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Understanding Australia’s Submarine Choice

Australia is set to embark upon its most ambitious, complex, and expensive defense project in history – the design and construction of its first indigenous submarine. Understanding why Australia has decided to commit to such a project requires both knowledge of Australia’s unique geographical environment and regional strategic realities.

Dubbed the Future Submarine Project, this ambitious scheme hopes to develop the ability to design, test, and construct an Australian submarine perfectly suited for the unique conditions in which it would be required to operate. The project is estimated to cost anywhere between 16 to 36 billion Australian dollars (the final price remains a point of contention) and aims to construct the largest diesel attack submarines in the world, surpassing even the mighty U.S. Virginia-class. The 2013 Defense White Paper unequivocally stated the nation’s intent, removing all other options from the table. There remains, however, a rather heated debate within Australia as to the risks versus possible reward of the Future Submarine Project. Australia has never before attempted something of this magnitude; normally preferring to purchase advanced pieces of military hardware from those who have spent decades perfecting the trade. Such crucial facts and some strategic foresight explain this ambitious move.

Firstly, unique geography plays an enormous role in Australia’s decision making. With one of the largest maritime domains in the world, a massive 8,148,250 square kilometers, Australia’s claims stretch from the freezing waters of Antarctica through to the far warmer waters in the North, near the equator. The sheer size of the zone raises a difficult question for the nation, which while large in geographic size, is relatively small in population, with roughly only 23 million people for a nation the size of the United States.

It remains rather difficult if not impossible, to patrol and monitor the vast majority of Australian waters. Subsequently areas of importance must be selected. Furthermore military platforms are required to spend long periods of time on station patrolling this zone and covering far larger swaths of sea with limited resources. Australia requires craft that are durable, versatile, and capable of long-term deployments.

The size of the continent creates another difficult situation for any navy but especially a submarine force. Multiple sea conditions surround the Australian coastline, with the warmer Pacific Ocean in the north and the much cooler Indian Ocean in the south, far rougher conditions occur in the Indian Ocean than in the milder Pacific Ocean. These climatic changes of temperature alter the salinity of the water, (thereby affecting buoyancy), creating a strong demand for durable and versatile craft.

Now, one may ask why the significantly more demanding polar South of the nation requires such serious attention. Despite being a zone of little activity, compared to the busy Northern trade routes, Australia places high strategic importance upon patrolling the Southern route, or so-called “Australian backyard”.  Australia claims up to 40% of Antarctica (despite being ignored by most of the world’s powers, including the United States). Australia does however take this entitlement quite seriously and consequently, the southern region is patrolled and monitored. Anyone who doubts Australia’s intention to protect and guard its southern approach, need only look at a map of claimed Australian maritime borders, and note the strategically placed Macquarie and Heard Islands. These seemingly insignificant parcels of land allow for the creation of effective choke points to any approach of Australia’s claimed Antarctic region and southern trade routes. Should circumstances arise where northern trade routes become unsafe, or worse still blocked perhaps through conflict, the longer and inhospitable south would remain of vital importance. Australia relies on seaborne trade for survival, and if the above mentioned eventuality were ever to arise, the ability to place quiet attack submarines in the newly vital southern trade routes to protect shipping and monitor activity, becomes of unquestionable importance. Combined with Australian Antarctic sovereignty claims, the enforcement of the entire region becomes clearer to understand, despite the highly unpleasant arctic conditions.

Secondly, growing military capabilities within Southeast and Northern Asia place a further emphasis on the need for a highly survivable and capable submarine fleet. Australia looks beyond 2025 when questioning future military capabilities in Asia, this points to a period where many neighboring nations will have acquired formidable submarine platforms and anti-shipping capabilities. For example Indonesia is seeking to expand its small fleet of two submarines toward a more powerful twelve with the recent purchase of Russia’s quiet running Kilo-class diesel submarine. Vietnam will take possession of its first submarine fleet by the end of 2016. This is not to forget the expansive growth of Chinese A2/AD, or area denial abilities, primarily the growth of anti-shipping weaponry from the emerging power. Lastly, this also heralds the end of the aging Collins-class diesel attack submarine Australia currently employs.

