It Isn’t Over When The Fat Lady Sings – The First Russian Strategic Assessment of the Australia-UK-US (Aukus) Submarine Deal

Yves here. This post, which consists largely of the translation of an article in a top Russian strategy publication, provides useful detail on Chinese submarine capacity and prospects.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Following last week’s meeting in Washington of Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne (lead image left), the Australian defence minister and their US counterparts, a strategic military and basing agreement was announced between Australia, the UK and US (AUKUS). This is being reinforced with summit  meetings in Washington this week.

The declared target of their war-making preparations is China.

Australian strategy against Russia in the Pacific region follows in lockstep with the US. But for the time being the Russian enemy, and Russian submarine and surface fleet operations in the Indo-Pacific region, are not being discussed by Australian officials in public; at least not to the extent when President Vladimir Putin last visited Australia in November 2014 with a nuclear-powered, nuclear armed naval escort.

Ahead of schemes for strategic warmaking in the Pacific, the US, the UK and Australia are also engaged in proxy war operations. These have accelerated recently in Myanmar, where Russia and China are allied in support of the military government of  General Min Aung Hlaing.  Next, from both sides, state bribery, subversion, putsch-making, and other special operations are likely to accelerate in the Pacific islands from Fiji to Papua-New Guinea.

For the moment, the initial reaction to AUKUS from the Russian Foreign Ministry has been as close to uncritical as the ministry can be. “We noted the plans, announced by Australia,” said spokesman Maria Zakharova last Thursday, “to build nuclear-powered submarines as part of an ‘enhanced trilateral security partnership’ agreed yesterday by the United States, Great Britain and Australia. We proceed from the premise that being a non-nuclear power and fulfilling in good faith the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australia will honour its commitments under this document, as well as the IAEA Safeguards Agreements along with its Additional Protocol. We hope that Canberra ensures the necessary level of cooperation with the IAEA in order to rule out any proliferation-related risks.”

The first detailed technical and strategic assessment of the AUKUS scheme has followed this week  in Vzglyad, the leading strategy publication reflecting the Russian General Staff and GRU assessments. A translation from the Russian article by Alexander Timokhin follows.

The headline is ironic: “How Australia’s nuclear submarines will bring to China to its knees”.

“In a few years, another country with a nuclear submarine fleet will appear in the world  – Australia. What kind of submarines will this country receive from its allies, what kind of combat capabilities do they provide, and according to what scenario can they be used to contain China’s military power?

Everything is learned by comparison. What are the eight multi-purpose nuclear submarines that Australia will receive (not to be confused with submarines armed with ballistic missiles)? Let’s compare them with other fleets.

First, take the example of China, against which (at least, so they say) everything is being planned. Now China has only nine multi-purpose nuclear submarines, with low stealth. Three of them are Project 091; these are old and noisy vessels  that have almost no combat value. The remaining six are Project 093, more modern boats, which, however, are inferior to modern American and British ones. In fact, only these six have a real combat value, and it is this number that should be taken into account.

I must say that the Chinese have made tremendous progress if we start from their initial level. Their submarines are already armed with good torpedoes and means of countering enemy torpedoes. But they are still very far from British ‘Astutes’ or American ‘Virginias’.

The Jin-class Type 094 Chinese ballistic submarine. Its successor, the Type 095,  is under construction read this.  The  Type 096 is still being designed.  For more, click to read  and

The first of the British Navy’s Astute-class submarines in construction; for details, read.

A US Navy Virginia-class submarine in construction; for details.

Theoretically, the ‘Virginia’ of the latest modification (the block, as the Americans say) will be able to be used when delivering a high-precision massive non-nuclear strike on Chinese territory. In this case, the Australians will be able to increase the American salvo. In the future, when the Americans finish their hypersonic missile program for the Navy, this strike may also be very fast.

It will be a separate story if the Americans again trample on international norms of behaviour and deploy nuclear weapons on Australian submarines before the war. Then, using cruise or hypersonic missiles, Australia will be able to cause China (and not only it) simply monstrous damage. And just ordinary Tomahawks with their fast, surprise launch can cause considerable damage to the side attacked – and the tactical and technical characteristics of the ‘Virginia’ will allow you to secretly approach even a well-guarded shore and deliver a sudden and unexpected blow.

