Nov. 25, 2021

E4: AUKUS Fracas

E4 AUKUS Fracas Trailer

France recalled her ambassadors to the US and Australia; the EU is threatening economic consequences; a renewed call for a European army gains steam as trust in the US and NATO ebbs. All this as the Indo-Pacific region holds its collective breath for an uncertain future due to a botched Australian submarine program.

In today's episode we analyze the technical and doctrinal merits of attack submarines, discuss the geopolitical fallout from the AUKUS submarine deal, and explain what it truly means to be "America First".

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Henri (00:00:00):

Today, we'll be talking about the diplomatic fallout surrounding the AUKUS deal. For those of you don't know, the AUKUS deal is the Australia, UK, and US joint program of building the next generation of subs for the Australian Navy. And more specifically, we're going to talk about how USA betrayed her French ally, who was the original awardees of the Australian sub contract. To explain this disaster and the ramifications for the world I'm going to first address the common Anglo-centric, misconceptions that are currently floating around in the news. For this purpose I'm going to use an exchange on a recent discussion of bill Maher's "Real Time with Bill Maher" show on HBO to set the stage. Though, let me warn you, first, I awant to delve into it with the different classifications of Naval submarines. So if you're already knowledgeable on the subject, or you simply don't care that much about those specifics and the engineering aspects of the submarines, feel free to skip the chapter two, because, I apologize, this is already kind of a pretty long podcast. So, chapter two is around the 15-ish minute mark of this podcast. Let's have a listen.

Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:09):

And sometimes it's not bad to be America first. I mean, I don't understand why France is like, maybe I understand why they're mad at us, but if you don't know it, what happened was, France had a deal to sell nuclear submarines for defense to Australia. And at the last minute we came in and offered them cheaper and better.

Richard Ojeda on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:28):


Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:29):

And they took it. Hey, that's the art of the deal, bitch! You know what, I mean, sorry, we beat you at business, fair and square. We didn't hold a gun to Australia's head.

Richard Ojeda on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:41):

Absolutely. And the thing is, is that France wants to sell their stuff, I'm sure Saudi would buy it. But at the end of the day, our stuff is far superior. So Australia would go with that. And...

Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:50):

The one thing we can still do was make killing machines.

Richard Ojeda on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:52):

And it also sends a message to China, and lets them know, you know, we were in their back in the woods.

Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:01:58):

Right, so we shouldn't feel bad about that one. Right?

Jennifer Rubin on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:02):

The French ones were so bad. They were really loud, a loud submarine. It's a diesel.

Richard Ojeda on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:06):

It's diesel, these are different from nuclear, there's this diesel.

Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:10):


Richard Ojeda on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:10):


Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:13):

I feel even better about this now.

Jennifer Rubin on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:17):

Not a good idea of you're trying to spy. [..]

Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:20):

Did they leave that black smoke? They didn't have truck nuts on it, did they?

Jennifer Rubin on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:30):

They can spy. They can do some productive things. So of course the French had a [inaudible]

Bill Maher on "Real Time with Bill Maher" (00:02:35):

Ours can kill the whales so much more effectively.

Intro (00:02:43):

Come On, Don't Bullshit Me!

Henri (00:02:57):

So, in one move! This is like Trump level of diplomatic fuckery is how many allies Australia managed to piss off. Again, like if this wasn't real life, it would be complicated.

Henri (00:03:16):

Welcome to come on. Don't me where we peel away the messaging of talking heads to get to the crux of today's issues.

Henri (00:03:29):

I don't like the excessive hubris of these people. I mean, they're shitting on the French submarine deal or the lack of it now. They're like, oh, American submarines are technically superior, and that's why we won! Which completely misses the whole point of why the French are pissed off. Because, first off, you have to make a determination between which submarines you are talking about. Because most people, when they think of submarines, they think of "The Hunt for Red October", and that's a ballistic missile submarine. Or in the US Navy parlance, it's like SSBN.

