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Strategic Insights 48 - How to buy a submarine: Defining and building Australia's future fleet

By Andrew Davies and Australian Strategic Policy Institute

The Defence White paper announced that the future submarine fleet would consist of at least twelve submarines that would be able to perform a wide range of missions and carry a varied array of weapons and sensors. As described, the resultant boats are likely to be the largest, most complex and, at $3 billion each, the most expensive conventional submarines ever built.

The industrial capacity and capability to produce these vessels does not exist in Australia at the moment. By the time construction commences, it will be over fifteen years since the last Collins-class submarine was launched. Hard-earned lessons from that process will need to be re-learned in many cases and the required engineering and construction skills will have to be built up to the required level.

Managing all of the issues that are bound to arise will require a project structure and staff with the appropriate expertise and experience. This paper, authored by Sean Costello and Andrew Davies, surveys the complexities that have to be negotiated and suggests a way ahead that makes best use of the resources available to government, owner of the country’s only firm with experience of submarine design and construction in the form of ASC.