Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 20:59 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 20:59 | SYDNEY

Sky of blue, sea of green: Are subs all we need?


Mark O'Neill

16 September 2008 12:07

The Prime Minister’s speech to the RSL in Townsville last week led to an outbreak of opinion pieces and commentary from defence commentators. Much of the discussion has centred on the interpretation of many commentators that the PM has flagged a significant expansion of the Royal Australian Navy. 

My colleague here at the Institute, Professor Hugh White, seized upon this first point to call, on national radio, for the expansion of the Australian submarine fleet. He further elaborated on what he meant by a ‘bigger submarine fleet’ in the Australian Financial Review last Thursday (not online), where he called for the purchase of another six submarines (and the scrapping of the Government’s approved plan to purchase three Air Warfare Destroyers). What Hugh has not explained is how this would meet the Prime Minister’s stated aspiration to ‘secure our sea lines of communication’. 

The number of submarines required to persistently cover tens of thousands of kilometres of sea-lanes far exceeds the twelve on Hugh’s wish list. Nor did Hugh explain how the submarines would be manned – not such a simple task considering the acknowledged difficulties we are having manning the six submarines we now have. Moreover, this also assumes that the submarine is in fact the right tool for the task envisaged – which is in itself highly contestable.

Photo by Flickr user Cristiano Caniche, used under a Creative Commons license.