THE SENATE AND SEA 1000 ON A POINT OF ORDER
Byline: Rex Patrick / Sydney
A Pump Jet Moment
Senate Estimates Committee hearings are always interesting for submarine watchers. The Collins Class and also the future submarine project usually feature prominently.
On May 3rd this year the Prime Minister, Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel announced a series of DSTO scientific and technological studies into submarines. The study areas included “Propulsion and Energy Storage, Signature and Stealth Performance, Combat Systems and Hydrodynamics, Propellers and Pump Jets”.
Pump Jets !!! It was these last two words that brought on an interesting exchange between Senator Johnston and Rear Admiral Moffitt.
The Senator asked the Admiral “Why are we looking at pump jets on a conventionally powered submarine? I am told that there are no pump jets on any conventional class submarines in the world. The French and the Russians have tried. No one has used them!
The Senator was correct. The Russian have tested pump jets on a Kilo Class, as did the French on an Agosta Class submarine. These trials never led to anything on account of the fact that pump jets are large, heavy and expensive compared to highly skewed propellers. They are relatively inefficient and their benefits really only materialise at high speed. Thus, pump jets have an affinity with nuclear powered submarines that spend a lot of time at high speed and have a relatively unlimited source of energy in their reactors (DCNS understand this and have embraced pump jet technology for their Barracuda SSN).
After the Admiral agreed, the Senator continued his line of questioning, “Who had the idea to look at pump jets? Where did that come from? Did it come from capability group saying that we had better had a look at that?”
The Admiral responded “I do not know the answer to that. I doubt that there is a clear answer. It is a submarine technology that we think that we need to know more about than we do today. I do not anticipate spending a substantial amount of money to get the understanding that I am looking for—I may not have to spend anything at all.”
Thankfully, for the taxpayer, there ended SEA 1000 research on pump jets.
A Point of Order Raised
How did pump jets make it through the system and into the Minister’s press release? How did the Admiral not know where the idea came from?
One could be forgiven for thinking it was a simple case of one slipping past the keeper, but is a second faux pas exposed to us.
In the same press release the Minister announced that the Government was considering four broad options for the Future Submarines; 1) an existing submarine design available off-the-shelf, modified only to meet Australia’s regulatory requirements; 2) an existing off-the-shelf design modified to incorporate Australia’s specific requirements, including in relation to combat systems and weapons; 3) an evolved design that enhances the capabilities of existing off-the-shelf designs, including the Collins Class; and 4) an entirely new developmental submarine.
A timetable was then laid out with first pass scheduled for 2013/14 and second pass expected for 2017.
But it is one of the decision points along the way that is now under the spotlight. The Minister announced that in early 2013 the Government would make a decision on the combat systems, torpedos, sensors and other weapons systems. Three months later “early lock-in” to the Combat System has been challenged by the powerful cross-party Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, in their report of an enquiry into Procurement procedures for Defence Capital Projects. The report has recommended that Defence “avoid early lock-in through premature weapons systems choices”.
Why would SEA 1000 (Defence) want to take the “early lock-in” path announced? Why does Defence think this is a good approach and why has a bipartisan Senate committee specifically recommended against it. Is it not a well thought out idea?
Wrap a Vessel around the Mission System
The current SEA 1000 acquisition strategy appears to be one of “selecting a combat system and then wrapping a vessel around it”. This approach is not, at first glance, without precedence. Indeed, it appears to have been the model adopted in Australia’s Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) program.
It is therefore instructive to examine the AWD story (and rationale).
The idea of an AWD was first seriously floated in the 2000 Defence White Paper. In its section on Maritime Warfare it stated “… the FFGs are planned to be replaced when they are decommissioned from 2013 by a new class of at least three air-defence capable ships. It is expected that these ships will be significantly larger and more capable than the FFGs”. The AWD program, SEA 4000, subsequently appeared in the 2001 Defence Capability Plan as a project seeking to “provide the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with an affordable Maritime Air Warfare capability as a complementary part of a comprehensive, layered air defence capability for the ADF”.
Ships that were initial contenders for the AWD solution included the British Type 45, Dutch LCF, the German F-124, the Spanish F-100 and a second hand US Kidd Class destroyer.
But it was to be the combat system that guided the platform selection.
From the very outset the Aegis system and its accompanying SPY-1D S Band radar were of great interest to Defence. AEGIS was an evolving combat system that was becoming the combat system of choice for AWDs around the world and it was compatible with the desired SM2 and ESSM missiles. There were a number of other perceived benefits with the system.
Perhaps the most important of these was interoperability. First and foremost in this capability, the Aegis Command and Decision System offered the RAN a Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC). CEC enables warships to share sensor and track data with every ship in a battle group such that each platform can engage targets at their maximum intercept range. It gives the battle group commander an umbrella to protect all the ships and aircraft in the battle group. From an interoperability perspective Aegis also allowed for the sharing of tactics and mitigation against “blue on blue” engagements when operating with similarly equipped vessels.
