Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Super Subs


The Australian is reporting that the Federal Government is likely to accept a report recommending the construction in Adelaide of 12 Super Collins submarines at a cost of $18 Billion.

If this is true, it will be a courageous decision by Julia Gillard, given the bad publicity that the first 6 subs received. But courageous decisions are what we want from governments, when they are the right thing to do – and this is.

The Collins class submarine is the finest sub in the world. It is uniquely suited to Australian needs and conditions. It is the only submarine the Americans are truly terrified of ever having to face as an enemy!

The building of the first 6 was stuffed up – that’s a fact. But why?

It wasn’t the designers or builders. In fact Australian managers and builders proved themselves to be the equal of any in the world. It was almost universally said prior to the Collins that Australians were not capable of such a huge project. But we proved them wrong. In fact our welders, just as one example, had to redo the welding done by the Swedes as it wasn’t up to our standards! No criticism of Sweden intended – we learnt heaps from the Swedes, and then did it better.

It was in the planning that we went wrong, and it was a relatively simple mistake – no prototype. We initially decided to build off-the-shelf to a first-rate Swedish design, and avoid having to build and test a prototype. But then we completely redesigned it because it was not suited to Australian conditions. It was no longer the proven design we agreed on. It was no longer off-the-shelf technology. We increased the number of cylinders in the motors by 50%, to give just one example. If you build a major new piece of military hardware, you always do a prototype to iron out the bugs, and we didn’t. We then compounded the problem with the weapons software, insisting on an American package that we again changed entirely so that it was no longer off-the-shelf, and then insisted on staying with the Americans even when they proved incapable to meeting our specifications.

All these problems should have been worked out with a prototype. But we didn’t build one. We committed to 6 new boats immediately, so that effectively all 6 became prototypes.

Look at the Joint Strike Fighter project if you think that other people can build major new hardware without problems! The staggering problems that the US is experiencing building a new plane dwarf our Collins experience. In fact, whilst we had a lot of problems along the way and afterwards, we actually delivered the subs to our navy pretty well on time and on budget. A tremendous effort.The Yanks love the way we beat up our every mistake, because it means that they can pretend to be better and sell us their equipment. They patch up heaps of disasters that we don’t see because we are so busy beating ourselves up, and then pretend to be better builders.

We should build our own subs. And they should be Collins derivatives – a “Super” Collins because this is the only submarine in the world that will be able to do the job that it needs to do. European subs operate in shallow water over short distances. Our needs are for deep ocean travel over long distances. This requires a completely different machine, and it means we have to build our own. We have proven we can do it, and have seen that it is an enormous boost to our domestic industrial base and skills. Let’s get behind this project from the start.

And let’s put our energies into working out how Tassie can get a piece of the $18 Billion action!

All about Nigel Burch: During the period 2005-2008 I was an adviser to Deputy Premier Steve Kons and also his electorate officer. Immediately prior to that I had been a director of the Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers. In the 1990s I was Managing Director of a listed gold mining company and later assisted the Bosnian government with problems in their state steel industry at the end of the war. I was honoured by the Australian Shareholders Assocation in1991 with a medal for services to small shareholders and assisted ABC 4-Corners with an award-winning documentary “Other People’s Money”. Recently I was a national director of the RSPCA.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Barnaby Drake

    January 5, 2012 at 10:24 am

    21.The Colombian Cocaine barons build their own subs in the jungle and use them to transport their product to the U.S.

    Where are our salesmen?

    Opportunity missed!

  2. George Harris aka woodworker

    January 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

    re #26, I love your work…

  3. Leonard Colquhoun

    December 31, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Actually, Comment 24, your question should be “Is anyone of importance NOT watching . . .?”

  4. Philip Lowe

    December 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    It won’t be long before you will be able to get a Chinese submarine in Chickenfeed.(is anybody watching the Spratley Islands?)

  5. Carol Williams

    December 30, 2011 at 9:04 am

    There’s a difference between offence and defence. The modern military industrial state is an offensive beast in my book. It comes from a a ‘pugilistic’ position which does not solve society’s problems – never will. Calling people names, because they take this or another view or see a better sense in believing resources (including common sense) should go towards feeding this planet’s people, is somewhat narrow minded in my view. We all want the same things in the end, don’t we?

  6. Leonard Colquhoun

    December 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Comment 16 has a point with “What we need is ‘Social Defence’ for the emergencies that we face from both the global financial collapse and climate change”, if only because it will give something for all those newly-minted and appointed Social Inclusion Commissars to do with our $$$s.

    Two more points:

    (i) anyone using the fine sentiment of “No More War” to advocate having no ADF is a complete moron*^; and

    (ii) anyone advocating a complete DIY ADF is not far from being one also.

