|HMS Upholder, Unseen, Ursula and Unicorn|
Firstly the cost, Diesel powered submarines are significantly cheaper than the Nuclear alternative. Secondly their capability, SSK's are much quieter than SSN's especially when using air independent propulsion. Both of these arguments are sound however they neglect one key point. Neither the US Navy or the Royal Navy require submarine presence near their own coasts. Submarines have to be deployed to their stations. SSK's lack the speed range and endurance of SSN's. With this in mind is their any point in us having them.
The last SSK's in operation with the Royal Navy where the Upholder class. The boats were built in the late 1980's but were paid off in the early 90's following the end of the cold war. The boats were sold to Canada and re named the Victoria Class.
|Upholder Class re-named Victoria|
Advantages of SSK's
Their are a number of advantages to having SSK's
- SSK's are cheaper and quicker to build than Nuclear Boats
- They are quieter than SSN's
- AIP's can give decent endurance and speed and is very quiet
- They are smaller and more capable of operating in littorals
- They can visit friendly ports to refuel and arm
- They can be exported
- They do not require expensive decommissioning and treatment of their fuel
- They require smaller crews
- They do not require expensive Nuclear engineers to run them
- Even with AIP their transit range and speed is poor
- They are not as fast as SSN's
- They are slower than ASW escorts
- They are not as large and are unable to carry as much weaponry
If we base SSK's in Diego Garcia then we can have them placed close to their area of operation. If we based SSN's in Diego Garcia then India would likley freak out. An SSN is viewed as a capital ship. It is a major statement of intent. An SSK is seen as a standard naval vessel. It does not make a political statement.
Having three SSK's homeported in Diego Garcia would allow us to patrol areas from the Gulf and Somali coast to the straits of Malacca and South China Sea. They would be an ideal way to insert small special forces teams into terrorist countries. Or to hold the line against China should it ever become aggressive in the Indian Ocean. The vessels could train along side our allies such as Australia and India and help cement our relation's with them.
Industry and Cooperation
At present Australia is looking for a partner to build a new fleet of SSK's to replace its Collins class. Australia is looking at 12 boats. There requirements are for an SSK which is similar in size, weapons payload and capability to an SSN. They also want the boat to be able to transit long distances and operate well into the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Australia has no indigenous submarine capability and it is desperately looking for a partner who does. At present the US is slated to possibly fill this role. However the US has not built a diesel boat since the USS Dolphin in 1962.
BAE Australia will likley complete any work on these vessels done in Australia. If we also select to build a number of these boast then we could expect atleast the first 4 Australian hulls to be completed by BAE in the United Kingdom at Barrow. With the end of the Astute production Barrow will have nothing to do until the Vanguard replacement. Indeed one of the main reasons the Vanguard replacement has to be so early is to keep the yard in Barrow going.
To retain our submarine manufacturing skill base we must complete a new boat every 22 months. With an RN fleet that is likely to contain only 6 SSN's and 3-4SSBN's this will be impossible in future. Supplementing this fleet with 4 SSK's as well as export orders from allies could allow us to atleast keep the yard in Barrow going. With a number of Navy's around the world looking to increase their Submarine fleets would would be able to re-enter a defence market that we have not been in for 30 years. At present both Germany and France have been very successful in selling their diesel electric boats across the world. This has helped their domestic industry to weather the decline in orders from their own military.
|British Design for Collins Class Replacement|
If we purchased 4 boat's we could base 3 of them in Diego Garcia. One of the 4 boat's would be in the UK on deep refit at all times. This would allow us to have one on patrol in the Indian Ocean at all times with two more ready able to deploy in a time of crisis. It would help to take allot of the strain off of the SSN's. With only 6 SSN's likley in future we can expect at best to have two avalable. One is required to assist the SSBN's in transiting to and from port while the other will be required to go along with the Queen Elizabeth Battle Group. That will leave none for other duties.