Aegis had been in service in the USN for many years (i.e. MOTS), was earmarked for use in ships of the Korean, Japanese, Norwegian and Spanish navies, was evolvable and was likely to stay in service for the entire life of the Australian AWD. The selection of Aegis would also provide commonality (non-orphan) advantages in the areas of spares and supportability, assisting with cost of ownership.
With that in mind the sequence went as follows.
In early March 2004 the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill, announced that Australia and the United States had reached an agreement that aimed to significantly assist the RAN in the development of options for its new AWDs. The agreement was modelled on the 2001 submarine “Statement of Principles”, under which the RAN and USN had already brought forward joint projects for the Collins Class replacement combat system and a new torpedo. At this same time he formally launched a competition between the designers of the German F-124, the Spanish F-100 and a concept US “Baby Bourke” design. The Kidd Class Destroyers – which were second hand ships – had been eliminated very early on in the piece. The British Type 45 was out; it had both the wrong combat system and the wrong missiles. The Dutch LCF, whilst having the SM2 and ESSM missiles did not have Aegis, rather an Advanced Phased Array Radar (APAR) and an indigenous combat system. The German F-124 was in a similar position to the LCF, except with a German combat system, remained in the game to its commonality advantages with the Australian ANZAC/Meko ships.
In August 2004 Senator Hill announced that, informed by analysis undertaken by DSTO and with evaluation support from the USN, the Aegis system had been selected as the best system for SEA 4000.
The rest, as they say, is history. In April 2005 Raytheon was announced as the preferred bidder for the role of AWD Project Combat System Integrator, knocking out contenders BAE Systems and SAAB Systems. In May the Government announced it had chosen ASC Shipbuilders as the ship builder and three months later the German F-124 was eliminated from the competition as well.
In June 2007 the Government announced that it had selected Navantia’s F-100 as the design around which the RAN’s future AWD would be based.
The SEA 1000 Plan
Returning to submarines …
When the Government announced it was to lock-in the SEA 1000 combat system early, it was not hinting at selecting, say, a French SUBTICs/S-CUBE combat system combination for installation on – for example – a German Type 214. It was not about selecting, say, a German ISUS-90 combat system for installation on an evolved Collins or a design-to-requirements submarine.
Since 2001 Australia has deeply entrenched itself in a submarine command & control (C2) and weapon co-operation program with the USN, a program centred about the AN/BYG-1 C2 system and Mark 48 CBASS torpedo. Both are fitted to the Collins Class submarines.
When talking about selecting the SEA 1000 submarine combat system and weapons first, the Government is referring to 1) selecting the USN’s submarine combat system, or 2) not selecting the USN’s submarine combat system.
Selecting the USN’s submarine combat system is not just about selecting the C2 system, rather the AN/BYG-1 C2 sub-system, the AN/BQQ-10 ARCI sonar sub-system, the AN/BLQ-10 SIGINT sub-system, the AN/BVS-1 photonics sub-system and the USN submarine common radio room. Tighter integration, a gathering trend in submarine combat systems, will demand this. Without procuring the entire suite, Australia would be buying into sub-systems that would increasingly become orphaned as a result of sub-system dependence and interaction on other complimentary sub-systems not fitted to Australian submarines.
Another Pump Jet Moment?
So, returning to the question of selecting the combat system before the platform; has the Senate has got it right? Should the Senate really be concerned?
The idea of selecting a submarine combat system and wrapping a pressure hull around it is a seriously flawed approach. It is not what happened in the case of the AWD. In the AWD project the Aegis system was selected and the ship was down-selected to one that already had Aegis fitted.
This path makes no sense in the context of the USN’s submarine combat system suite because it is only fitted to USN nuclear powered submarines – the only thing that thus far been explicitly ruled out for Australia’s future submarines.
If Defence were to select the US Combat System in 2013, the first of the four submarine options under consideration – an existing submarine design available off-the-shelf, modified only to meet Australia’s regulatory requirements – by simple definition would be eliminated.
Option two – an existing off-the-shelf design modified to incorporate Australia’s specific requirements, including in relation to combat systems and weapons – would also be eliminated on account of the comment above about the increasing interdependence between sub-systems of the USN submarine combat system and weight, space and power issues discussed below. It won’t fit!
Option three – an evolved design that enhances the capabilities of existing off-the-shelf designs, including the Collins Class or an entirely new developmental submarine – is even questionable. The 3400 tonne Collins Class submarine already struggles with respect to the weight, space and power requirements of the US system that has been shoehorned into it. It is not unreasonable, for example, to presume that the power load requirements of a total US combat system would be of the order 100 KWs greater than the power requirements of a combat system optimised for conventional submarines and would thus substantially impact on the submarine’s indiscretion ratio and radius of action.
