Textron bannerFresh from a holiday in Korea there was an infuriating delay in Sydney getting off the aircraft – which is not unconnected with why Defence is a mess. Then one of the most extraordinary stories about the selective use of information and how it is that we are paying the US not $3 billion to join AUKUS – but in fact $4.7 billion. This huge difference has come about because Australian decision makers have been deceptive about which currency this payment will be made in. It turns out that it won’t be in Australian dollars but instead in US bills, leading to a necessary extra $1.7 billion which has been hidden from the Australian public. In addition we agree, surprisingly, with Alexander Downer that the idea of building nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide is pure fantasy.

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Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


  1. As much as it disturbs me, I think I’m beginning to think Alexander Downer is right. The chances of Australia building any of the Nuclear Boats are,to paraphrase the Australianism Buckley’s and None. In fact the chances of Australia getting any Nuclear Boats is fast slipping away, the U.S. have none to spare and their building program is not coping with their own schedule, so rule that out too. England is in the same boat as to Subs available and the AUKUS build isn’t even off the drawing board yet. Add that to the Brits wanting priority ( I’m assuming that) for the Dreadnaught SSBN, it looks like Australia’s needs will be secondary. Facing Facts we don’t have the capacity to build Nuclear Boats , not the trained work force or the facilities and we are decades away from knowing what to do with them after they retire. Time to face reality and accept that Nuclear Submarines aren’t in our near future ( if we get moving maybe in 30 or 40 years ) .

    • Best thing we can do right now is either go grovelling back to the Japanese or go to the South Koreans.
      Get which ever option suits best built in their shipyards so delivery is actually achieved.
      Get the Collins replaced and then start thinking about the possibility of some nukes to be launched at about the time the Collins replacement is halfway through their lifecycle.

  2. France could be building Australia the west’s most modern SSN as we speak, state of the art, extensively automated vessels operated by Collins size crews, at a price that makes a fleet of 12 entirely feasible, but nah, America’s lobotomised lap dog still swallows the empty promises Uncle Sam made in South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia’s capacity to defend itself is sabotaged by corrupt defence procurement and nationwide apathy hinged to an absurd belief that the US would risk a nuclear exchange with China to defend 26 million Aussies much less 23 million Taiwanese.

  3. It doesn’t help matters much that the chief of Navy is a Submariner that believes the days of conventionally powered boats for Australia are done Adm.Hammond makes good points and in all honesty I agree with him. The Problem doesn’t lie with should the R.A.N. go Nuclear but when it should happen. As I’ve stated many times the Collins LOTE won’t solve anything other than keeping Osborne working (not a bad thing) and buying Virginia’s we won’t be able to crew ( almost double the size of Collins) is just plain stupid. Either we buy a long range conventional boat off the shelf to cover the Collins retirement and fill the gap until the AUKUS Boats are in service ( early 2040’s at best) or buy Suffren Class from France off the shelf and buy into the KSS Nuclear boat being developed jointly by Sth Korea and France and ditch AUKUS all together. Surely refuelling a LEU every ten years can’t be as complex as disposing of HEU.

  4. Agreed Michael Alleyn ! RAN continues to ignore the elephant in the room re its chronic inability to adequately crew Collins and the challenge posed by removal & storage of HEU discredits any argument used against LEU reactors, which in time, will enjoy the same unrefuelled lifespan as as their HEU counterparts. Refuelling the current Suffren class reactors only takes 7 days as it is, a drop in the ocean compared to the time all subs must spend in scheduled maintenance – refit etc

      • Indeed Kym, my blood pressure skyrockets everytime I contemplate our tax dollars fattening the US military industrial complex’s morbidly obese profits by at least $12bn pa for the next 30 years with this ludicrous hoax.

    • According the ASPI’s report “Implementing Australia’s nuclear
      submarine program” in late 2021:

      “The RAN has achieved significant growth in its submarine workforce in recent years. Currently, it has around 900 qualified submariners supporting a fleet of six conventional submarines, each with a crew of around 55.”

      Though this was a problem before, I am not aware of a “chronic inability to adequately crew Collins” class submarines is current problem.

      One of the often overlooked advantages of nuclear submarines compared to diesel electric is the significantly better quality of life. Larger subs means no more hot bunking and virtually unlimited energy means no more stagnant air and no more short infrequent cold showers. These may seem unimportant but contribute significantly to a submariners mental health and overall workforce retention which is the ADF’s biggest personnel issues.

  5. I’m not a Nuclear Scientist but I believe that the waste product from LEU can be stored quite safely for many years as it’s not a hazard.

  6. All good, and valued points. I agree with Kim about the frustration of lack of communication with the media or public. The shear size of the spend should have better debate and scrutiny.
    Like the lack luster gambling adds say; what could else you be spending your money on?
    How much capability could be bought quicker, for what cost? Collins LOT extension, is going to take longer to happen, and cost more and last less time than a new build boat. By all means do it, if we have no other option, but lets face it: we are not going to get SSN’s anytime before 2035. We could have Korean, or other subs in the water and commissioned, for far less cost and time frame or risk. It is not just the defence dept that won’t answer questions, Federal ministers won’t reply to emailed questions either. At some time I believe Nuke boats will be in our service, but that is going to take a realistic approach and timeline. $4.7B, for nothing, we can do a lot more in the near term for actual deterrence.


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