APDR NewsletterWhile the crewed submarine part of the RAN capability equation has stumbled from disaster to disaster, culminating in the cancellation of the Attack program, developments concerning uninhabited systems is far more encouraging. Many analysts believe that in the near future these emerging technologies will dominate all aspects of underwater warfare.

Nuclear powered aircraft carriers are the most expensive and complex military platforms in existence – but not far behind are nuclear ballistic missile firing submarines. After these come a variety of attack submarines. All of them are at least two orders of magnitude more expensive than combat aircraft. If some, or all, submarines could be replaced by intelligent, autonomous underwater uncrewed systems (UUVs) it would revolutionise warfare and also deliver massive cost savings. As with aerial platforms, once humans are removed then the cost of the platform plummets – and it can be considered expendable.

There is a particular imperative for Australia to be interested in this technology because of the looming submarine capability gap of only having six Collins class in service, which will drop to five once their Life Of Type Extension Program begins. Starting from 2026 each submarine will be withdrawn for at least two years. Nuclear submarines will not be available until the 2040s – so the big question is: what to do until then? A new class of conventional submarines is a solution, but so is the embrace of asymmetric, disruptive technologies in the form of large numbers of UUVs – or both.

One of the noteworthy features of the Indo-Pacific International Maritime Exposition in Sydney in mid-May was the number of companies investing heavily in underwater autonomous systems incorporating AI for enhanced functionality. Just days before the event, out of nowhere, the US technology start-up Anduril announced it was in negotiations for a $140 million deal with the RAN to co-fund the design and local manufacture of extra-large autonomous undersea vehicles (XL-AUV).

This is an excerpt from APDR. To read the full story click here.

APDR Newsletter

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