While not necessarily constituting an arms race, the growth of submarine capabilities throughout Southeast Asian nations demonstrates the development of these nations as maritime powers who are self-conscious of their perceived lack of maritime defense ability. The growth of ballistic anti-ship missile technology helps to explain the sudden popularity of submarine fleets, as surface vessels lose their survivability in conflict. For smaller nations, these vessels work to create an important deterrent and if need be, the capability to wage effective warfare against a more powerful enemy.

As for Australia, while it certainly doesn’t consider the growth of neighboring military capabilities a risk to its survival, it understands how maritime abilities developed by its neighbors can help secure Southeast Asia and those ever important trade routes. However, it also realizes that the growth of military capabilities erodes Australia’s traditional military edge over its immediate possible rivals. Seemingly then, the desire to have one of the most capable and deadly submarine fleets in the region remains critically important to Australia, which considers much of Southeast Asia of vital strategic importance. Any Asian history buffs should look to the 1951 Radford Collins agreement to get a sense of the zone (large portions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans) Australia has considered under its immediate strategic concern, and perhaps what it still does.

Thirdly we come to the varied options Australia has to replace the aging Collins-class. Taking into consideration the above requirements for the future submarine, the list of possible options for replacing the Collins-class is seemingly on the short side. The SEA 1000 project was the study committed in order to ascertain Australia’s requirements for a future submarine. Three basic options were put forward: to buy a MOTS (model off-the-shelf) design and modify it for Australian conditions, evolve the current Collins-class submarine for future use, or lastly create a brand new indigenous submarine designed for Australian requirements.

The first option of buying MOTS craft, while certainly more cost effective and of lower risk than the other two options, would struggle to fulfill Australian demands, despite major and costly modifications. While most capable submarines are more than suitable for many other Southeast Asian nations, the vast majority of MOTS-designed craft would not be suited for the expansive Australian maritime border. Most MOTS craft are relatively small, with an average crew of around 30-to-50 men, resulting in less time deployed and limited range due to lack of fuel and food supply.

The Collins-class by comparison holds upward of 80 men with far larger compliments of fuel and food, allowing for greater deployment time, upward of three months. The new Future Submarine is planned to be even larger. The increased size also allows for greater armament of torpedoes and guided missiles. The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine has often been touted as a possible alternative to an Australia design, and while there have been indications that the U.S. might be willing to sell them, the nuclear element of the craft was rejected by the Australian government. While this has been blamed on a lack of nuclear infrastructure in order to effectively manage a nuclear propelled craft, it is more likely the government remains unwilling to attempt a difficult sell of nuclear technology to a voting public distrustful of nuclear energy, and as a major signatory of the NPT (non-proliferation treaty) it would be trekking into unknown legal waters by attaining nuclear powered craft. Ultimately then, a purchase of MOTS submarines would poorly fit Australia’s needs, and would more than likely result in far greater cost in order to get them to an acceptable level, and without nuclear power, any real contender craft are removed.

The option of evolving the current Collins-class is also touted as a more cost-effective alternative to producing a brand new submarine. However the historical failings of its original design have left an unpleasant memory within the Defence Force and government, who now strive to avoid the same mistake. The Collins-class was put to tender from seven of the world’s nine diesel shipbuilding companies. Eventually the Swedish company, Kockums, put forward the Type 471 submarine, fitted with systems from an American company, Rockwell. From the onset major issues arose with the submarine build, resulting in numerous mechanical failures and setbacks. This meant cost spiraled greatly, and a following disagreement between Rockwell, Kockums, RAN, and the Australian government meant the vessels were delayed in their construction.

A lesson learned after costly upgrade programs were enacted was that too much diversification on one project could result in communication breakdowns, and the incompatible mating of components made from different suppliers resulted in unforeseen issues, especially when attempting to implant American combat systems into MOTS submarines. This helps to explain the current decision to commit to the largest and most complex defence project in Australia’s history. Again, however, there is great depth into understanding the current decision, the emergence of a nation set on expanding its abilities and standing in the world.