Naturally, this is true if Australia builds ‘Virginias’ with vertical missile launch installations, and not ‘Astutes’, which can only use Tomahawks through torpedo tubes. There is no answer to this question yet.

In the event of a war more or less close to a classic naval war, these submarines will create an additional threat to China, and China will be required to allocate additional forces to this threat, which it will need very much in a war with the United States and Britain,  even without Australia.

The Chinese are taking care of their fleet and developing it. They have anti-submarine surface forces and anti-submarine aviation, but when performing combat tasks outside the combat radius of their base (coastal in colloquial language) aviation, the problem of combating enemy submarine forces will become quite acute for China. Chinese surface ships will be subjected to air strikes by Australian based and American carrier-based aircraft; anti-submarine aircraft will not be able to work without cover; in fact,  all tasks will have to be solved by Chinese nuclear submarines. They do not reach the western (that is, the future Australian) level yet, and they will be forced to act against heterogeneous enemy forces (submarines, anti-submarine aircraft, surface ships) without support.

How will China respond?

China has hope – there are new multi-purpose nuclear submarines being created, designated in the foreign press as Type 095, and in China itself 09-V. According to visual assessment of  images of the boat, it is clear that China is trying to introduce a large number of technical solutions that increase the stealth of the submarine and the range of detection for its underwater targets. It is clearly visible that the boat is being created specifically for combat.

But what success the Chinese will have is an open question, and most importantly, even these boats will not see superiority in quality;  ideally there will be approximate parity.  At the same time, if the current pace of updating the submarine forces in China continues, then China will be inferior to the Americans and the British in numbers even without Australia, and even more so with it. These new boats are still in planning stage — China has not built any of them yet. And another hostile nuclear submarine fleet will definitely require the Chinese to invest very quickly and very seriously in expanding their production; that requires time, money, and resources.

Can China ignore this threat? No.

Here is just one of many examples. Geographically, Australia can completely block the connection between China and the Indian Ocean: there is a direct exit there and this  is not controlled by China in any way. China only has the Strait of Malacca, which with its new submarines Australia will be able to block from the Indian Ocean. Or go past Australia itself, with the same submarines and its aircraft. There is no other road by which a large amount of oil can be supplied to China.


Australia would never have had these opportunities in this form if it had continued its work on the purchase of non-nuclear submarines from France. A non-nuclear (in fact the same diesel-electric) submarine is not capable, for example, of going under water at a high speed, as the ‘Virginias’ and ‘Astutes’ can, and secretly, without a critical increase in noise. A non-nuclear boat needs to deliver fuel to the combat service area, an atomic one does not need to – a nuclear submarine is not tied to nearby bases or to fuel, and it can operate disproportionately more freely than a diesel-electric one, even with an air-independent power plant.

In combat, a nuclear submarine also has a lot of advantages, up to the possibility of sometimes getting away from the enemy’s torpedo by running. For a hypothetical Australian-French non-nuclear submarine, this would be impossible. The hydroacoustic complex on the ‘Virginias’ is generally difficult to compare with something, and this is the range of target detection and the range of shooting at it.

Now China, in addition to measures to counter the submarine fleet of the United States and Great Britain, will also have to take into account Australia, which wants to get a nuclear submarine more powerful than anything that China has at present.

What does the battlefield look like in numbers? If we start from how many of the ‘Virginias’ are already built and under construction to go into service by 2036, when the Australians want to get their eight submarines, then we can assume that there will be about 20 units. And they will not be able to throw everything at China; some of the submarines will be needed in case of emergency operations against Russia.

Thus, an additional eight Australian submarines will increase the number of units opposing China by at least a third, compared only with American submarines. This is even more than the British will be able to give for the war with China. China will have to increase both the submarine and other fleet forces by a comparable number.

In general, for China, these eight additional enemy submarines are a fresh handful of bones in the throat. That’s about what the Americans planned to do with the British. That’s what eight nuclear submarines are.

This is what caused the reaction of the Chinese to the news. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the transfer of nuclear submarine construction technologies to Australia harms the nuclear non-proliferation regime and ‘exacerbates the arms race’, as well as the fact that the United States and Great Britain ‘extremely irresponsibly’ apply double standards. These admonitions, of course, will not have any effect.