    * and also a traitor?

    ^ yes, being so naive IS moronic.

  7. pilko

    December 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    The Colombian Cocaine barons build their own subs in the jungle and use them to transport their product to the U.S. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdI1y4sdPZE

    With such ingenuity and entrepeneurship we could learn a lot from the South American drug lords.

  8. Red Bob

    December 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    As a lurker here for some time it did not surprise me in the least to see this thread infected with both anti-American and pacifist comments and even a dig at Forestry Tasmania, but Nigel Burch should be thanked for an article that gives TT something other than its usual pro-Green dribble. The editor should also be commended for publishing it and we should show due respect by commenting with some degree of relevance, and I do note most seem to have done so.

    One point I disagree with is the suggestion (#14) that we simply cannot defend this country. The key rhetorical question in response is: Against what? Once a gentleman told me the Australian Army had insufficient battalions to defend Newcastle, let alone Sydney. I asked which country could transport, land and support a larger army at Newcastle. There was then and remains now,only one – the US. When talking about our defence capabilities, spending and so forth, it is absurd not to make comparisons, even if we cannot imagine the circumstances that would lead us going to war against some countries.

    Going to the point of the article, the case for a much larger submarine force comes down to an asymetric, affordable and effective response and deterrent to the growing blue water capabilities of other nations – namely China and India. The theory goes that we cannot be guaranteed continued US dominance of the Asia-Pacific region and that we cannot hope to match the carrier task forces that China and India are developing, let alone their land-based air power. A submarine – particularly of a Collins or “Super” Collins Class (or better yet, as #5 said, nucelar-powerered)- can effectively put holes in an expensive carrier or a cruise missile or three in a presidential palace.

    There’s much to be said for this argument of an enlarged submarine force but as the article says it is ambitious and it would be difficult. The greatest worry is that it may come at the expense of other defence capabilities. Let’s be honest here – despite what some pacifists may think – our defence spending is relatively modest and is unlikely to grow by any significant degree. If we wish to double our submarine fleet, then what might we lose to meet the cost?

    There is an important point here about the flexibility of many defence capabilities. Look at the Adelaide Class Landing Helicopter Docks currently under construction, for example. Militarily, their purpose is expeditionary – landing forces on other shores. But with their capability to carry and land significant stores, vehicles and personnel, and operate a dozen helicopters or more, they become invaluable assets for disaster relief. Much of the work of the ships they will replace – the much less capable Manoora and Kanimbla – has been in this area. This is critical work from a humanitarian and a diplomatic point of view. Army units – such as engineers, medical, logistics – also do great work in this area.

    Disaster relief is not a capability offered by a submarine, however, and, as correctly noted in # 13, they are of little utility in a conflict such as Afghanistan. So it’s a balancing act really of having high-end but very focussed capabilities for the worst-case, highest-risk scenario where our nation is directly threatened (submarines, fighter aircraft), and having those capabilities that can offer more flexibility across the full spectrum of more likely military operations (from disaster relief to Afghanistan / Iraq / East Timor / Somalia / Solomon Islands and so on).

    If other defence capabilities were not to lose out, then I would support a 12-submarine program, but I don’t think it’s too cynical to be skeptical about that.

  9. russell

    December 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    ‘it will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a cake stall to buy a bomber.’ –

    Womens International League for Peace and Freedom.

    We don’t need a military industrial complex whose main aim is not defence but continual offensive, war derived profit.
    That is what is wrong with America at this time. The war machine always requires more and more money.
    Think Cheney, halliburton, blackwater etc etc etc. Private profiteers from continual wars.

    Civilian police in America are being armed with military hardware as though they are the military. To be used on who? Occupy protestors?

    The economics of the ‘offensive war’ profiteer requires a militarized society. It is economic imperialism using fear and war as the tools.

  10. Barnaby Drake

    December 28, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Maybe we should take a leaf out of America’s book and build our own super-subs, fighter planes, warships,etc and like America supply them to everybody for ‘peaceful’ purposes. Cash up front and in advance of delivery, then delay as long as possible while we try to fix all the problems we have created in the design stage, and when we eventually do supply them, make sure they don’t work.

    This will ensure we remain safe from attack and have lots of lovely money to stimulate our own economy – just like the Americans.

  11. Shaun

    December 28, 2011 at 1:52 am

    From a Tasmanian perspective, the real question is what can we do to gain some of the work if this goes ahead?

    Personally, I’m morally opposed to war. But if they’re going to be built then they’re going to be built – we have no real say in that so we might as well take whatever benefits may be on offer.

