Wednesday, February 18, 2015

National security fears raised as competition for Australia’s $20-billion submarine project ramps up

By Ian McPhedran/News Corp. Australia
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said the move which saw local firm Saab purchase the Kockums submarine company back from German giant Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) had been made entirely in the national interest.
“That was very, very, very important,” he said.
The comments are in vast contrast to those of Australia’s defence chief Mark Binskin, who this week claimed Australia’s national security would not be compromised if the navy’s future submarines were built overseas.
Swedish, German and France companies have all expressed interest in the $20-billion plus project. The Australian and Japanese governments have also discussed a Japanese solution.
All of the European options include a possible build in Australia.
During a tour of Swedish submarine facilities this week, News Corp Australia was told several times that Australians should be proud of the Adelaide-built and Swedish-designed Collins Class submarines.

The government is due to announce that it will acquire between eight and 10 boats to replace the six Collins Class vessels in the 2015 Defence White Paper.
European submarine makers and experts in Australia are concerned that the Abbott Government will ignore the sovereign risk and opt for a Japanese Soryu Class submarine without a proper evaluation of all the options for the investment.
The government has confirmed that it would conduct a proper “two pass” cabinet procedure but has not revealed Japan’s possible role.
Swedish sources also revealed that Sweden and Japan had conducted high-level talks about joint opportunities on the Australian project.
Former chief of the Swedish Navy and Deputy Chief of Joint Operations Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad said building submarines was a national security imperative.
“It is much more expensive to buy and modify a foreign submarine,” he said.
Kockums was the designer of the Collins Class submarine that, despite some teething problems, is widely regarded as one of the most capable conventional submarines in the world.
Inside look ... The Swedish Navy corvette HMAS Visby inside the cavernous Saab dry dock i
Inside look ... The Swedish Navy corvette HMAS Visby inside the cavernous Saab dry dock in the mountain at Musko. Source: Supplied

With an increasingly bullish Russia conducting regular submarine incursions into its waters, Mr Hultqvist said building submarines and jet fighters [Saab’s Gripen] was vital to the country’s future security.
He also said Sweden wanted to assist Australia in the selection of its future submarine.
“We are keen to find synergies between our project and the project in Australia,” he said.
“Give us a chance to show what we can do.”
Australian defence officials, led by submarine guru David Gould, are due in Sweden next month to outline the government’s latest requirements for the stalled future submarine project.
Sweden has been building submarines since 1914 and is favoured to win contracts in the Netherlands, Poland and Norway.
Many experts here agreed that Collins was an ideal platform to base the new fleet on.

Imposing ... The yawning entrance to the Saab shipyard in the mountain. Warships and subm
Imposing ... The yawning entrance to the Saab shipyard in the mountain. Warships and submarines can drive straight in to the Cold War dry dock and maintenance facility. Source: Supplied

Senior Saab sales executive Gunnar Ohlund, who spent years in Adelaide working on Collins, said the Australian boat outperformed the Soryu Class in many respects including range, speed and stealth.
“It [Collins]can cover the world at high speed,” he said.
“Australia should be proud of what has been achieved and I don’t understand why you don’t believe you can do it again.
“There is no doubt we can build a boat as good as Japan.”
In addition to its long history of building submarines Sweden has a highly cost effective approach to sustainment.
Senior official with the Swedish defence procurement agency FMV Rear Admiral Andreas Olsson revealed that it cost abut $3.3 million a year to run each of Sweden’s five Gotland Class submarines.
He said a full cycle docking took just nine months and cost about $15 million.
These figures are a fraction of the bill being footed by Australian taxpayers to sustain the six Collins Class boats.

* Ian McPhedran travelled to Sweden as a guest of Saab.

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