And what does this mean for Russia? If Australia wants to have eight multi-purpose submarines by 2036, then by that year we will ideally have four Yasen-class vesselsin the Pacific Ocean – the ‘Novosibirsk’, ‘Krasnoyarsk’, ‘Vladivostok’ and, presumably, the ‘Perm’.

The Russian Navy’s Yasen-class ‘Kazan’, June 2021.

As for the future boat of the project 545 with the code-name ‘Laika’, the form in which the ‘Laika’ was presented to the president in December 2019 indicates the deliberate obsolescence of the project. And most importantly – it is extremely doubtful that these boats will be in service by the mid-thirties. This is another example of how many there will turn out to be — eight nuclear submarines in one theatre of military operations.

However, the western ‘partners’ may have difficulties in implementing these wonderful plans.

Is everything so simple?

There is one aspect in all of this that can complicate everything. The production of as many as eight nuclear submarines, stuffed with high-tech systems to the brim, is not an easy matter. If we assume that the Australians will build some kind of ready-made project, for example the ‘Virginia’, then in any event they will up to 14 years for the construction of eight nuclear submarines if they start next year. This is an ultra-fast pace for eight units; the Americans themselves take five years to build one ‘Virginia’ from the popint of laying the keel to delivery to the Navy.

Is it possible for the Australians to meet the deadlines? Yes, but only in an “expansive’ way – laying more submarines a year than the Americans. And this requires, firstly, shipyards in sufficient quantity to build submarines;  secondly, workers and engineers;  and thirdly, the supply of components from the United States, which can become the bottleneck of the project because of the existing crisis in American shipbuilding. Does Australia have all this in the right amount? The allies will not be able to help them there;  they do not have enough themselves.

And if the Australians build some kind of British project – either the ‘Astute’  or, as is now rumoured in Britain, the future project of a British multi-purpose submarine, which should replace the ‘Astutes’, then nothing will work out. Britain is barely coping with the construction of its submarines by itself, including the part played by related companies. In the case of the ‘Astutes’, some of the related parties are from France engaged by by the Anglo-Saxons. On the other hand, the British can in this way compensate for the losses of the French from the broken Australian contract for non-nuclear submarines. Still, the problem of timing will also arise in  this case.

The Australians seem to understand this. On Sunday, September 19, the Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said that Australia will not wait until its nuclear submarines are built, but will buy or lease British or American ones.

This is quite possible. However, not with British submarines, but more likely with American ones, although such a scheme would not lead to the desired increase in anti–Chinese forces; there would still be as many submarines against China, just some of the flags would change. But, firstly, by the time the construction of their series is completed (even if not all and with a delay), the Australians will already have experience working with nuclear submarines, and secondly, the United States now has problems with repairing its submarines (they do not pull, as they say), and renting some of their ships to Australia for the Americans will in fact mean their salvation as combat units, even under a foreign flag.

In general, it is possible to make Australia a country with a nuclear submarine fleet quickly. Moreover, the authors of this initiative have an extremely serious reason for all this. Such gigantic investments and sharp political turns are not carried out just like that. The hegemony of the Anglo-Saxons in the world is seriously shaken, both because of their own internal weakness, and because of the growth of China, and the sabotage of their system of power by Russia. It is quite obvious they will not give up their power over humanity and the benefits resulting from this in a favourable fashion.

It is worth recognizing that the world is on the verge of war. Australia’s agreement with the United States and Britain says exactly this. An ordinary world war with tens of millions of dead, as one option, or with hundreds of millions; after all, no one has canceled nuclear weapons. Such a war is almost inevitable.

Moreover, knowing what deadlines the ‘partners’ set for themselves, you can roughly understand the time for which they are preparing the ‘hot phase’. And looking at how other countries are preparing for the next world war, it’s time for us to take a critical, honest and non-biased look at how we are preparing for it.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. steelyman

    Head of Russia’s National Security Council and part of Putin’s inner circle Nikolai Patrushev speaks out:
    New AUKUS nuclear bloc won’t just battle China, it will take West into confrontation with Russia too, Moscow’s security chief says –

    Andrei Martyanov aka smoothieX12’s video (18.52 mins) analysis is also good:
    AUKUS and Shipping Lanes Of Communications –

    1. R

      Of course Biden is in favour of a European Army. In the unlikely event of a land war, somebody has to make a pointless sacrifice in front of the Russian tanks and it needn’t be Dough Boys this time.