    Rightly or wrongly, at least the South Australians will have a go at benefiting their state from this. We should do likewise.

  12. Isla MacGregor

    December 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    #9 I’m 100% with you on this one Philip.

    What a lot of techno warfare $$’s gobbledegook.

    The old saying – ‘The world won’t end with a ‘bang’ but a ‘whimper’ puts this issue on submarines where it belongs.

    It has nothing to with equity for the global population, rehabilitating agricultural land and waterways that are stuffed, population control and feeding people in the future.

    It’s a yet another boysie issue that we need to hit the delete button on.

    What we need is ‘Social Defence’ for the emergencies that we face from both the global financial collapse and climate change.

    Will the political critic or political party that supports ‘Social Defence’ please speak up so we know who is really thinking about the future?

    And some people wonder why more women don’t make comment on tt?

  13. john hayward

    December 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Australia might study the benefits of the stratospheric US high-tech defence expenditure and seek to emulate their spectacular military success against selected developing nations.

    By placing the ADF under FT we muffle much of those criticisms about waste and corruption while aiding the US sonic war against whales.

    Looking at the quality of leaders around the world, we have entered an age of stupidity. Let’s capitalise on on it.

    John Hayward

  14. John lawrence Ward

    December 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Before you build anything at all, you will have to demonstrate that you have the education system to support the effort.

    Second you would have to demonstrate that the states can work together instead of undermining each other.

    When the Swedes came to evaluate our capabilities, they found Heavy engineering in NSW. Advanced Electronics education in Victoria and eventually Kim Beasley selected the South Australians to win seats in a coming election.

    That was after some of the dirtiest campaigns in our history.

    Australians are far too small minded as a nation to embrace the world of Arms trading and much too short term thinkers to ever defend them selves in a serious way.

    Our way of going to war is to go ill-prepared in weak numbers , suffer serious losses and have our John Howards tell us stories of our fighting spirit and glorious dead, while he is safe in his bunker and we are covered in blood.

    It is remarkable how our political classes promote ordinary men and women as heroes once they are dead but privately consider them the scum of the earth.

    Trade should be as close as we get to going to war.

    Unless you populate to 200 million and arm your selves to the teeth, this place is incapable of being defended.

  15. Robert LePage

    December 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I think that the subs will be in trouble if we try to use them in our latest war, they will not take kindly to Afghanistan.Perhaps a hybrid sub (made by GM Holden of course) with wheels?
    Seriously the only two threats that we will face in the forseeable future are from China, coming to take over the management of their quarry and Indonesia, deciding that they will take over their pushy neighbour to the South (like swatting a fly) and 6 or 12 subs will not stop them.

  16. William Boeder

    December 27, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I find that Australia has some rather odd dealings with the Nation charged as being our very best friend, that being the Hew Ess of Ay?

    Indeed if there is somebody out there whom might take on the challenge and become the factfinder as to the mega Billions of dollars that have been poured into America from our government treasury, versus what we have actually received in return for all our defence budget spending, this also covers electronic systems especially, were they even tested before they were supplied as ordered?

    There are a great many controversial financial dealings currently happening in America, many of these featuring the highly prominent firm of Goldman Sachs and or their past high rolling executives.

    It will prove interesting to do some Internet research on this outfit, many have already been proven, see for yourselves?

  17. Geoff Couser

    December 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Well said Phil #9…reminds me of the Bill Hicks quote (appropriate to mention him, he would have been 50 this month):

    It’s kind of an interesting theory, and all we have to do is make one decisive act and we can rid the world of all our enemies at once.
    Here’s what we do. You know all that money we spend on nuclear weapons and defense every year? Trillions of dollars.
    Instead, if we spent that money feeding and clothing the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over,
    not one human being excluded … not one … we could as one race explore inner and outer space together in peace, forever.

  18. Pete Godfrey

    December 27, 2011 at 8:39 am

    If we are talking about a defence force for Australia then we need to look at different options. If we are talking about our defence force as an extension of the U.S. military supply business then we do need submarines.
    In the interests of defending Australia from an attack submarines are not much use. We have massive problems getting crew for the subs we have now.
    The best way to destroy ships (which is the main use of subs) is by air, it is much cheaper to use missiles or drones.
    Australia has a fine tradition of building and innovation. We used to buy planes during the war and put bigger engines in them to make them really useful. We used to have a ship building industry.
    If we buy ships from the U.S they are rubbish, they are made to be completely refitted every 10 years or so. We could build our own if necessary.
    Our problem is our budget. We actually need to look at what is the best way to spend the money we have and not just follow the U.S into a debt spiral chasing wars to test our equipment on.
    A large supply of home made missiles is the best defence we could have. We need bases or mobile launchers around the coastline, which can launch missiles that are cheap and fast to deploy.
    They don’t have to be that high tech to destroy ships coming in or aircraft. Even the old technique of exploding shrapnel shells worked very well on aircraft.
    Forget super high tech gadgets, just keep defence simple.

