This study assesses how best to deliver a submarine capable of meeting a unique requirement for range, endurance and stealth, able to operate over the vast distances inherent in Australia’s strategic geography and to exploit the depth that it affords.
Since the Second World War, Australia’s strategic geography has helped insulate it from the ambitions of regional competitors and the centres of great power conflict. But the influence of geography is not static. The benefits have accrued from Australia’s membership of a dominant maritime alliance and through access to technologies that have helped maintain a capability edge in the maritime domain.
In the 21st Century new powers are rising and deploying new asymmetrical military technologies that threaten to weaken some of the advantages of geography and technology on which Australia has traditionally relied. There are developments underway which may progressively erode the freedom of movement of Australian and allied naval forces and maritime trade.
To meet these challenges during the decades ahead, Australia will require a reinvigorated strategy and investment in force elements that are not only potent but also survivable in an increasingly complex and potentially dangerous maritime environment. Submarines and their operations will be central to any viable strategy. They may be the only force structure elements capable of persistent operations in a maritime region that is fundamental to Australia’s interests.