• HMAS Farncomb sails into Albany, WA.
    HMAS Farncomb sails into Albany, WA. Defence

In a speech to the Submarine Institute of Australia conference this week, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds has pushed back against the argument that submarines are obsolete.

“Some commentators assert that submarines will soon be obsolete due to advances in sensors, autonomous platforms and other technologies,” Minister Reynolds said. “This is not correct. It is too simplistic, and it is not evidence-based.

“Yes, some technological developments may make submarines easier to detect. But there are other technologies that may improve a submarine’s ability to evade detection. What Australia needs – and what this Government is focused on – is a long-term strategy to evolve and adapt to changing technological developments.

“And this is exactly what we are doing – knowing that the physics and the environmental complexities of undersea warfare will not change.”

Minister Reynolds then argued that expanding submarine fleets across the region are further evidence that the platform remains at the centre of naval strategy.

“Across the Indo-Pacific, other nations are investing in, and expanding, their submarine fleets,” Minister Reynolds said. “And also their anti-submarine warfare capabilities. By 2030, it is estimated that over half of the world’s submarines will be operating in our region.

“Over 300. Submarines are not just important in the view of this Australian Government – this is the view of every significant power in our region.

“[This] is a straightforward statement that submarines are a globally recognised 21st century maritime force. Nations recognise their versatility. And they recognise their unique strength as a deterrence but also as a strike capability.”

Minister Reynolds also commented on the budget status of the Attack class build.

“The most effective way to measure the cost performance of any decades-long project is through constant dollars,” Minister Reynolds said. “In the 2016 Defence White Paper, it had an estimated acquisition cost of the equivalent of $50 billion in 2016 constant dollars.

“After the Competitive Evaluation Process the estimated cost was still $50 billion in 2016 constant dollars. And today, with the program now well underway, the estimated cost is still $50 billion in 2016 constant dollars.

“Let me be very clear. The Attack Class submarine program is being driven to this budget. And Naval Group has assured me they are on track to enter Systems Functional review milestone in January next year.”

The conference took place in Canberra on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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