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Deal or no deal, the nuclear sub thing is too thinky to think about.

September 20, 2021 - 17:43 -- Admin


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A lot of peeps at my other stack were expecting me to write about the AUKUS submarine last Friday, and I’ll admit I spent a whole heap of time reading into it and searching the web for hot takes. But I’m still no closer to figuring out a coherent position.

The French boats looked to have imported all the lessons of the Collins Class saga – all the wrong lessons, unfortunately. They were going to arrive late and over budget, and then spend ten or fifteen years in the naughty corner while Defence begged the USN to help them get up to spec. That wouldn’t have been France’s fault but ours for insisting on a bespoke redesign of a nuclear powered platform into a diesel-electric substitute.

Like the Collins class boats, once that tortuous path had been walked, they probably would have been pretty capable in current terms. But that would have been around 2060 and advances in AI controlled drone tech would likely have completely changed the shape of the battlespace in all five domains (land, air, sea, space and online) many decades earlier.

By 2060 too, whatever Thucydidian conflict is coming with China would have come and gone with the world remade or destroyed in its wake. (My bet for everything going pear-shaped is early 2025, while the US is distracted by Republican attempts to nullify a Biden win, or even more spectacularly by Trump’s return to the White House. Either way there will be a two month period during which the Chinese believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have freedom to act. After 2025 the demographic collapse that Xi is racing to get ahead of will accelerate beyond all hope of catching up).

I don’t think the long lead time for delivering the boats will matter. Look to the RAN leasing at least three and up to six boats in the interim period.

More critically, the loophole used to transfer the reactors to Australia, will almost certainly be exploited by state actors such as Russia, Iran and ironically by China to proliferate nuclear technology within the constraints of the Nonproliferation Treaty.

There are, of course, the other aspects to the wider UKUSA agreement, the repositioning of US and to a much lesser extent UK assets within Australian territory, and the increased concentration on militarising AI, cyber and quantum technologies, that also got a mention at the presser, but which are probably up much greater significance than the boat deal.

Also, poor old France. Fucked by Scotty from marketing.