DCNS of France is heading design and development of a new-generation of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) attack submarines in the "Shortfin Barracuda-class" (Block 1A) under the "Future Submarine Program" initiative. The design was selected by Australia in April of 2016 to succeed the aging Collins-class boats and will considerably bolster RAN undersea capabilities in the contested Asia-Pacific Theater. The boats are diesel-electric-powered variants of the French nuclear-powered "Barracuda-class" set to come online with the French Navy in 2019 by way of lead-ship FS Suffren.
The Block 1A standard replaces the complex (and potentially dangerous) nuclear-based propulsion pack with a combination diesel-electric system offering an excellent at-sea range of 18,000 nautical miles and an undersea endurance window of about three months before needing resupply/refuel. The arrangement will sport a permanent magnet-based motor system along with 4 x Diesel alternators and a single pump-jet. The crew is set to number sixty (to include twelve officers) with integral support for the delivery and recovery of special forces elements (numbering twelve specialists). The boat will be armed through 4 to 8 (sources vary) x 533mm torpedo tubes with 20 to 28 reloads carried (Mk 48 family) (again, sources vary). The tubes will also support the underwater launching of the "Harpoon" Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) family and possibly land-attack cruise missiles as well as the dispensing of naval mines as needed (in place of the torpedoes). Overall length is estimated at 318 feet with a beam measuring 29 feet.
The profile of these boats will be traditional with a sail fitted at midships (or slightly ahead), a well-rounded nosecone assembly (housing a powerful Thales sonar unit), and a tapered aft-hull section. Flanking sonars will line the sides of the hull near midships. The sail, contoured well into the dorsal hull line, will be home to the usual assortment of sensors, communications, and radar masts. The tailplanes will be arranged in an "X" shape. The propeller unit will be shrouded as a noise-reduction feature. Dive planes will be mounted to the sides of the forward hull (as opposed to the sail component).
The boats will be built in Australia by ASC Pty Ltd of Adelaide, South Australia and are set to begin their construction at the start of the next decade. The RAN is expecting twelve total boats to make up the new series of very capable attack submarines - their arrival set to coincide with China's naval rise (and subsequent boldness) in the region. Commissioning of the first boats is planned for2030 with service set to reach into the 2070s.
The RAN is spending upwards of $38.5 billion USD on the program.
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