East Coast Base in Syd­ney on Gar­den Is­land

Sydney Arena - - FRONT PAGE - By Patrick Cu­sick

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.

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