The RAND Corporation was hired by the Australian government to conduct a study into Australia’s submarine building and design capacity. It subsequently found that while the infrastructure was only slightly lacking, and the software capability was acceptable, a skills shortage proved to be the greatest problem, especially in regards to undersea propulsion. At no stage was the possibility of an indigenous submarine design and construct ever deemed impossible, rather, it conveyed a real sense of the possibility of Australia enhancing its ability to produce complex and highly advanced defence platforms. Plans to amend shortages were subsequently created.

The Future Submarine Project is already well underway, with the Future Submarine Project Office established in Adelaide. Tenders must be sent out for the design and development for the hull, systems and various components, and the ASC (Australian Submarine Company) is to begin construction sometime within the new few years through 2030. The ASC is well placed to fulfill the construction of the Future Submarine, with decades of work on the Collins under its belt, from construction work to maintenance of the Collins and finally to upgrading the troublesome boats.

As for a nuclear option, it remains unlikely. While nuclear powered submarines would be the best possible option for Australia, as argued here, a lack of political will is likely to hamstring any attempts. The current conservative government however, is perhaps more pragmatic and positive towards the possibility and with a new Defence White Paper due the end of 2014, there remains hope. Australia is keenly self-aware of its unique strategic position in the world, and has striven since World War II to develop capabilities that allow for a self-reliant defence ability of the massive island nation. Despite a riskier option, the rewards offers far greater justifiable benefits in development of an indigenous Australian submarine, allowing the country to reach a new level of self-reliance and confidence, and take a strategic leap forward in the world in an uncertain and ever-changing world.

Ben Collopy is a honors study at the University of Newcastle Australia. He is undertaking an in-depth look at the future of the ANZUS alliance with Australia.

Classes for Nothing and Degrees For Free Pt. 2, or Knowledge (That’s What I Want)

By LCDR Adam Kahnke and LT Scott Cheney-Peters

In our first post Scott and I wrote about education opportunities available for those supporting the U.S. Navy, from reserve Marine Corps to active Navy to civil servants. We’ve updated that post with additional options thanks to RADM James Foggo, CDR Stephen Melvin, Chrissy Juergens, LCDR Vic Allen, and Tetyana Muirhead. In that article we focused on free courses that can be used towards degrees or certificate programs. But that’s not the only type of free training available.

Alternatively, you might find yourself in the situation “Degreed Out” (BSEE, MBA, CDFM, CISSP, OA Cert from NPS…), in which getting another master’s degree or certification may start merely seeming like alphabet soup. Also, if you’re like me and you find yourself on shore duty, it should be a time for professional and personal development, right? I tried something different and took a few classes through Coursera. Six classes actually, and I’m happy to say this was a very positive and rewarding experience. Coursera offers what are known as massive open online courses (MOOCs). In contrast with the courses in our first post, these typically have no limit on the number of seats in the class and some can be started at any time, although there are many variations on the set-up. While they too don’t charge for enrollment, a few have a small fee to test or “certify” you upon the course’s completion if that is something you’d like to pursue.

With Coursera each class ranged from 6-12 weeks in length and all required a different but not insignificant amount of work.  What did I get for my efforts you ask? All but one of the courses offered me PDF certificates of completion that don’t mean much to anyone but me. More importantly, I learned more than I thought possible in subject matters I chose (Cryptography, Reverse Engineering of Malware, Financial Engineering, Computational Finance, High Performance Computing and Guitar) by the experts in the field (Stanford, University of London International Programmes, University of Washington, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and Berklee School of Music).

In my humble opinion, this is the future of education. I think this is the greatest invention since the public library system. It is the public library system and the internet combined, with guided direction of the world’s greatest instructors thrown into the mix. I am convinced that this is how the world will judge future academic institutions and decide where they will send their children to study full-time. It is also quite possibly, how future college students will prepare and choose their degree paths. I expect great things for the future due largely to efforts such as these. For Scott’s part, he believes the business model will allow MOOCs to count towards degree and certificate programs at “brick-and-mortar” institutions if they are individually partnered with that institution and upon the successful completion of testing on a fee basis (The Economist has covered the possible future of MOOCs in more depth, as well as even shorter, less-formal learning tools).

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

For an aggregation of MOOC courses across these and other sites check out MOOC-List.

