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Royal Australian Navy Discussions and Updates

This is a discussion on Royal Australian Navy Discussions and Updates within the Navy & Maritime forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Originally Posted by Abraham Gubler Australia pulled its own weight on the nuclear front up until the 60s despite an ...


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Old November 15th, 2012   #9856
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Originally Posted by Abraham Gubler View Post
Australia pulled its own weight on the nuclear front up until the 60s despite an extreme geographical handicap. Particularly with the ANU Research School of Physical Sciences and the scientific leadership of Professor Mark Oliphant. Oliphant had been one of the key people at Cavendish during the 30s when and where the concept of nuclear energy and bombs were developed. Oliphants particular contribution was discovering nuclear fusion. The focus of the Oliphant School has been on particle accelerators where they were world leaders up until the 1970s.

But the reason Australia couldn’t build a reactor in the 40s and 50s was the lack of an appropriate site that North America and the UK had in abundance. That is high volume, reliable flows of water for cooling (ie a big, fast, all year river). Australia had to build one. Which was called the Snowy Mountain Scheme. Despite the modern hagiography the Snowy Scheme was all about nuclear weapons. Providing the water and energy infrastructure to turn the Upper Murray into an Australian nuclear bomb production complex.

By the time the physical and intellectual infrastructure was in place the political dynamics had changed and the UK froze Australia out of joint nuclear development (via closer arrangement with the USA) and cost cutting by various Governments. Still there are some significant areas in which Australia provides technology leadership. Like SILEX and laser enrichment of Uranium. Though of course this has had to be exported for realisation…
Fine. But that's nothing like what Icelord claimed, which was that Australia was the world's leading country in all aspects of non-weapons nuclear research & development in the 1960s & 1970s. He didn't claim it pulled its weight in research, & was world-class in certain specialities. He claimed it was way ahead of the pack in everything, including nuclear power. This is obviously false.

BTW, you don't need the sort of volumes of cooling water you describe for a small research reactor. Many are sited where there is no such supply. Australia's first (British-designed) research reactor (started operating 1958) was, and its Argentinean successor is, in a suburb of Sydney, for example. Ankara has a couple of research reactors, & has only a very small river which pretty much dries up in summer. Etc.
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Old November 15th, 2012   #9857
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Abe said, "Bear in mind this would require 20 years of investment in nuclear technology and skills before the first SSN would be commissioned. You start that now and the Collins replacement submarine won’t be in service until the mid 2030s."

Maybe we should be investing in nuclear technology now, so that by the time the Collins replacement needs replacing, we then have the option of nuclear. Who knows, by then we may want to have an aircraft carrier with nuclear power. At least we would have the option in the future.
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Old November 15th, 2012   #9858
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I was under the impression Nuke boats are exceptional in the open oceans,working at deep depths, and getting from point A to B.I read an article that stated they are not so good in shallow,coastal, environments.

If Australia is wanting to add capability to our relationship with our closest allies (USA and UK )i would hope we would do it with a niche capability that those country's don't have. IE a conventional sub.When we look at country's like China or India they have both types of Subs.Ie Nukes and conventional's.

I am of the impression a SSK would be complimenting our allies.I think this is a good thing to do.I recall some members talking about missions the Collins have done that we will never find out about. I am all for a future SSK.
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Old November 15th, 2012   #9859
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Abe said, "Bear in mind this would require 20 years of investment in nuclear technology and skills before the first SSN would be commissioned. You start that now and the Collins replacement submarine won’t be in service until the mid 2030s."

Maybe we should be investing in nuclear technology now, so that by the time the Collins replacement needs replacing, we then have the option of nuclear. Who knows, by then we may want to have an aircraft carrier with nuclear power. At least we would have the option in the future.
Only problem to that’s Collins will need replacing from 2025 not 2035. Could your run both nuclear powers program together or do we need the domestic program up and running before the military program?
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Old November 15th, 2012   #9860
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In a media present open forum Admiral Locklear (himself a nuclear engineer) was recently asked if all things being equal should Australia have nuclear subs. His opinion was simple.

Australia simply does not have the nuclear industry and resources to back up a nuclear submarine capability. End of story. We can't because as a 20 million person economy with no nuclear industry we simply couldn't afford all the back end resourcing let alone the front end.

