Serious risks are being realised in the Royal Australian Navy’s twin transitions in its surface combatant and submarine fleets. As Australia’s strategic circumstances become more dangerous, Defence needs to adopt hedging measures to actively address the capability risks in its acquisition plans.
The government’s recent announcement regarding the acquisition of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) is about addressing capability risk in the long term, but with delivery of the first future submarine now delayed probably to the late 2030s, in the short to medium term the proposal exacerbates those risks.
To address those risks, this paper details an approach that will:
- deliver valuable additional maritime capability to the Navy significantly earlier than the current plan;
- sustain, and indeed grow, the workforce that will be essential to our long-term ship and submarine plans;
- develop the industrial ecosystem needed for naval construction in Adelaide and nationally; and
- provide a timely return on the funding that the Australian government has already planned to invest in naval capability this decade without requiring additional funding.
In order to deliver on the government’s ambitious plans for future shipbuilding capability, the urgent task today is to develop a bridging strategy that delivers short term capability wins and boosts vital industrial capability. This plan presented here does both by offering a viable way forward to an expanded defence capability and industrial base into the future.