      Johnson probably doesn’t care what Europe does. NATO may be the next Tory renunciation after the EU for the Anglosphere. And it is logical, given:
      – NATO is irrelevant to an ICBM war
      – in a conventional war none of them shares a land border with the “enemy”.
      – Norway will continue to be important to bottle up Baltic and Arctic; Sweden and Denmark / Greenland for the same reasons.
      – Adding Australian subs also increases sub threat to Russia because China missions are no longer tasked from the same pool and the US gains an unsinkable sub base on its western flank, to match UK.

      Canada and NZ don’t add much to this deal, so they can keep their heads down.

  2. The Rev Kev

    When Maria Zakharova called AUKUS an ‘enhanced trilateral security partnership’, at least she did not call it a Tripartite Pact. That would have been a little on the nose that. When this article mentioned Tomahawk missiles, I understand that we will be buying them off the US as well and China would know this-

    But there are problems with these new subs. We have 6 old Collins-class submarines at the moment which are starting to get long in the tooth. As we won’t even see one of these new subs for at least 20 years, it means that we will need a stop-gap solution so I am sure that Washington will lean on Canberra to lease the older Virginia-class submarines. But with the newer submarines I believe that Scotty has already agreed that nearly half of it will be built overseas because of American jawbs. Probably the part to do with nuclear propulsion. But there is a flaw with the reasoning in this article – the crews.

    US submarines have, I understand, two crews each – a Blue and a Gold Crew. One will be at sea and the other training and having time at home. When that boat comes back, they swap-

    It is my understanding that there are only four crews for those six Collins-class submarines. My guess is that as usually you have one ship at sea, one undergoing maintenance and one getting ready, that we have been able to get away with it. But eight boats? Where are the crews going to come from to man them? Especially if you have two crews each. That would require sixteen crews. We don’t have the numbers needed and life in a boat is tough (had an uncle that was an officer in them so got to see inside one) so you just can’t assign any sailor to them. Some just can’t take it. So if we lease those older Virginia-class submarines, do we also lease their US sailors to help man them and teach us the ins and outs of them?

    1. Synoia

      Where are the crews going to come from to man them?

      The US: on Secondment, with an Aussie Captain and a US XO?

      A question is “How quickly can the Chinese replace Aussie raw materials..”

    2. Jack

      Old US submariner here. Blue and Gold crews are for ballistic subs. These are fast attack. One crew. Virginia class subs have a crew size of 135. That means for 8 VA class subs less than 1200 men. They could all be trained in US Navy schools. The problem with nuc subs isn’t the building (once you have built a couple of the class and worked the bugs out) or manning them. Its the logistic support of an operating unit. The crew turnover. Ongoing crew training, maintenance, and repairs. The supply chain. You have to put one in the shipyard every 2-3 years for upkeep. Logistically supporting a nuc boat is easily 10x the cost of a diesel.

      1. Felix_47

        We sure don’t want a nuclear accident. I would suspect that the nuclear power section, enlisted and officer, will be standard issue US nuclear power school trained, and leased perhaps. The XO will be nuclear power school trained with, of necessity, a few rotations on nukes before. The rest of the personnel are not that critical. I don’t think Rickover would think much of this arrangement with diffuse responsibility. He wanted people accountable.This whole project smells of something the democrats want in the headlines to show how Joe is a tough guy on the international stage after the Afghan fiasco. A secondary benefit is that it will make Henry Crown who found Obama and gave him his start, richer. Let us hope this burns out pretty soon. We have a huge problem if there is going to be a nuclear cold war with China and now that the US is culturally woke we will not win it. Of course, nuclear winter would solve global warming and cut the population down.

    3. steelyman

      There’s a commenter over at Moon of Alabama (Yeah Right) who has been posting a different analysis – that this whole affair comes down to AUS domestic politics and AUS PM Morrison’s need to shore up electoral support especially in Adelaide where most of the AUS submarine dollars would be spent and jobs created. His theory is that once the elections (by Spring/Summer 2022?) are done Morrison will either cancel the deal or let it wither away.

