Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2014 Contents 24 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter OCT 2014
end game Type 216 solution, it is unrealistic to suggest that the current highly trained
Australian force of over 900 MTU Detroit Diesel Australia maintenance engineers
could take the likely 4000 series next generation MTU submarine diesel and evolve
it further than their colleagues in southern Germany. The same can be said of the
Pillar generator and Pillar Australia engineers operating out of Castle Hill in Sydney,
or the personnel at GNB Technologies (a subsidiary of Exide) in Padstow, or of the
submarine AIP system and Siemen’s 2,500 Australian based employees, none of
who’s bailiwick extends to Fuel Cell system design and development.
That is not to suggest for a moment that having MTU, Pillar, GNB Technologies
and Siemens in-country is not a great thing for ongoing submarine sustainment; it is.
But it must be recognised that to evolve those systems requires experts with a depth
of knowledge only found, in the case of the German experience explored within,
within the OEM sites of, in this example, the German submarine D and D community.
Simon Todd of the SEA 1000 IPT has publically stated that SEA 1000’s sovereign
requirements are “only there because we need to do some particular things to
maintain a regionally superior submarine capability, to exercise independence and
self-reliance, and if necessary, to manage a new design”. But the notion that one can
realistically evolve these systems without the requisite in country submarine D and
D capability is a nonsense.
To address the Intellectual Property (“IP”) furphy: no amount of IP ownership can
resolve the presented D and D/evolution conundrum. Gaining access to the IP
provides one with the ‘what’ and ‘where’, not the ‘why’.
To articulate this point, imagine a submarine widget with a single circlip. Acquired
IP can tell you that there’s a circlip in the widget design and the location of the
circlip. However, it does not tell you why the design engineer only used one circlip
or why he put the item where he did. Neither does it tell you whether you can change
the circlip for one made of a different material, or replace it with a different type of
fastener. For that the IP must be ‘attached’ to a specialist widget design engineer.
Design companies rarely object to licencing IP for maintenance purposes (so that
the submarine widget circlip in the example above can be repaired or replaced).
However, they will jealously protect, through judicial force if necessary, the passing of
IP to competing D and D houses (TKMS will seek to protect the submarine widget’s
IP from landing in the laps of DCNS submarine widget designers, and vice versa).
A StrAtegy requIred
To have a truly sovereign submarine evolution capability the same conditions must
exist as for a truly sovereign submarine D and D capability. If one recognises
that Australia is not capable of the latter then one should also recognise that any
capability we seek to enjoy in evolving our future submarine will be constrained.
Deep down both Defence and Industry know this, hence the now failed push for the
sovereign submarine D and D capability (recall the “largest defence project” and
“nation building” rhetoric).
Australia can’t sensibly do some things, and perhaps that’s what Simon Todd
meant when he suggested “we need to do some particular things”. In relation to
evolution, small changes can be made in conjunction with the OEM; but it must be
recognised that these small changes are unlikely to be submarine warfare game
Australia can have sensible and achievable aims in the areas of submarine build
and sustainment and, albeit limited, sensible and achievable aims in the areas of
submarine component design and evolution.
That’s not to say that Australia cannot have a meaningful involvement in such
a program ... it can! Next month’s APDR will look at a sensible and achievable
Australian participation strategy.
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