There is risk that option four – an entirely new developmental submarine – at or around 4000 tonnes – would also fail to muster the puff necessary to operate a full USN submarine combat system.
Derek Woolner, co-author of the book the Collins Class Submarine Story, testified to the Procurement Procedures for Defence Capital Projects Senate enquiry stating, “by prioritising the combat system, the Collins grew from a 2000 tonne boat to over a 3000 tonne boat as the process of identifying what equipment (was needed and) to supply the cooling and energy and so on”.
It is clear – and the Senate knows it – that selecting the combat system first will eliminate options one and two and, therefore, stand aside the recommendations of all three reviews of Kinnaird, Mortimer and Papas. It would mandate the selection of submarine solutions three or four and carry with it all of the cost and risks associated with developmental options.
Selecting the combat system in isolation of the submarine type is but another pump jet moment.
Submarine Choices and their Combat Systems
The submarine, unlike a surface ship, is an integrated design that accommodates weight, space, signature and performance contribution of every component part. The integration is absolute and central to submarine’s operational capability, sustainment and reliability. Compromise the holistic design integration process and you compromise the design.
It must therefore be appreciated that the relationship between submarine designs and the combat systems installed in them is close. The combat system design needs to be matched to the power, weight, space, hydrostatic, hydrodynamic and cost constraints associated with the submarine.
The fact of the matter is that DCNS submarines come with a predominantly French industry combat system, HDW submarines come with a predominantly German industry combat system, Navantia submarines come with a predominantly Spanish/US industry combat system (Lockheed Martin and other US companies such as Exelis built conventional boat sub-systems into the S-80 with assistance from Navantia’s Faba combat system division). Electric Boat submarines come with a predominantly US industry combat system.
It makes little sense to mix and match, particularly noting that there is probably about 10 per cent difference in overall capability between each combat system choice. All one does by doing so is introduce cost and risk to the project.
The Collins Class submarine is a good example. It has taken eleven years and more than half a billion dollars to install, evolve, update and support the essentially federated combat system onboard only four of the six submarines. The replacement combat system has faced criticism from the Auditor General and an unhappy Australian industry that has tried, without any hint of success, to get their own wares into the system.
One line of argument occasionally wheeled out with respect to the combat system choice is that a US Combat System is required in order for Australia to have a particular set of weapon choices. This argument was put to bed in APDR’s April 2011’s edition.
If Australia desires the Mk 48 torpedoes – and argument can be put to support this desire – it is not necessary to have a US combat system to do so. The Dutch have the Mk 48 working in combination with an indigenous combat system and the Turks are getting Mk 48s for their Type 214 class submarines, with its associated German ISUS-90. The Spanish were offered the Mk 48 for their S-80, with its joint Spanish/US combat system (but they selected the German DM2A4 instead) and it is interesting to note that the Turkish selection of the Mk 48 for its future submarine program in no way prevented the French from offering them the Scorpene with its SUBTICs combat system. Of course, none of those were able to choose the Mk 48 CBASS torpedo, but that is to be expected noting it is a joint US and Australian weapon.
With respect to Tomahawk, another potential Australian weapon choice, it is fitted to both Spanish S-80 submarines with its joint Spanish/US combat system and to British submarines, despite their locally designed SMCS Combat System.
Responding to the Senate
In accordance with a 14 March 1973 resolution of the Senate, and undertakings by successive governments, there is a requirement for Government to respond to parliamentary committee reports in timely fashion. The current government indicated on 26 June and 4 December 2008 that it is committed to providing timely responses to parliamentary committee reports. The method of response by the responsible Minister is by a statement to the Parliament.
Interestingly, the following submarine-specific comments were made in the Senate’s report, “The committee recommends that government and Defence respond publicly to the committee’s criticisms made in this report with respect to lessons not learnt, and outline the detailed process and all the options on which current planning on submarines is taking place.”
But that’s not the only Senate intervention into the combat system affairs of the future submarine project.
But let’s go back to where we kicked off this article; Senator Johnston and Rear Admiral Moffitt. The Shadow Defence Minister, who only played a small part in the Senate report, has his eye on the combat system topic as well. The APH website reveals three questions on notice to Defence. Senator Johnston first asks; “It is noted that the timeline indicates you intend to make some form of decision on the combat system, torpedoes, sensors and other weapons systems. With respect to integration cost and risk, how is it possible to select the combat system prior to selecting the type of submarine to be built?” He then asks “What decisions on the combat system, torpedoes, sensors and other weapons systems for SEA 1000 will be made by Government in 2013?” and finally, ”Is Defence looking at some form of procurement contract or binding agreement in relation to the combat system, torpedoes, sensors and other weapons systems in relation to SEA 1000?”
The Senate is due to receive a report from the Minister of Defence in November/December 2012. Senator Johnston is due to receive his answers from RADM Moffitt as this article goes to print. Keep your eyes out for both of them.