  3. Starry Gordon

    Is this ‘AUKUS’ really something new? Australia and Great Britain have been obedient satellites of the US for many years. In general, I assume that by the time a prole like myself finds anything out, it has long been planned and at least the foundations laid. Australia seems to me like a fallback position from the original anti-China Westwall (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc.) In other words, in spite of its aggressive appearance, it could be actually a putative retreat into a better defensive position.

    Missing from the Russian analysis is a consideration of how the survivor(s) of a hot US-China confrontation would be able to recover from the very substantial damage they would be certain to suffer and organize the postwar world, if any. Assuming our and their Great Leaders are at least semi-rational, they must have given the question some thought.

    1. Louis Fyne

      IMO, to read between the lines….I think the real ‘escalation’ is that Australia is moving from a relative harmless satellite of the US to being another unsinkable American aircraft carrier in the Pacific rim

      particularly as , IIRC, northern Australia is out of range from current Chinese conventional missiles.

      1. Greg

        Northern Australia is out of range from China itself perhaps, but probably not from the South China sea. Sydney etc are still miles away, but we haven’t seen the calculus on which populations are going to be chewed in this hypothetical future conflict yet.

        1. Kfish

          More than half of Australia’s population lives in the south-eastern quarter. There was a rumour about the ‘Brisbane Line’ during WW2, a supposed plan where the Allies would protect Australia’s eastern coast from Brisbane to Melbourne by sacrificing the rest of the country. Completely plausible given the attitudes of the people living there towards the rest of the continent.

          Given the Federal government’s current behaviour has gotten our PM nicknamed ‘Prime Minster for Sydney’, I doubt that anything has changed.

        2. The Rev Kev

          ‘Northern Australia is out of range from China itself perhaps’

          What’s to stop the Chinese stationing a ballistic missile submarine off the Australian west coast? They probably do already in order to target Pine Gap easier. Since the US wants to build a submarine base in Perth, then it would probably become a certainty.

      2. dLambert Strether

        > Australia is moving from a relative harmless satellite of the US to being another unsinkable American aircraft carrier in the Pacific rim

        To put this another way, the US has its own “Nine-Dash Line,” except the unsinkable aircraft carriers are natural landforms. I think something drawing that line was inevitable at some point, but it’s just a line on a map, because building, manning, and sustaining the submarines seems so very sketchy. That doesn’t mean that the line had to BigFooted the way Biden did it, but Biden DGAF at this point, I think.

  4. timbers

    If this Russian analysis is correct, it looks like Washington might have found a way to achieve it’s goal of getting China to substantially increase her nukes and military.

    1. Lambert Strether

      And the Chinese military-industrial-complex will do for the Chinese economy what it was done for ours: Colonize it and immiserate everyone, good job. No wonder Xi is trying to leash and collar his FIRE sector; there’s worse coming.

  5. Carolinian

    It is worth recognizing that the world is on the verge of war. Australia’s agreement with the United States and Britain says exactly this. An ordinary world war with tens of millions of dead, as one option, or with hundreds of millions; after all, no one has canceled nuclear weapons. Such a war is almost inevitable.

    Whaaaa? Helmer needs a calmative.

    And if the Aussies start sinking Chinese surface ships then bye bye Australia. Too bad for anyone that lives there. If it’s the 25 million versus the 1.3 billion then I wonder who will win this war of attrition.

      1. timbers

        Correct, and the “first Russian analysis” of this nuclear arming of Australia continues that a calm, rational evaluation of options must take place for Russia.

        Which might be: when the 5 (blind) eyes launch their attack on China, Russia invades Europe and takes all of it. I mean, there’s a game board for that, and that’s how you achieve world domination. It’s called Risk.

        Not a serious suggestion, just trying to show how this can’t work…except to throw a lot of $$$ at the MIC and it’s profiteers.

        1. steelyman

          The Russians probably have a handful of older nuclear attack subs they could lease to the Chinese to partially offset this new sub deal.

          In the end this new alliance will only boost the existing arms race between the superpowers and give the Chinese a major incentive to extend the ranges of all their conventional missiles so that they can reach Australia from the mainland. They still have a window of several years to get this done. Russia can help out here as well.

