French Attack Boat Design, Costs Opened Door to Nuclear Australian Sub Says Expert

Australia’s surprise move to procure nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) with U.S. and U.K. follows difficulties the country has experienced on its SEA 1000 Attack-class future submarine program and the realization that a conventionally powered submarine (SSK) will not meet its future needs, a regional defense expert told USNI News.

The Attack-class program for 12 new boats was intended to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s existing Collins-class of attack boats but it experienced delays and cost increases that had seen the estimated total program budget balloon to 90 billion Australian dollars.

In 2016 the Australian Department of Defence selected the Shortfin Barracuda 1A from French naval shipbuilder Naval Group. It is a modification of the design used for the French Navy’s Suffren-class nuclear attack boat but entailed a high level of risk because the changes meant it was a new design for an SSK, not an off-the-shelf option.

The Attack-class is “evolutionary rather than revolutionary” and was not set to introduce any major new capabilities beyond what the Collins-class already offered, Marcus Hellyer from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told USNI News.

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