Verified Defense Pro
Maybe, but there is an interest in sovereign capability which is why the continuous ship building programme is in place and the in-country missile production capability is being developed. There is also the issue that the US may not have the capacity to build the additional hulls noting their own need for replacements of the LA SSNs. History provides a lesson here in WWI where Britain were building Dreadnoughts for lots of folk .... many of which were 'taken up' by the RN when the war broke out. If we simply relied on build to spec Virginia's (assuming they keep building the Block IV boats) and the US saw their need as greater than ours in the current climate we may find ourselves in a similar situation.What it comes down to is how valuable is a domestic build program to Australia and what sort of premium are we willing to pay for it. I would argue that it is of limited value. Particularly if you factor in the possibility that this maybe the first and last generation of manned nuclear subs Australia ever build.
Before we abandoned the Attack program the split between local and overseas spending looked like being around 60/40 and the cost of the program was at high risk of blowing out even further. The $35B in savings proposed by the author does sound feasible and I am sure there is no shortage of replacement programs that money could be spent on.
The continuous ship building programme is just that, the first 8 will be replace by the next class. The first 8 may also see iterative changes in batches during the build. Building in the US (if practical ... with the author assumes is the case) removes this option, diminishes our industrial capability to build .... and maintain our submarines and may not provide the boats sooner given the USN's demands (again the author ignores the lead time to order equipment for the submarines). It may also be a breaker for the bipartisan support we are currently seeing.
One of the reasons the French options was 'blowing' out and was in difficulty was the delivery of the required capability and Australian industry input. The ASPI article ignores that fact and seems to ignore the fact that building the boats provides the industrial capability to maintain them.
The assumption is it will cost more ... because the Naval group appeared unable to deliver. The $35 billions is based on very broad assumptions noting that Wrights law relates to innovation. It basically supports a continuous build programme if you look at it. I would hope that have US and UK technical support based on an in service hull would address some of that risk ... and certainly that is the expectation from the announcements to date. If we keep building ships and submarines then the cost of production drops ........... which is basically what Wrights law states.
What Is Wright's Law | Learning Curve of Innovation (ark-invest.com)
Finally this is yet another article assuming an off the shelf Virginia is the desired options which calls into question the role of the UK. They clearly have a role and the Astute (or derivation of it) is certainly in the mix.