          Furthermore, much of the analysis of this AUKUS deal tends to disregard the local reaction within SE Asia and the ASEAN countries. Those shipping lanes carry a lot of intra-ASEAN trade and I don’t think Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the PHI (all of whom trade with China big time) will just sit back and accept a military blockade of the South China Sea that will affect their own economies adversely.

  6. ZacP

    Fascinating to read about the gamesmanship and strategy involved in this kind of stuff. I also appreciate reading a translated article that offers a Russian perspective. Loved “…these eight additional enemy submarines are a fresh handful of bones in the throat,” the translator must have done a good job conveying the meaning of the idiom.

    Just finished Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman and very illuminating to see how independent the military leadership was, and how their goals and planning totally dictated events. Once the gears of war began to turn and the long worked on plans were initiated then there was simply nothing to be done sorry we can’t stop the war now *shoulder shrug.* Very last sentence in the book (spoiler alert?): “The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit.”

  7. Watt4Bob

    I’m struck by the MIC’s obvious assumption that America’s working class will never come to understand that the reason they can’t have a good life and nice things is that the only monies Washington will allow to be spent, must go to MIC oligarchs.

    Considering the level of working class misery we’re enduring, I’m sceptical that they can maintain the current level of public ignorance for another twenty years.

    1. MonkeyBusiness

      Why not? The working class always feel better after thanking the military for “their service”. Cheap self medication.

  8. anon y'mouse

    i have been unable to access Helmer’s site for over a week now, since the novichok article linked earlier, which i truly desired to read.

    it says the host is down.
    just an FYI.

  9. Bill Smith

    This is a lot of hype and not that great analysis.

    Given the track record of submarine development in Australia my guess is that there is a about a 30% chance that no nuclear submarines will come out of this deal. There is about 60% chance that the time line for the first of these submarines to sail on an operational patrol will be later than 2040. That leaves about a 10% chance the first of these submarines will sail on an operational patrol in less than about 20 years.

    If the Australians take their new nukes into the South China Sea, all those unmentioned non-nuclear Chinese submarines would be very dangerous. The Chinese have more than 4 dozen of them. Plus the Chinese have built their version of a SONUS system there. And operate ASW patrols from their home built islands.

    1. ptb

      That’s about my impression of the situation. Also, seeing how China is landing stuff on the Moon and Mars, they can probably figure out how to land stuff on Australia, if push comes to shove. Probably for less than the price of a nuclear sub, too. So the WWII fantasies are really disconnected from reality, IMO.

  10. Pookah Harvey

    Paul Jay has a far ranging conversation with Larry Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s take on the submarine deal is:
    -This is the beginning of the second Cold War, and at the end of this Cold War the Empire will be gone.-
    To lighten the mood Jay has a funny clip about Australian military spending from Australian TV at the end.

  11. Temporarily Sane

    the Australian defence minister and their US counterparts

    Argh, even Helmer is using ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. I’d hoped this ‘they’ nonsense wouldn’t catch on but, alas, it seems to be spreading.

  12. Lambert Strether

    The map is impressive. It will also take fourteen years to get there, assuming Australia can build 14 submarines successfully, which is not likely; they have form. As for leasing them in the interim, how does that work? It’s not like with aircraft, where you’ve got your surplus sitting in a desert. And with a lease, who really controls the button? If not Australia, Australia doesn’t really have a strategic weapon. Makes me wonder if the point of the deal, for us, was to cut France out of the loop (and have Biden tell Macron, “Do Africa. You can fight the Chinese there.” Which is true.

    The whole thing is a poke in Xi’s eye, no doubt about that. But is it a punch in the mouth? I dunno.

    Adding, I seem to recall that in World War II, the Germans had great weaponry, but almost built to a bespoke level and quantity. Hence, they were overwhelmed by our industrial might. In a China vs. US war, who has the industrial might? There’s your winner.

    1. Huey Long

      As for leasing them in the interim, how does that work? It’s not like with aircraft, where you’ve got your surplus sitting in a desert. And with a lease, who really controls the button?

      Lambert, I’m not sure how it will work, but it has been done before. India has leased nuclear submarines from the USSR and later Russia.