Coursera

courseraCoursera has 554 institutions offering course-work in various subject areas. Take the world’s best courses for free and earn a certificate of completion. Alternatively, pay a few dollars extra and earn a verified certificate. This certificate verifies your identity by using methods such as your typing patterns and using an online camera to verify your picture. One of the downsides for military members attempting to take Coursera classes related to your job is that the site is not compatible with NMCI’s old browsers.

iTunesU

iTunesU has a large collection of free podcasts in several knowledge areas.  Not surprisingly, if you want to learn how to write an iTunes App this is the place to go. It seems that may universities have their own portal on the iTunesU website.  In my opinion, Apple’s decision to host individual portals has left this site a bit of a mess and course material is slightly unorganized. However, once you find the content you are looking for, it could make your commute to work much more productive.

Udacity

While I have yet to try this one, Udacity is the same basic concept as Coursera but with a twist. You can take the classes completely on your schedule. Although limited in number by comparison, the course offerings looked fairly attractive. I think I may just try the “Intro to Hadoop and Map-reduce” course if I can squeeze it in. With no deadlines it is much more likely that I will sign up, poke around at the most interesting content, and if I am not completely enamored put it off until another day.

edX

edX_Logo_Col_RGB_FINALedX is another top-tier MOOC which at the time of this writing has 38 courses to choose from, provided in partnership with such institutions as Harvard, MIT, and Georgetown, spanning many subject areas. Most edX course videos are provided by means of YouTube and do their best to incorporate students into discussion groups on online forums. edX also offers certificates of completion, some requiring a fee for identify verification.

Navy Knowledge Online, MarineNet, and Joint Knowledge Online

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention these three sites, which are in fact long-running DoD-restricted versions of MOOCs. While they may not have the best reputation and are saddled with clunky, non-mobile interfaces, they do offer training on topics directly related to professional duties. Additionally, for those seeking to expand their knowledge beyond their designator or rate, there’s a range of interesting coursework available – from drone operations to intel “A” school to short cultural backgrounds on dozens of countries.

Defense Acquisition University (DAU), FEMA, DHS, Defense Security Service

Back in our first post we talked about (at least in the updated version) accredited courses and certificate options available through DAU, FEMA, DHS at NPS, DHS at Texas A&M, and the Defense Security Service’s Center for Development of Security Excellence. As a reminder, they have many online training options there for self-edification as well. Offerings typically focus on subject such as incident response management, cyber security, and counter-terrorism.

Languages

While Rosetta Stone used to be available free to servicemembers, that contract has since expired. However, there are still several options for beginning or furthering a language for free. Both NKO and JKO have several languages available, but they’re not the most interactive, and focus primarily on a few of the high-demand target languages and militarily useful skills. That said, if you’re already an intermediate speaker or going on a specific assignment and want to brush up on your ability to talk to your uniformed counterparts, these could be quite useful. iTunesU has a plethora of options, running from minute-long immersion to more structured serial listening podcasts. For those with smartphones there are a variety of free language apps that I have yet to try, but the Duolingo app comes highly recommended and takes an immersion and gamification approach to try and cram learning for fun into the nooks and crannies of your free time. Scott may have to put away The Simpsons Tapped Out and finally get back to his Spanish studies.

If you have any additional recommendations on language learning options, please let us know and we’ll perhaps come up with a part 3. In the meantime let us know what else we missed, and keep on learnin’.

This article was cross-posted by permission from JO Rules.

LCDR Vincent “Adam” Kanhnke is a Navy Campaign Analyst, submarine warfare officer, and runs the site www.cricx.org. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Naval Post-graduate School.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and vice president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council. 

Follow @scheneypeters

 

Developing an Assessment for the IO Environment in Afghanistan

You may be wondering what an article about Afghanistan is doing on a site about maritime security. Well, I found myself asking a very similar questions when, within six months of joining the U.S. Navy and graduating from Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola, FL, I found myself in a land-locked country serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) conducting counterinsurgency operations. The irony was not lost on me since I had joined very late in life (I was 35 when I went to OCS). The recruiter had said, “Join the Navy and see the world!” Little did I know we’d be starting in alphabetical order …

Meeting the requirements of an “individual augmentee” – (Fog a mirror? Check!) – and having just enough training to know how to spell “IO,” I arrived in Khost province in early 2008. I was fortunate to relieve a brilliant officer, Chris Weis, who had established a successful media and public diplomacy program and laid the groundwork for a number of future programs.

