NEW ATTACK SUBMARINES
East Coast Base in Sydney on Garden Island
Sydney Harbour will become the eastern base for Australia’s next fleet of Attack Submarines – a decision that puts the city at the heart of the military’s ability to project its most lethal power into the Pacific.
All six existing Collins Class Submarines are based at Fremantle in Western Australia.
For strategic reasons – that includes reducing the risk of the entire fleet being neutralized by a nuclear attack - the future fleet will be split across the two coasts. Sydney as the main base would cut the transit time for submarines to carry out missions and exercises in the Pacific.
In the latest Royal Australia Navy review on submarine acquisitions Garden Island in Sydney Harbour was listed as the preferred location for the eastern submarine fleet.
The first of the new Attack Submarine Fleet won’t be in service until the early 2030s.
Garden Island has already become a navy hub and from late next year the “island” dock will accommodate Australia’s first Hunter class frigate, which are more than twice the size of the current Anzac class.
Australian submarines frequently berth at Garden Island but have not been based in Sydney Harbour since the decommissioning of HMAS Platypus at Neutral Bay, which served as the headquarters of the previous Oberon class of submarines until 1999.
A more recent submarine report - the most detailed specific review - states that four of the newly ordered Attack Submarines from France could be based at Garden Island and “conceptually” managed without “substantial new investment in buildings or wharves”.
Basing more than four submarines and new frigates will require a new wharf to be built on the eastern side facing Elizabeth Bay, Double Bay and Rose Bay.
Royal Australian Navy intelligence information states mention of a Russian navy task group deployed to the Coral Sea and China expanding its naval capability in both Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.
More foreign naval activity is anticipated in the eastern Indonesian archipelago, the Coral Sea and South Pacific.
The official review ruled out Adelaide, Hobart, Gladstone, Port Stephens and Twofold Bay on the south coast of NSW. Jervis Bay, Newcastle, Western Port in Victoria and Brisbane could be considered as a submarine base.
Under the purchase agreement, France will build a dozen 4,500-tonne, diesel-electric versions of its Shortfin Barracuda submarines for the Australian “attack” fleet.
Australia brought France’s most sensitive and protected submarine technology that will be the most lethal conventional submarine fleet in the world.
Construction on the “regionally superior” submarines has already begun and work will continue under an agreement, which represents the contractual basis for the program.
The submarines are a major pillar of the government’s $90 billion National Shipbuilding Plan, under which 54 naval vessels will be built in Australia.
The development of the submarine construction yard at Osborne in South Australia is continuing as part of other activities required to deliver the program. Japan had hoped to land the contract as part of its bid to start military exports, but reportedly baulked at calls to manufacture in Australia, not Japan.
Australia’s increased defense spending comes at a time when the US is seeking to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian and Pacific oceans.