      Apparently the first sub they leased in the 80’s was an epic family-blog show but they’ve continued to lease from the Russians despite the difficulties with lease #1. At any rate, its an apples to oranges comparison because I don’t think the Soviets were leasing subs to the Indians as a means of accomplishing strategic foreign policy objectives unlike the Australian-US sub lease. YMMV.

      1. Socal Rhino

        The article did mention the lease would shift sub maintenance to Australia and that US shipyards were in crisis.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If there were a China-US war, and the DC FedRegime side felt China would win the conventional war-fighting war, the DC FedRegime side would immediately go Curtis LeMay nuclear.

  13. Boom Goes London

    Countries with nuclear subs concern trolling about another country getting what they already have seems a bit too transparently non-self aware. The translated Russian piece reads like a list of reasons Oz *should* get nuke subs rather a list of reasons they shouldn’t.

  14. The Rev Kev

    Here is a ‘map of submarine time “on station” from Perth, for nuclear v conventional submarines. In the South China Sea: 11 days for diesel-electric subs v 77 days for nuclear ones’

    Those boats are still going to need crews. Unless in twenty years you will be talking about a few nuclear-powered drone subs instead. That is a possibility that.

    1. Basil Pesto

      I don’t really get it – it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle for the government to recruit and train crews in the intervening 20 years? I get that it’s not an easy deployment but still.

      1. The Rev Kev

        If we can’t get enough crews to man all six of our present boats (we only have enough to man four of them), then how are we going to man eight of them? Especially since operating them will require quite different skills sets. I doubt that most sailors will jump at the chance of going into subs as that requires a different breed of sailors, ones that are comfortable with the idea of being underwater for long stretches.

        1. Basil Pesto

          well I don’t know for a fact, I can only guess, but: Increased recruitment as population grows, targeted recruitment, re-focus and re-allocation of personnel resources to focus on crewing the new submarines. Incentivise deployment on the subs somehow (but I don’t know how much scope there is for that in the military). With 20 years to prepare for it, assuming it all ends up happening, I don’t really see how it’s an insurmountable obstacle. The current Collins fleet doesn’t seem to be a priority, but priorities can change.

          1. The Rev Kev

            I think that you can relate it to emigration to Oz back in the 19th century. The sort of person to cut all family ties, say goodbye to friends and take a ship that would take a few months to go to the far ends of the world as an emigrant is a pretty rare cat. Going meant that you would never see your family again, your friends or where you grew up and leaving you in an alien world to sink or swim.

            The sort of person that will volunteer to be a submariner is also a rare cat too, especially when these nuclear-powered subs meant that you would be months away from your wife, kids & family with probably little contact with home. The US has problems manning their subs I understand and they have population of 335 million to recruit from, not just the 25 million that we have. In short, I am thinking that we will be biting off more than we can chew.

            For American readers, a small story about emigration to the US. When somebody got killed in WW1 in the British Army, they would say that they ‘went west.’ The reason they said this was when the massive wave of emigrants went to emigrate to the US from the UK in the 19th century, usually they were never heard from again and were lost to all contact. They just ‘went west.’

            1. Felix_47

              Nuclear power school is really tough. And it is really hard to recruit not so much because on one will do it but because the intellectual and moral demands are so high. They have to kill the ASVAB and have a clean record. The ASVAB is basically a glorified SAT. It probably is the last place in the US where diversity is not important and intellect and integrity are. A lot of the kids are nerdy, I have to admit. On the other hand the students are at the highest or better caliber of STEM students at the top Ivy Leagues. Finding potential students is not easy. Half the students drop out or are kicked out during the training. It is no accident that Boeing brought in a bunch of ex nukes to investigate the 737 Max manufacturing issues. Boeing needed their credibility at that point. It is no accident that most of the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) were nukes. On duty they get the best of everything…..the best gyms, the best quarters, the best of everything. The nuclear community is Hyman Rickover’s legacy and he devoted his life to building it. He was a one off. His statue is at the front door and his portrait in the front hallway. He demanded the absolute best of his men and himself. This is the magic sauce that I would hate to see diluted. Jimmy Carter was a nuke. Because of the death of his dad he had to drop out, I understand, so he never finished meaning the on hands reactor training. They let him out of the Navy.