Henri (00:04:07):

Without being too pedantic, there's, generally speaking, two separate classes of submarines. You've got attack submarines and then you basically have "Hunt for Red October" missile submarines. But I think the Navy community calls them boomers. Not like "okay, Boomer!", Like a baby boomers, but they're just ballistic missile submarines, and they call them boomers.

Henri (00:04:30):

If we're talking about hide and seek, the boomers are the hiders; and the attack submarines are the seekers, their whole job is to go find, find the subs, find the boomers. So the boomers -- their whole mission is to basically go on station, and be quiet and just sit there. And obviously they do... Because we're not under constant threat of World War III, they just go around and do things, missile drills. As Sean Connery said in Red October, "we will do the missile drills and enjoy the company of Havana" or something. And then all the Russians say like "yeah!" or "Da!", and then there was singing the Soviet Anthem.

Sean Connery in "The Hunt for Red October" (00:05:15):

We will pass through the American patrols past their sonar nets, and lay off their largest city, and listen to that rock and roll while we conduct the missile drills. And when we are finished, the only sound they will hear is our laughter. While we sail to Havana, where the sun is warm and so is the comradeship.

Henri (00:05:41):

And then of course the Sam Neill from "Jurassic Park", who was captain Vasily Borodin, and he's like, Captain, the noise will attract the imperialist pig-dog Americans! And then Sean Connery's like: "Let them sing!"

Sailors in "The Hunt for Red October" (00:05:56):

[Singing the Soviet Anthem].

Henri (00:06:06):

So that's the purpose of the SSBNs. Their whole mission is basically to be quiet, just have a coke and smile and shut the fuck up. And if something happens, you know, World War III happens, and they get an order from their towed array, you got to launch the missiles. They're purely offensive, they're there purely to ensure MAD, right, Mutual Assured Destruction. If the Russians or the Chinese, or whoever, if someone launches nuclear missiles and destroys us, we have our submarines that can launch back. So you better not launch any missiles.

Henri (00:06:41):

So our nuclear triad is based off nuclear silos: our land-based ballistic missiles; and then we have our strategic bombers, that are always up in the air, so if you launch missiles, they would fire; and then you have our SSBNs missile submarines that are under water, and then they will fire. It's kind of like the Similarils from the Silmarillion. You had the three Silmarils: one would be lost into the sea, one would be in the air, and then one would be lost in the ground or fire, whatever, earth. So that our nuclear triad could be based off of the Silmarillion. Thanks J. R. R. Tolkien. So anyway, if World War III happens, you know, we detect the missiles, the orders go out to the triad, simultaneously. To everyone, to the silos: the strategic bombers and the nuclear submarines get the same order to launch the missiles. And the whole thing is, we hope that at least one out of those three entities is still alive and it can launch missiles back at the enemy, because that's part of our nuclear triad.

Henri (00:07:54):

And I think the Soviets, or I guess the Russians, and other countries have similar things. With Britain, famously, they don't really have a specific code that they're supposed to monitor for for launching missiles. But for them they're supposed to tune into BBC-4, and then if BBC-4 four goes static, that means that UK is destroyed, so they have to launch their missiles. Which doesn't really give me much confidence. I think the whole world is invested in making sure BBC-4 stays operational. Because, God forbid, some pigeons shits on antenna or something, and then the World War III happens. Yeah, I'm sure there's fallback protocols, but it's a nice anecdote. At least I hope it's a nice anecdote.

Henri (00:08:39):

Then you got your attack submarines. They're basically the apex predator of the sea. Their whole job is to find these extremely quiet SSBNs and take them out. Well, during the war take them out, during peace time it's obviously to find them and, and say, "Aha, we found you! You're not as stealthy as you think you are. So don't even try to think that you're going to rely on your SSBNs, because we're going to..." Well, not going to knock them out of the sky, as we say in the air force, but "we're going to take them to the Davy Jones' locker", or whatever the Navy says. "So don't rely on your SSBNs when we nuke the shit out of you!" Morbid discussions today.