The US has never exported a nuclear sub, we have zero nuclear engineers, we have zero capability to organically train nuclear engineers. Submarine captains take 15 years to train so there is zero chance the Collins replacement will be nuclear.
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Old November 15th, 2012   #9861
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In a media present open forum Admiral Locklear (himself a nuclear engineer) was recently asked if all things being equal should Australia have nuclear subs. His opinion was simple.

Australia simply does not have the nuclear industry and resources to back up a nuclear submarine capability. End of story. We can't because as a 20 million person economy with no nuclear industry we simply couldn't afford all the back end resourcing let alone the front end.

The US has never exported a nuclear sub, we have zero nuclear engineers, we have zero capability to organically train nuclear engineers. Submarine captains take 15 years to train so there is zero chance the Collins replacement will be nuclear.
When the UK wanted to build nuclear capable submarines they had a choice homegrown or help from the US, the first UK nuclear submarine was powered by US reactor’s as part of the 1958 US-UK defence agreement, I am quite sure if Australia wanted to go down that route the US would make an similar agreement with Australian government using the training tools currently available to USN nuclear submariners.

Whist we do not have at the present have the ability to sustain nuclear powered boats at this time it should not be ruled in future. As I said before Australia should have the best boats it can achieve, whether they are conventional powered or nuclear I am not really bothered either way. If it requires an additional 10/15 years beyond what Collins submarines can give and a domestic nuclear power generation set up can be achieved then the best course of action would be to start building an additional conventional submarine capability using the existing hull and collaboration with the Japanese on propulsion starting 2018/20 timeframe, first nuclear powered boats in 2035/38 that’s if we can get over the hurdle for domestic nuclear power generation, which I am not overly confident with happening.
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9862
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BTW, you don't need the sort of volumes of cooling water you describe for a small research reactor. Many are sited where there is no such supply. Australia's first (British-designed) research reactor (started operating 1958) was, and its Argentinean successor is, in a suburb of Sydney, for example. Ankara has a couple of research reactors, & has only a very small river which pretty much dries up in summer. Etc.
I think you are misunderstanding what Abe was talking aobut with regards to the Snowy scheme ? The initial idea and reason for the scheme was not only Hydro Power and irregation by diverting snow melt to the western side of the mountains rather than the short trip into the ocean, was that it was part of a plan for Australia to become a nuclear nation. Not just in power generation but also uranium enrichment and weapons. He is not talking about research reactors in the middle of Sydney.

The foundations (which can still be seen today) were actually laid at Jervis Bay to build Australia's first nuclear reactor It was also, IIRC, one of the reason's (although further down the track) that we selected the F111 because it was nuclear capable, certain events/circumstances/countries changed our mind

Past History - Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb.
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9863
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The foundations (which can still be seen today) were actually laid at Jervis Bay to build Australia's first nuclear reactor It was also, IIRC, one of the reason's (although further down the track) that we selected the F111 because it was nuclear capable, certain events/circumstances changed our mind
Jervis Bay is actually a symbol of the failure of the original nuclear plan which was to build reactors in the Snowy area. When that all collapsed in the late 50s early 60s a later plan for Jervis Bay as an energy reactor using ocean water for cooling was proposed. The original idea was to turn the Snowy scheme into something like the Oak Ridge and TVA (Tennessee River) in America.

Research reactors were not high on the agenda because research was to be shared in the 50s with the UK. Australian research was to cover other areas (particle accelerators) until the collapse of the joint project. The F-111 wasn’t the first nuclear capable plane in the RAAF the Lincoln was and so to the Canberra. We went American because of the collapse of the joint nuclear plans with the UK. So by buying the F-111 Australia could access US nuclear weapons via joint key arrangements (like NATO), if needed.
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9864
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Jervis Bay is actually a symbol of the failure of the original nuclear plan which was to build reactors in the Snowy area. When that all collapsed in the late 50s early 60s a later plan for Jervis Bay as an energy reactor using ocean water for cooling was proposed. The original idea was to turn the Snowy scheme into something like the Oak Ridge and TVA (Tennessee River) in America.

Research reactors were not high on the agenda because research was to be shared in the 50s with the UK. Australian research was to cover other areas (particle accelerators) until the collapse of the joint project. The F-111 wasn’t the first nuclear capable plane in the RAAF the Lincoln was and so to the Canberra. We went American because of the collapse of the joint nuclear plans with the UK. So by buying the F-111 Australia could access US nuclear weapons via joint key arrangements (like NATO), if needed.
Cheers for the added info Abe, I knew it all tied in, but was not sure of the exact history of it, but did have in the back of my mind it was the UK that put an end to it initially ?