  15. ObjectiveFunction

    Nice discussion here. I tend to agree with the folks who say this is more a weather vane to the global mood than a program that’s actually likely to lay down any keels.

    Canada went through a very similar sub boondoggle as Cold War 1 wound down in the later 1980s — same spiraling costs, same sharp elbows among slavering UK, French and US builders. And of course by 1995 the buy got scaled back to half a dozen diesel boats. By Brian Mulroney, Canada’s own version of Scotty.

    ….The strategic value of having Australia crewing its own nuclear attack subs, as opposed to just basing US boats completely escapes me. (The MIC ricebowl element is, of course, to paraphrase an Aussie, as obvious as a dog’s familyblogs….)

    Historically, naval (and amphib) warfare hasn’t been an Aussie strong suit: Suvla, Sunda Strait, Savo Island, Tarakan.

    ….On the other hand, battalions of light infantry used to roughing it in awful conditions with poor supplies IS an Aussie strong suit: Bersheba, Tobruk, Kokoda, Buna, TF136, Borneo, Rung Sat.

    ….And I reckon those kinds of troops, whether commandos or advisers, are a lot higher value contribution to the actual threats a latter day ABDACOM would face (or fabricate, if you prefer): proxy wars in Burma or Nagaland, or civil wars (e.g. Indonesia goes full Islamic Republic, Bali and Papua break away a la Timor).

    But SpecOps have always been poor relations: there isn’t much money in them for the MIC metal eaters, or promotions for the Generalstabs.

    1. Bill Smith

      What did US builders have to do with the decision for Canada to go with the Victoria class submarines (second hand) from the UK in the late 1990’s?

      The US has not built a conventional submarines since the 1950’s? The US opposed Canada building/getting nuclear submarines in the late 1980’s. A change the Canadian government pushed that idea for nuclear submarines far down the list of priorities, Canada then went looking for conventional submarines in the early 1990’s.

      It was the French and British who showed off their stuff in Canada at the time.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        OK great, I’ll take your word for it on those details, but does your rather archly worded question somehow make the analogy irrelevant?

        …. Anyhoo, I suspect the endgame for ‘An AUKUS Race and A Long Tale’ will be similar; a change of gov, a change of global mood and voila! Big Boondoggle canceled after a few hundred mil in studies.

  16. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here’s an almost-throwaway line I noticed in the start of the article.

    “Ahead of schemes for strategic warmaking in the Pacific, the US, the UK and Australia are also engaged in proxy war operations. These have accelerated recently in Myanmar, where Russia and China are allied in support of the military government of General Min Aung Hlaing.”

    Really? USUKAUS is already doing proxy war in Myanmar? Does anyone have any evidence of that?
    I haven’t heard or read about that.

    The first confirming bit of “negative” evidence I would accept that USUKAUS is proxy-fighting in Myanmar is if the Left decides to notice Myanmar in a big way and decides to support the Tatmadaws because the US is supporting the NUGies. Because to the Left, anyone the US supports is as evil as the US is, and deserves to lose. So if I hear the Left start condemning the NUGies in print, I will surmise that the Left has found out that the US is supporting the NUGies.

    If “Usukaus” decides to support the NUGies, that will be the kiss of death for the NUGies. Because if China-Russia see Usukaus supporting the NUGies, China-Russia will figure that Usukaus wants some material benefit out of a Tatmadaw loss, and China-Russia will prevent Usukaus from getting any benefit from any such loss. And the way to prevent it will be for China-Russia to give the Tatmadaw enough serious help that the Tatmadaw can get the NUGies exterminated till the remnants surrender.

    So if the NUGies are intelligent, they will reject any Usukaus kiss-of-death help which is offered, if any is.

  17. drumlin woodchuckles

    I am slow to pick up on things sometimes. Now I get why this alliance is called AUKUS. Australia United Kingdom United States. AUKUS.

    Rembering FUKUS helped me get it. FUKUS stood for France United Kingdom United States and was the name for the group of three governments that remained committed to toppling Assad in Syria to create a Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadistan almost up to the very last moment.


  18. drumlin woodchuckles

    Its too bad France isn’t part of the pact. If they were, we could call it . . . AuFUKUS.
    Australia France United Kingdom United States. AuFUKUS.

    We should really try to get France into it.

Comments are closed.