Future Australian Submarine Capabilityce White Paper, plans for a future force of up to 12 submarines for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) have been the subject of controversy, both in-country and overseas. Late in 2012, pressure grew as the time approached for difficult decisions as to what design should be selected and where it should be built.
The specific challenge for Australia is the need to manage the “tyranny of distance” with a non-nuclear submarine. When the passage between the navy’s two major bases near Perth in the west and at Sydney in the east is equivalent to that between London and Istanbul, the issue of endurance becomes central, even considering operational requirements in a purely defensive context. Endurance is very much more than a question of fuel alone; it is also the ability of the boat and its crew to operate effectively for extended periods far from base support. Even more than the weapon and sensor packages—although these have demands of their own, particularly in the need to “future proof” and make provision for elements such as unmanned vehicles—the endurance issue will drive the power requirements and thus the size of the design.