Henri (00:09:20):

Anyway, under the conventional war, their whole job is to infiltrate Navy carrier groups undetected and launch their torpedoes in sink mostly carriers, because that's the most valuable asset, but also other ships. Because right now with current technology that humans have, nothing comes even close to the destructive power of a submarine, of an attack submarine. It's just unmatched. And obviously, I mean, the Germans figure this out and during World War II that's why the Krieg's Marine, they kind of, vested away from capital ships and put almost all their effort and focus on attack submarines and sunk ships left and right.

Henri (00:10:05):

So the Naval doctrine really hasn't changed that much, despite the advent of nuclear weapons. This is that with the attack submarines -- they're the apex predators in the sea. And no one even came close. As far as the Naval vessels are concerned, because obviously we have air assets and other things. But as far as the Navy is concerned, nothing comes close to attack submarines, and they can pretty much take out anyone. And their whole job is to be quiet enough to get close to the carriers or other Naval assets and basically torpedo the shit out of them. So that's their point.

Henri (00:10:39):

So while SSBNs can be pretty quiet because they have the luxury of just sitting completely quiet in the middle of a God knows what ocean, and just sit and wait for World War III to happen, SSNs or SSKs basically attack subs. They don't have that luxury because the attack submarines are the seekers, right? Their whole job is to go find, find the subs, find the boomers.

Henri (00:11:04):

So again, there's generally speaking two separate classes of submarines: there's attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines (the boomers). The boomers are the hiders and the attack submarines are the seekers. And amongst those two, there are basically four designations. The attacks you have the SSKs diesel electric and the SSNs (which is a nuclear submarine). And then with the ballistic missiles you have SSBNs and SSG; SSBNs are nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

Henri (00:11:42):

And SSGNs happened during the, I believe, the START treaties, where during the denuclearization between the Soviet Union, or I guess at this point the Russian Federation, and the US. We were required to get rid of four of our SSBNs and denuclearize them. Obviously we're not going to completely decommission these really nice submarines. These are, by the way, they are the Ohio class submarines, for anyone who wants to be specific. And because of the START treaty or because of the US Navy posture statement, the Navy were either forced to, or all of their own volition said, Hey, look, we have 18 ballistic missile submarines, but in order to accomplish our mission, we really only need 14. So what we're going to do is, we're going to denuclearize four of those submarines, those SSBNs. And rather than just decommission them, we're going to use them for other things. So they replaced the Trident ballistic missiles with Tomahawk cruise missile. So they're not ballistic anymore, they're cruise missiles: they cruise above the sea line and then go hit their targets. Which you probably know if you remember the old CNN clips of the First World War... Or First World War -- First Gulf War! First World War with Tomahawks, heh. No, the First Gulf War, because that was the first televised war. So four of those SSBNs were transitioned into SSGNs and used only conventional ammunitions. So again, that doesn't really matter, but I figured I'd be thorough here.

Henri (00:13:20):

And speaking of thorough, I know there's going to be some random Navy guy that's listening to this, and I'm going to get a whole bunch of angry comments, saying like, "Oh, you don't know what you're talking about! Cause we don't use SSKs anymore". Yes, yes, I understand. Okay. In the interest of that one random Navy guy that's listening: yes, we don't do SSKs anymore because nowadays all submarines are expected to handle the anti-submarine warfare role. So really we don't really have SSKs. It's mostly your boomers and then the attack submarines are now just SSGs. So they'd have those Tomahawks in there, and they are supposed to attack and destroy the Land and Naval surface assets.

Henri (00:14:02):

If you look at the Australian submarines right now, they're not called SSKs, they're called SSGs, right, without the "N", because they're not nuclear. Yes. They have torpedoes, but their main focus is on the cruise missiles. But for this podcast, I'm just going to be fast and loose with terminology, because I want to focus on nuclear propulsion versus diesel electric. And also by the way, the new attack submarines that the Australians wanted, the attack class submarine, I figured it's just easier and more pleasing to the ear to call them SSKs rather than SSGs. And technically, the contract wasn't awarded, it was canceled. So we don't even know what the armament is. So I'm being a little cheeky there, but yeah, SSGs, SSKs -- bottom line is, it's about diesel-electric. And this is the thing that this whole AUKUS Fracas is about.