I was of the understanding that the F-111 was the first plane specifically selected because of its nuclear capability ? I was aware of the Canberra's ability, but do you know if it was selected because of that ? Or was it just because it was the plane available at the time ? Although Nuclear capability would not doubt have been in the back of mind
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9865
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Originally Posted by Linked DefMin Statement
Enhanced maritime cooperation

Consistent with ongoing bilateral maritime and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation the Ministers today announced the next phase in maritime capability sharing.

Following on from successful secondments of New Zealand crew on Australian warships , Australia will provide seconded crew to Royal New Zealand Navy over the course of 2013.

“This is a practical program that enhances maritime interoperability,” Minister Smith said.
Does this mean that RAN personnel are going to fill gaps the RNZN has been having in specialist crew that has been hampering their operations (see discussion in RNZN thread)?

I've been away for a while and haven't caught up with the thread conversation, so if this has been discussed I apologise.

And...

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Originally Posted by Linked DefMin Statement
Strengthening the Australia-New Zealand Defence Relationship

The Ministers considered the progress of implementation of the 2011 Review of the Australia New Zealand Defence Relationship which they endorsed in January 2012.

Ministers agreed to deepen practical cooperation by:
  • Increasing collaboration between the two Navies regarding sealift and afloat support. We have agreed to a mutual sealift cooperation program. This will allow for cross crewing of Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy vessels and afloat support to each other’s fleets.
  • New Zealand participating with embedded observers in the 2013 iteration of the biennial Australia-United States exercise, TALISMAN SABRE 2013 with the aim of full participation from 2015 onwards;
  • Australia hosting a 1.5 Track dialogue in Canberra in December on common security challenges;
  • Agreeing to complementary personnel exchanges, such as New Zealand’s secondment to the Australian Civil Military Centre;
  • Collaborating on Pacific maritime security, in dialogue with partners in the region.
Is this a first step to an integrated ANZ Defence Force?
More seriously though, the ADF and NZDF are part way there anyway after many years of joint operations, aligned procurement, and broadly compatible military doctrine and government policy. And there are already other cross-Tasman statutory bodies that operate quite successfully, or at least appear to from the outside!
Keep national deployable units, but developing a joint support infrastructure should be achievable.
There is a certain freedom and security (particularly from a NZ perspective) in knowing that a diplomatic breach between the nations that would result in a suspension of military co-operation is incredibly unlikely. It means that the creation of a joint capability or training/support program isn't going to disappear on a whim.
Problems would include a differing equipment replacement timetable, of course, with Australia tending to replace equipment more often.

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Ministers discussed Australia’s plans for a Pacific Maritime Security Program to replace the Pacific Patrol Boat Program. Ministers agreed Australia and New Zealand would continue to collaborate on Pacific maritime security, working all the time in close partnership with Pacific Island countries.
I'm curious what form the PPBP replacement will take. I don't think that it is a state secret to say that there are some very disappointing aspects to how the PPBP has been going. A lot of money has been spent by Australia to provide the boats and the training to run them, only to see them clocking up few days at sea, low availability and high running costs (I'd link to the published report but I can't remember where it was, DFAT, Defence or a senate submission). The point was to enable the PI nations to build up capability and a measure of self-sufficiency over EEZ protection, but the nations can't afford to run the boats and they don't go out often enough.

Perhaps a PPBP Mk2 isn't the way to go. No much point repeating a strategy that hasn't achieved the desired aims.
Options might be a statutory authority established among the partner nations which will operate the fleet as a pooled resource which would be preferable from a operational and sustainment perspective, as most of the nations operate a single boat. As they undertake an EEZ protection rather than a defence role, hopefully cross border jurisdiction problems could be managed easier.
Another option might be to emulate Customs and buy capability from a private operator like Surveillance Australia.
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9866
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I was of the understanding that the F-111 was the first plane specifically selected because of its nuclear capability ? I was aware of the Canberra's ability, but do you know if it was selected because of that ? Or was it just because it was the plane available at the time ? Although Nuclear capability would not doubt have been in the back of mind
At the time of the Canberra selection there was no British nuclear bomb but there was a lot of thought in the 40s about how it and the Canberra would be able to carry American nuclear bombs. Interestingly the RAAF almost replaced the Canberra in the late 50s with the Vulcan for increased “striking power”. But yes the F-111 was the first plane brought by the RAAF that at the time of selection was programmed to have a nuclear capability.
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9867
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At the time of the Canberra selection there was no British nuclear bomb but there was a lot of thought in the 40s about how it and the Canberra would be able to carry American nuclear bombs. Interestingly the RAAF almost replaced the Canberra in the late 50s with the Vulcan for increased “striking power”. But yes the F-111 was the first plane brought by the RAAF that at the time of selection was programmed to have a nuclear capability.
Thanks for that, the Vulcan would have been an interesting follow on from the Canberra, another one of those "what if's" ? Better leave it at that, it is the RAN thread after all

