In response to the recent Special Report on the comparison between the sonar suites for Sea 5000, ADM received some interesting feedback about the article which can be boiled down to ASW is more than just sonars. This is a point which ADM is not disputing, far from it. But sonars are a good place to start when looking at what ASW means to a surface combatant.
Going back to first principles behind a successful ASW fight, the surface fleet is aiming to change the behaviours of the submarine crew fighting their boats, denying their effective use in the battlespace, a goal that is achieved in numerous ways. Theatre ASW is a different beast again.
“A future frigate operating in an integrated ADF ASW environment underpinned with the right mix of sensors (acoustic and non-acoustic), deployed across a mix of host platforms (surface ships, submarines, MPAs, helicopters, deployed sonar sensors, fixed surveillance arrays and unmanned platforms), with a reliable and continuous flow of tactical and operational level intelligence, comprehensive geospatial data and first rate command and control systems in reality might actually require little more than a self-defence sonar suite to make its mark on the ASW battle,” one ADM reader reflected. “In reality I suspect (as it does today) a frigate will require more than that ... but it does make you think.”
The decision-making matrix of the $35 billion Sea 5000 program is wide and varied, with bidders highlighting the differing capabilities of their offering without knowing which factors are being weighted over others by the program office for their recommendation to Government. Is it AIC? ASW capabilities? Risk in all its forms? Value for money at what level? Interoperability with allies? Growth path?
The regional strategic circumstances Australia is faced with sees a massive expansion of the submarine fleets of our neighbours. The evolution of laser-based weaponry is marching on. 3D printing or additive manufacturing onboard ships is already happening with our allies. Unmanned technologies, above and below the water, are here and growing rapidly.
And while the first Future Frigate will not be the same as the last (there are at least two known major technology insertion points being spoken of with three flights of three ships on the cards), these whole of life issues will need to be accounted for now.
The ADM team will continue to contribute to the capability debate around this program as it reaches critical milestones in 2018.