Henri (00:15:02):

This panel is a classic example of people being confidently incorrect. And they just don't know what the hell they're talking about. I don't want to call them idiots, but they're being idiotic, saying things like, "oh, the French submarines are not as quiet as ours, because they're diesel". First off, you're a colossal moron. I mean, I shouldn't, I shouldn't say that. That's not a nice thing to say. But they're being, I'll just say that they're being colossally moronic, because it's not like these subs are some sort of Mack truck, big-rig out in the middle of the ocean going "Hrgrrrrrrrrrr"; and then the Russians would be like, "Captain, I hear a French sub on sonar!" "Are you sure, comrade?" Like, "Yes, captain, she sounds just like my truck in Vladivostok!" No, no, it's not like that. They only run the diesel engines when they surface to charge up the batteries and then they submerge all quiet and run on electric.

Henri (00:15:56):

So if you're talking about being quiet, diesel submarines are way quieter than nuclear submarines. The whole point of having a nuclear submarine is not about being quiet. It's about endurance, power, and indiscretion rate or your indiscretion time. So, endurance is basically how far you can go and how long you could stay on station. And power, well, we can talk about power later, but that's pretty self-explanatory.

Henri (00:16:20):

Indiscretion rate is specific to diesel-electric submarines. Because the whole point of SSKs -- these diesel attack subs -- is that they use diesel generators. Well, they use electric motors. And as we know from Tesla, electric motors beat mechanical motors hands down any day of the week. They're more efficient. And part of the reason why the more efficient is that they are quieter. And obviously the more noise you make, the more inefficiency you have, because of phonons being generated. But the point is, noise is a form of inefficiency and, electric motors are way quieter than mechanical motors. So these electric subs in and of themselves are extremely quiet. Now, the reason why they get a bad rap and why this panel is specifically talking about, oh, they're not quiet submarines is not because of their operation, it's because of the fact that once the batteries are depleted in your SSK, in your diesel submarine, you have to go up to Periscope depth, put out a snorkel, and breathe in air so that your diesel engines can run. And then your diesel engines run and recharge your batteries. And that's, what's noisy. And this is what's called the "indiscretion rate". So if you can be submerged for three weeks, but then you have to come up for eight hours... These are not real numbers, obviously, because I don't know them, and if I did, I wouldn't be allowed to say anything, but your indiscretion rate would be okay, every three weeks, you have to be up surfaced to the eight hours. Which is exposing yourself to being attacked by an all manner of different Naval ships, all manner of ways from by the enemy. So the point is to minimize your indiscretion rate.

Henri (00:18:20):

So if your whole premise that all the French deserve to lose this contract is because the French submarines are inferior because they're less quiet or they're more noisy because they're diesel submarines, you're just being a colossal ignoramus because it just proves that you have no understanding of the fundamentals of submarine warfare or a submarine propulsion.

Henri (00:18:47):

Nuclear subs are really good, but it's not because they're quiet. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear submarines because with diesel submarines, once they're fully charged, you can shut off the engines, and the background noise is practically zero. Whereas with nuclear submarines you have to constantly cycle through water to cool the reactor down. Anyone who watched Chernobyl or anything knows that nuclear power plants, nuclear reactors, require a constant flow of water to cool the reactor down to avoid a meltdown. You can't shut down a nuclear reactor. The nuclear reactions are constantly going and it is constant heat buildup. So you always, you have to constantly cool a reactor down to avoid a Chernobyl in your submarine.

Henri (00:19:33):

So if you want to talk strictly about being quiet, well, they're just completely wrong. It's just a matter of physics. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear submarines. Now, I know, okay, yes, in the most recent Virginia class submarines they've replaced the pumping of coolant with, they call it, conventional cooling. But then, obviously, the details of that are classified. And, frankly, right now we don't know if it's quiet or not. If it is quieter, that's a huge, remarkable achievement that obviously is not going to be released to another country or, let alone, the public. And if it was the case, these talking heads wouldn't know about it. And if they did, well, then the FBI should be knocking on their door pretty soon. So, as far as we, the public, are concerned, it's a completely ludicrous statement to say, oh, the French lost because they had diesel submarines, and diesel submarines are not as quiet as nuclear submarines. It's just completely preposterous.

