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Contingent on an air force bare base being
set up on Cocos (Keeling), a submarine FOB
is certainly feasible. The FOB could be used
as a “stop and go” location for refueling,
replenishing munitions and personnel/crew
A couple of options exist for such a FOB. The
FOB could be constituted as, in its simplest
form, a set of submarine moorings in Port
Refuge supported by resupply and refueling
lighters based at West Island. A more extensive
configuration might involve construction of a
wharf, as shown in Figure 5, and submarine
sheds supported by a bare base facility on
Direction Island. A tug would also be required.
Such infrastructure is certainly not beyond the
bounds of modern construction capabilities.
Bulk material/stores could be transported
from the RAAF base using the existing Rumah
Baru Passenger and Freight Handling Facility
and ferrying arrangement. As an alternative, Air
Power Australia has suggested the construction
of a “ring road” causeway arrangement around
the island and the laying of a set of six or eight
inch fuel and potable water pips from West
Island to Direction Island.
It is noted that West Islands fuel depot would
need to be upgraded to allow for the storage of
LOX, methanol/ethanol or hydrogen such that
AIP systems could be replenished.
Navigation in and out of Cocos (Keeling)
area is relatively simple (see Figure 5).
Figure 5 – Port Refuge Naval Wharf (Source:
The disposition of Direction Island and
general lack of population on the atoll
means that operational security would be
excellent. The significant drop off to deep
water immediately north of Direction Island,
with water depth that allows for a submarine
to remain dived until, literally, five minutes
before coming alongside or mooring. Arrival
and departure of submarines could also be
supported by locally based P-8 aircraft.
Tidal shifts of the order 1 to 2 metres are
manageable. Exposure to weather represents
the only real negative but would, in general,
not be a show stopper.
Operations out of Cocos (Keeling) would
take two weeks off an, otherwise, round trip to
HMAS STIRLING make it a useful proposition
in both peace and in time of conflict. The
facility could also be used by other naval
ADDED STRATEGIC DIMENSION
Cocos Keeling provides an added strategic dimension
to Australia’s defence posture considerations.
In addition to the basing of air force assets, the
islands should also be considered as a useful sleeper
FOB for our future submarines. APDR
Figure 6 – S -80 Maximum Range from Cocos
Note: The author visited the islands in January as
part of his research for this article.
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