayer funds.

Imagine if the taxpayer wasn't taxed so much for dud defence projects and could spend or invest their own money on other things.

ELP said...

Great GS but only if the job can be properly executed and not dragged out for years with blow-outs and grossly unknown outcomes.

Gobsmacked said...

Disagree your comments re the economic benfits, it is not creative money laundering and in fact was researched by ACIL Tasman, a real organisation.
Leave DMO out.
Give it to real project managers.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine if the taxpayer wasn't taxed so much for dud defence projects and could spend or invest their own money on other things."
Like imported Chinese manufactured goods nobody really needs?

Bushranger 71 said...

Pre-ADF emergence in 1974, Australia's independent armed forces were subject to direct political control and managed their own hardware acquisitions pretty well. In that effective organisational concept, accountability for any projects mismanagment could properly be attributed to Service Chiefs. But these days, with the thinly-veiled unified ADF subject to Public Service control, nobody is being held to account for failure to maintain adequate and credible military preparedness.

Progressive optimisation of proven in-service hardware, where cost-effective, has been forsaken to benefit largely foreign-parented defence industry. For example; could Australia have more adequately maintained/enhanced now discarded amphibious support warships (for a few more years) rather than acquiring hugely expensive larger platforms of very debatable military value? The necessity to continually maintain some basic capabilities seems lost on defence planners.

The misguided notion of equipping the ADF toward a mythical Force 2030 structure is really progressively diminishing military capacity. Rather than politicians conjuring murky deals to keep subsidising low productivity defence industry, which is largely just inefficient job creation; the ADF should be subjected to ongoing critical scrutiny to determine whether some adequate capabilities are achievable through enhancement of existing hardware assets.

Bushranger 71 said...

Consider these aspects re ship-building and maintenance.

The nation was developed on a vibrant maritime industry and widespread ports, wharfing, warehousing created. Post-sail era, coastal shipping was still buoyant up to about 50 years back; but since the industry became dominated by the Maritime Union of Australia, it has withered and much of the infrastructure has since been sold off to developers.

The trade unions heavily influence ship-building and maintenance and this feedback from a recently retired colleague who was involved in a 3 man team analysing RAN ship maintenance activities. The Navy has apparently often accepted warships back into service from scheduled docking/refits with much of the essential maintenance not completed. This of course results in progressive compounding deterioration and the extent to which the whole fleet is affected has not been revealed.

All steel-built warships require continual rust remediation and an additional $400million was spent on such work for HMAS Manoora and Kanimbla when they were being extensively modified in Australia in 1995/96 for RAN service. But it seems that they may not have been adequately maintained during subsequent Australian service.

The extent to which the trade unions have a stranglehold on the maritime industry adds enormously to local warship manufacturing and maintenance costs. Supposed skills shortages may also yet see the foreign-parented major arms conglomerates involved seeking to import labour for the AWD and LPD projects, thus complicating the industrial aspects of these costly follies.

Gobsmacked said...

I do not think this is as much a problem as it once was. However you do have a point, and some of the larger infrastructure companies have advocated the use of overseas labour to bring down the costs and shortages of labour.
The shortages are a collective fault of industry and various governments lack of planing.
A company I work for goes out of it's way to subsidise aprentices with our subcontractors, because out of greed they will not employ them.
I also remember the trials and tribulations of a friend of mine serving on Betano at HMAS Morteon, and their dealings with Peter's Slip. Exactly as you said, apart from the constant theft of anything not nailed down. Instant strike by the maritime Unions if Police called, so Navy let it slip.