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Old November 16th, 2012   #9868
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Does this mean that RAN personnel are going to fill gaps the RNZN has been having in specialist crew that has been hampering their operations (see discussion in RNZN thread)?
Unlikely, we have our own issues with manning and this would be like adding more boats to our struggling crews, although it would expand our ability to train Anzac ME sailors as the racks of our own are full. There is already a large number of cross training beyond the Anzac Exchange program, i completed 6 weeks with HMNZS Canterbury end of last year, where i gained more respect for the kiwis work ethos compared to ours.

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I'm curious what form the PPBP replacement will take. I don't think that it is a state secret to say that there are some very disappointing aspects to how the PPBP has been going. A lot of money has been spent by Australia to provide the boats and the training to run them, only to see them clocking up few days at sea, low availability and high running costs (I'd link to the published report but I can't remember where it was, DFAT, Defence or a senate submission). The point was to enable the PI nations to build up capability and a measure of self-sufficiency over EEZ protection, but the nations can't afford to run the boats and they don't go out often enough.

Perhaps a PPBP Mk2 isn't the way to go. No much point repeating a strategy that hasn't achieved the desired aims.
Options might be a statutory authority established among the partner nations which will operate the fleet as a pooled resource which would be preferable from a operational and sustainment perspective, as most of the nations operate a single boat. As they undertake an EEZ protection rather than a defence role, hopefully cross border jurisdiction problems could be managed easier.
Another option might be to emulate Customs and buy capability from a private operator like Surveillance Australia.
Ive heard similar things from personnel who have been posted to pacific islands with the PPPB. Some countries over work their boats and have a great record of utilisation and unusual methods for keeping them at sea, others are shocking and tend to utilise the fuel and parts for their own vehicles and boats more then the PB. Unless there is more oversight on our behalf with PB, then i agree we need to look at other options. The only concern is, if we dont do anything then the pacific will be screwed as Asian fishing fleets push further south and begin pillaging the region.
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9869
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I think you are misunderstanding what Abe was talking aobut with regards to the Snowy scheme ? The initial idea and reason for the scheme was not only Hydro Power and irregation by diverting snow melt to the western side of the mountains rather than the short trip into the ocean, was that it was part of a plan for Australia to become a nuclear nation. Not just in power generation but also uranium enrichment and weapons. He is not talking about research reactors in the middle of Sydney.

The foundations (which can still be seen today) were actually laid at Jervis Bay to build Australia's first nuclear reactor It was also, IIRC, one of the reason's (although further down the track) that we selected the F111 because it was nuclear capable, certain events/circumstances/countries changed our mind

Past History - Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb.
No, I'm not misunderstanding what he wrote. He may not have written what he meant. He wrote - as you have done - reactors, without any qualifications. He may well have meant reactors for the nuclear weapons plan he also mentioned, but he didn't say so. BTW, Australia's first reactor was built in the 1950s, & started up in early 1958. The unbuilt (apart from the preparatory work you mention) Jervis Bay reactor was over a decade later. It was cancelled in 1971.

And in any case, it doesn't affect the argument. The claim that Australia was the leading nation in the world in non-weapons nuclear research & development in the world (note that: leading in the whole field, not in niche capabilities) in the 1960s & 1970s is ridiculous. Plans are not achievements.

Why is this even being discussed? Fine country, which I enjoyed working in for a while, many talented people - but not, ever, number 1 in non-weapons nuclear R&D.

Last edited by WebMaster; November 19th, 2012 at 02:34 AM. Reason: I think we can live without the offensive terms, etc. etc. Thanks!
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Old November 16th, 2012   #9870
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Thanks for that, the Vulcan would have been an interesting follow on from the Canberra, another one of those "what if's" ? Better leave it at that, it is the RAN thread after all

And dont forget the TSR2, which was the main opponent to the F111 during the selection process. Because we chose the F111 over the TSR2 it never materialised.

These postings should be on the RAAF thread.
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