The Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A, designed by the Naval Group (formerly known as DCNS) specifically for the Royal Australian Navy, will be the most advanced, lethal and stealth submarine technology ever contemplated. The French Navy’s incoming Barracuda-class submarines are nuclear attack subs (SSN). The Shortfin variant on offer for the Australian Navy will see a conversion of the propulsion system to a conventional diesel electric bid.
Australia’s decision to award French consortium DCNS its $50 billion Collins-class replacement submarine contract. France’s DCNS Shortfin Barracuda offering beat out Germany’s Type 216 and Japan’s Soryu-class offerings for the deal, which is Australia’s biggest ever defense deal.
Pump jet propulsion means the Shortfin Barracuda can move more quietly than submarines with obsolete propeller technology. In a confrontation between two otherwise identical submarines, the one with pump jet propulsion always has the tactical advantage. If the adversary cannot detect acoustic signature, they cannot engage a torpedo.
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The synthetic aperture sonar suite performance provided by Thales will be the best available ever for a submarine this size.
It is this coupling of excellent acoustic discretion and leading edge detection capabilities will grant the Royal Australian Navy the capacity to remain ahead of any regional adversary now and in the future until 2060s.
Nuclear propulsion for submarines would have been advantageous over the diesel electric option, among which is the effective endless amount of time a nuclear sub can remain submerged. (Nuclear submarine endurance is limited by sailor endurance). Diesel-electric submarines are considerably cheaper, but, even with advanced hydrojet systems, they need to eventually resurface for refuel.
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An advanced way to reduce acoustic levels of a traditional propeller is by using a Pump-Jet propulsion system, which creates a jet of water to power a boat forward. A Pump-Jet (hydrojet) also produces less cavitation, which is the stream of bubbles or voids created by traditional propellers. Less cavitation means an even lower acoustic signature for the sub.
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Australian’s protective nature towards environment and lack of nuclear institution, skilled manpower and regulatory authority, Royal Australian Navy had to settled in for diesel electric submarine. Australian politician also took a shortcut to diesel electric submarine rather than generating public opinion in favor of more stronger blue water navy for sensitive geopolitical attachment to Indian Ocean and South China Sea, politician avoided explaining Australian people why nuclear propulsion is a must have for Australian Navy than wishful thinking.
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The US Navy currently uses Pump-Jet propulsion on a number of subs, including its Virginia-class fast-attack submarines. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the Navy plans to incorporate the latest breakthroughs in water-jet propulsor technology on the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine currently in design. This will make the next generation submarine of the Silent Service even quieter.
DCNS has dedicated programs and measures to transfer technology, expertise and knowledge to Australia. The next generation of submarines for Australia will be constructed at the Adelaide shipyard.
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This technology transfer will prepare Australia for the future operation and sustainment of the submarines, including the crucial upgrade program that will span over 30 years.
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By adopting DCNS’s technology, Australia will join an elite club of nations which includes only the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and France.
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