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Submarines: Your questions answered

By Peter Jennings and Marcus Hellyer

Prime Minister John Howard famously coined the term ‘barbeque stopper’ to refer to a political controversy so hot that it was likely to make backyard diners stop mid-shrimp-sizzle to debate the big issue of the day. If ever the specialist world of defence procurement has produced a national barbeque stopper, it would be over the question of Australia’s future submarine. Why are they so expensive?

Why do we need 12 of them? Why build them here? Why not nuclear propulsion? Why a French design? Why not an American, German, Japanese or Swedish design? Aren’t submarines obsolete, to be replaced by drones? Won’t technology make the oceans transparent?

There are many questions and few, if any, easily accessible, plain-English explanations. This ASPI study attempts to answer the many questions that Australians pose when it comes to the design, acquisition, cost, operational service and strategic implications of submarines. Our writing team includes a vice admiral and former Chief of Navy, two rear admirals—one a distinguished submariner who has served with the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy; the other, one of Australia’s leading naval historians.

Other contributors include people steeped in strategy and capability development and with deep industry experience of defence production.


Peter Jennings discusses the volume with contributor James Goldrick.


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