babcockThe 11th Biennial Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA) Conference: Nuclear Powered Submarines – Challenges & Opportunities, which concluded on 9 November, provided a forum for debate across public sector, defence, industry and academia.

The SIA president, Michael Fitzgerald, concluded the conference following the panel with RADM Matt Buckley CSC RAN, RADM Tim Hodgson CB MBE RN, RDML Richard Seif USN and CDRE Tom Phillips RAN with a call to arms for those in the room as part of the submarine community.

“While most, if not all, in this room will have a valuable contribution to make  – in different ways – to the successful acquisition of nuclear powered submarines by Australia. I urge all in this room to take away the shared knowledge gained and spread it beyond the ‘Submarine Community’ to garner the understanding and support required to operate Nuclear powered submarines” urged Fitzgerald.

The need to generate more knowledge around submarines was also suggested by Richard Marles, deputy prime minister and minister for defence at the opening of the conference in his address to the close to 400 delegates from around the world.

“I mean, submarines are pretty mysterious to be honest, for the broader public – what they do, why they matter, is not clear…you all need to become evangelists…what you’ve already done is so important in terms of promoting discussion around this capability and its place within the broader defence capabilities and the role it has building Australia’s strategic space” he commented, recognising the great work of the submarine community and the Submarine Institute of Australia, while also encouraging further action,” Marles said.

Over the course of the conference, across the diverse presentations, it was suggested that it is important for adversaries to have knowledge of the capabilities of submarines, to act as a deterrent, but that the location of them is something that will always provide an element and opportunity for surprise.

With further explanation of the capabilities of submarines and submariners, and support for the importance of training the next generations of engineers and submariners, the general public could come to understand why there is an immense price tag involved with future Defence investment, both for platforms and education.

“We are buying a large question mark in our adversaries mind. More than anything else that we have… If it stops being about the platform, but it starts being about the question mark and the pause for thought we give in respect of any adversary, suddenly, every cent associated with this is worth it and I think being able to give that message to Australian people is profoundly important,” the deputy prime minister said.


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  1. A problem with the AUKUS SSN program is if Australians fear the $100s Billions all up costs more than China fears the uncertain capabilities.


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