The Australian Submarine Decision, 2021: A Special Report


In this special report, we bring together some initial assessments of the Morrison Administration’s decision to move on from conventional to nuclear submarines.

These articles were published in September 2021.

The recent announcement of the decision by the Australian government to cancel their diesel submarine contract and to acquire nuclear attack submarines is a significant one. There is much already written about the announcement and its consequences, but what can get lost in the noise is really the key point: this decision launches the next phase of Australian strategic development, but down a path which has been evolving for some time.

At the heart of the reason the Aussies have done so is clearly the Chinese behavior and virtual war with Australia. Australia as a continent is a key challenge for Chinese ambitions in the region. They are a continent which can stage long-range forces against Chinese military operations. The Chinese Communist leaders have done what they should not have: Awakening the quiet power in the Pacific to shaping a longer-range defense force, closely allied with the major competitors of China.

Only Australia really counts in terms of deterring China in a fundamental geographical way: they are a firmly liberal democratic country which rejects Chinese Communism. And as such, the Chinese economic and political engagements in Australia, coupled with the political and cyber warfare that the Chinese have engaged in with the clear desire to destabilize Australia has been met with firm resolve. And the Chinese have responded by escalation up to an including direct military threats against Australia.

This is the driver of the decision. Full stop. It is not about not loving the French, and an inability to work with France or ignoring their contractual obligations under the contracts signed earlier. When Australia made the decision to go with the French Naval Group and build a long ranger diesel submarine, the strategic context was very different than it is today.

The report can be read in PDF form below:

Aussie Submarine Decision 2021

It can be read in e-book form as well and that can be found below:

The featured photo: HMAS Rankin sails in company with Indian Navy Ship Kadmaat during AUSINDEX 21.

September 5, 2021. Credit: Australian Department of Defence