  19. Philip Lowe

    December 27, 2011 at 4:53 am

    When are you silly buggers going to stop fantasising about war?Why not spend lots of money on communal veggie gardens and teach young offenders the joy of growing without them having to go to prison for the experience?

  20. ALF1

    December 27, 2011 at 4:46 am

    Let’s build one at Triabunna.

  21. Russell

    December 27, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Re #5
    One word, Fukushima.

  22. Russell

    December 26, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Re #4
    Yes, but I’m talking about ALL our needs, not just or in particular submarines. We’ve wasted $billions and years waiting on delivery of everyone else’s overpriced surplus and out-of-date equipment.

  23. Andrew

    December 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Nigel’s point about the critical issue with the Collins Class being a lack of a prototype may have merit. It’s not a point I’ve considered before.

    I have to disagree with his comment that the Collins are now the finest submarines in the world. They’re not; they’re the finest conventionally-powered submarines in the world.

    If Australia is to expand its limited offensive capabilities through an enlarged submarine fleet, with all the investment of limited resources that this entails, then why shut the door on nuclear power?

  24. Peter Bright

    December 26, 2011 at 11:47 am

    On the face of it Russell (at #1) I’d certainly like to agree with you, however the image I have of Australia’s well-intentioned but apparently forever blighted efforts to design, build and maintain six Collins-class submarines for a billion dollars each is one of substantial failure.

    I know bugger-all about submarines, but I’d have thought it better to import from the experts and be done with it. Sweden comes to mind but there’s probably others.

    I treasure the idea of Australia being as self-supporting and as self-sufficient as practicable, and of setting the highest home and international standards of political, moral and behavioural integrity, but with those six submarines it seems we made a big mistake in thinking we could compete with the experts.

    Humble pie rarely tastes good, but sometimes it’s better for us.

  25. Barnaby Drake

    December 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Can somebody please tell me where we would EVER use a submarine in a war event?

    We can’t even stop a Japanese ship stealing our whales, nor can we prevent unseaworthy boats carrying refugees from setting sail for Australia. Can you tell me what use 6 submarines would be to us with a coastline of many thousands of miles if a major nation decided to attack us?

    These things are an absolute waste of time for all the good they would do us. Scrap the lot and save us a fortune and maybe concentrate on building some small, fast, surface vessels that could stop piracy, people smuggling and act as rescue vessels in times of disaster. Maybe some fast catamaran type vessels that could carry helicopters for sea rescue, patrol and policing duties. We know we have the potential here in Tasmania for this, so why not look towards that rather than some disgustingly expensive white sea-elephants?

  26. George Harris aka woodworker

    December 26, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I think you are on the wrong track, Nigel. While I might agree with much of your analysis, I think the long-term future of warfare conducted with under-sea assets will be much different.
    I agree that the way the Australian industry put right all the faults in the Collins Class was magnificent, and it ultimately made them a craft inferior to none, submarines are incredibly expensive, complex, and highly vulnerable. A less than five percent impairment can put them out of action and probably kill all on board, while a surface craft can have considerable damage without sinking, or even being taken out of the game.
    However, the future is likely to see unmanned craft guided by satellites, driven by new generations of lithium batteries (several hundred tonnes of them) that could drive them under water at full deployment for months non-stop. Then there is the new generation of ‘smart’ torpedo. These can be parked in sleep mode at the bottom of busy shipping lanes, eg the Straits of Malacca) for months waiting to be activated to take out an identified target. These can be serviced by a surface mother ship that is fast, agile, and miles away… (an Incat vessel, maybe?) These options are very high tech, but would be significantly less expensive than a new fleet of Collins class subs. While the subs themselves are expensive, the other significant cost is finding, training, and maintaining crews to run them. That in the long term may be even more expensive that building the subs in the first place! A smart torpedo guided by satellite from a base in the Northern Territory desert would be a far less drain on the long-suffering taxpayer, and there might be jobs for kids who are currently laying on the loungeroom floor surrounded by Christmas litter playing computer (war) games flat out all night… It would be easier to recruit them to joystick warfare than getting them to go off in a submarine.

  27. Russell

    December 26, 2011 at 8:35 am

    We should build all our own defence equipment, keeping the money, jobs and integrity here in Australia. Maybe then even export them?

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