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 SAT 18 SEPT 2021




Nuclear powered submarines, and the entire AUKUS project, will make Australia less and not more secure. By contributing to confrontation in the area to our north, in particular with China, it increases the likelihood of Australia becoming a nuclear target, and multiplies the number of such targets from the predictable list of Pine Gap and Northwest Cape, to any naval base out of which 'our' nuclear submarines -though they will hardly be truly 'ours' – should operate.

Contrary to what has been said in justification of the deal, nuclear power in a submarine does NOT bring any magical new capabilities, especially to hunter-killer (attack) subs. It may bring range and power under water, but not necessarily the all-important quietness and invisibility so essential for the success of any submarine that is not a missile sub. (its important for missile subs too, but for attack subs it is critical.)

The US navy, who only have nuclear subs, have been at a disadvantage in a number of exercises where other nations have had advanced conventional subs with an ability to completely 'disappear' when underwater.

And conventional subs are smaller and more manoeuvrable than nuclear subs.

Australia has absolutely no nuclear submarine expertise. This means that we will be completely dependent on either the US or the UK for keeping 'our' subs operational. So much so that they will hardly be 'ours'.

They are likely to be expensive, and they are likely to have a price tag that is a moving (upwards) target. If the French submarine project was proving hard to keep within bounds, this is going to be nothing in comparison to what we will experience with a nuclear submarine project.

While it is physically impossible for an attack type sub to be fitted with missiles, it IS possible for such a submarine to be fitted with them as cruise missiles, in its torpedo tubes, as Israel is said to have done with its German-supplied 'dolphin' conventional subs. Of course that could also be done, presumably, with the French submarines.

The optics – and the geopolitics – of the deal are such that it exacerbates whatever disputes we are having with China. This is emphatically not in Australia's security interests, as it makes it more likely than ever, in a major conflict involving the US that:

--The 'joint facilities will be targeted

--Submarine bases will be targeted. While WA and SA may be the main bases for our subs, there are submarine bases elsewhere in Australia including in Sydney.

Fundamental questions have clearly never been asked.

These include:

--Why do we even need submarines at all? DO we need them at all? Might a larger number of conventional ships be more fit for our needs?

--If we DO need submarines, do we need something like this, or would a more 'evolutionary' follow-on from the Collins Class be more to the point?

--What does this do to the timing of any replacement (assuming we need one) for the Collins class? Are we going to be waiting an extra decade or so while costs go through the roof?

--Are the wider effects of making Australia even more of a nuclear target than we have been for the last few decades worth it, or will it leave Australia less secure than ever to the threats that really matter – the likelihood of our cities being targeted by nuclear weapons?

Even if (as is likely, and as Hugh White seems to suggest) we never actually take delivery of even one nuclear submarine, any location in Australia that bases these subs, will become a nuclear target – never mind that we are being told that they will never be equipped with nuclear weapons.

Hugh White has suggested that a decade from now the nuclear submarine project will have sunk out of sight, invisible in a way that every submarine would like to be, but contributing less than nothing to Australia's security.

It seems likely that a cost- blowing-out 'boondoggle' (the other US term is 'turkey') is all the sub project will ever be. A decade from now, our bet is that not one sub will have been delivered or even designed, and the project will be as ultra- invisible (and as inaudible) as a hiding advanced conventional sub can be. There will be no trace of it.

But it will be more certain than ever that key locations and Australia's cities will be nuclear targets.

John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

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