I decided that before setting out to win the “hearts and minds” of the local population, we needed to take stock of where we were and whether our efforts were achieving the effects we desired.

The goal of Information Operations (or “IO”) is to “influence, corrupt, disrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own.”[i] But how does one know whether the decision process, either human or automated, has actually been influenced in some way? We can assume or surmise that, based on the actions of the target of the IO campaign, some desired effect was achieved or not achieved. But how much of that was based on our IO campaign and how much on other factors, perhaps unknown even to us? We can also attempt to ask the target after the fact whether campaign activities influenced their decision making. But such opportunities might rarely arise in the midst of on-going operations. 

Commanders conducting counterinsurgency operations should have two primary IO targets: the insurgents and the local population. Retired U.S. Army officer John Nagl notes that “persuading the masses of people that the government is capable of providing essential services—and defeating the insurgents—is just as important” as enticing the insurgents to surrender and provide information on their comrades.[ii] A PRT is not charged with directly targeting insurgents. Instead, its mission is to build the capacity of the host government to provide governance, development, and these “essential services” for the local population.[iii]

Information Operations traditionally suffer from a lack of available metrics by which planners can assess their environment and measure the effectiveness of their programs. It may be impossible to show direct causation, or even correlation, between Information Operations and actual effects (i.e., did my influence program actually have its desired effect?). This often places IO practitioners at a distinct disadvantage when attempting to gain the confidence of unit commanders, who are tasked with allocating scarce battlefield resources and who are often skeptical of Information Operations as a whole.

Given these constraints it was clear that the PRT in Khost province, Afghanistan, needed a tool by which the leadership could benchmark current conditions and evaluate the information environment under which the population lived. We hoped that such a tool could help provide clues as to whether our IO (and the overall PRT) efforts were having the intended effects. As a result, we developed the Information Operations Environmental Assessment tool, which can be used and replicated at the unit level (battalion or less) by planners in order to establish an initial benchmark (where am I?) and measure progress toward achieving the IO program goals and objectives (where do I want to go?). 

Since my crude attempt was first published in 2009, the U.S. Institute of Peace (yes, there is such a thing) developed the metrics framework under the name “Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments” or “MPICE.” This project seeks to:

provide a comprehensive capability for measuring progress during stabilization and reconstruction operations for subsequent integrated interagency and intergovernmental use. MPICE enables policymakers to establish a baseline before intervention and track progress toward stability and, ultimately, self-sustaining peace. The intention is to contribute to establishing realistic goals, focusing government efforts strategically, integrating interagency activities, and enhancing the prospects for attaining an enduring peace. This metrics framework supports strategic and operational planning cycles.

No doubt the MPICE framework is far more useful today than my rudimentary attempt to capture measures of effect in 2008, but I hope in some small way others have found a useful starting point. As I learned firsthand, and as practitioners of naval and maritime professions know, what happens on land often draws in those focused on the sea. 

The author would like to thank Dr. Thomas H. Johnson and Barry Scott Zellen, both of the Naval Postgraduate School, for their professional mentorship and constructive advice, and for including my work in their book.

LT Robert “Jake” Bebber is an information warfare officer assigned to the staff of Commander, U.S. Cyber Command. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Central Florida and lives with his wife, Dana and son, Vincent in Millersville, Maryland. The views expressed here are not those of the Department of Defense, the Navy or those of U.S. Cyber Command. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com.

 


[i] Joint Publication 3-13 Information Operations, p. ix

[ii] Nagl, John A. Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 93.

[iii] Ibid.

Sea Control 22 – Behind the Curtain

seacontrolemblem(Download: Sea Control 22 – Behind the Curtain, the First.)

A. Denis Clift, former Naval Officer, president emeritus of the National Intelligence University, and Vice President for Operations of USNI, joins us to talk about his reflections on his time in the Antarctic, Cold War intelligence, life, and the United States Naval Institute. This is the first of a bi-monthly series that will be investigating his career during the Cold War.

We are available on Itunes, Stitcher Stream Radio, etc… Remeber to subscribe, leave a comment and a 5-star rating.