Henri (00:20:32):

So again, the whole point of nuclear submarines is not about being quiet. It's about endurance, power, and indiscretion rate. And one of the main points of nuclear propulsion is that it reduces your indiscretion rates to zero, because you don't have to recharge your batteries, you don't have to resurface to recharge any batteries. You have nuclear engines, so you have nuclear power and it's constantly on and you don't run out of energy. The nuclear engine can last for about 10-ish years. So, about 10 years, based on the fissile material, that's in it. And that's how most nuclear submarines operate, whether it's SSBNs or SSNs. And what the doctrine of the day was that, okay, submarines have to have a major retrofit. It's like a mid-cycle retrofit. So they do maintenance, which basically involves completely replacing the hull and rebuilding it again. Almost kind of like a Theseus ship situation. And during that time, the prevailing thought was that, okay, well, if the submarine has to come in for this major retrofit, well, then we'll just put enough fissile material in there for about a decade or so or whenever the major retrofit has to happen. And in its mid cycle retrofit it'll get upgraded systems, it'll get all the maintenance stuff, and everything like that. And then also we'll swap out the nuclear reactor or the physical material with a nuclear reactor and replace it with new one. So that could go on until the submarine gets decommissioned at the end of its life cycle. So that's the kind of like the way it was.

Henri (00:22:11):

So with nuclear propulsion, the nuclear core was sized appropriately, so that during these mid cycle retrofits you could swap out the nuclear core and put a new core in, and go on your way. For submarine nuclear reactors they use highly enriched uranium, which allows the nuclear reactor to run for the full 30+ year life cycle of the submarine. Now, this is not really a problem for the US or Russia, or China, or even the UK, because they're an established in nuclear power, when it comes to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But for other countries like, you know, cough, cough, Australia who are not nuclear powers, this is a big issue.

Henri (00:23:09):

That's just the minor point I want to make about the quietness, if you will, of the submarines, which is completely preposterous point. But more broadly speaking, the panel was referencing that the reason why the French lost the contract, the Australian submarine contract was because America came in and made a better deal. And that's just the giant gross oversimplification of the entire issue. And if we really want to get into the nuts and bolts of it, which obviously we're going to do, because that's the whole point of this podcast, we have to go back to the predecessor, to the attack class submarine, which was the Collins class submarine.

Henri (00:23:49):

The Collins class submarine was based off a Swedish design. And there was a colossal clusterfuck of an acquisitions program. There were a lot of issues with it, but in retrospect it was actually a really good program because one of the reasons why it was a huge issue was because of the prevailing doctrine for the Australian Navy. Which was that prior to the Collins, they had the Oberon class submarine, and the Oberon class submarine was built by other country. So there was no in-house experience within Australia to maintain the Oberon class submarines. So anytime they had to maintain it, which was obviously often, because submarines are notoriously difficult pieces of engineering, and they require constant maintenance. So from a supply chain standpoint, Australia basically had nothing, and it was completely reliant on the UK. And one of their points that they made in the Naval doctrine was that they didn't want to be reliant on another country for their strategic deterrence in the form of submarines. Which is a completely legitimate and wise thing to do and to believe. So with the Collins class submarines they said, okay, we don't have any experience, so we got to gain this experience. And we are not going to recreate the wheel here and try to build our own submarine from scratch. So they said, we're going to partner with another country, and we're going to learn from them and get the experience here locally in Australia.

Henri (00:25:28):

And that's exactly what they did with the Collins class submarine, with Saab, the Swedes. And there were a lot of issues with it, because obviously trying to repurpose a submarine for another country, and not only that, but also build the in-house knowledge for the Australian government to be able to maintain these ships, was a monumental undertaking. And obviously there was a whole bunch of cost overruns and a lot of things that were promised, but weren't quite delivered. But overall they worked through it. And a lot of the problems that plague the Collins class submarine, to their credit, the Navy worked on it. And to this date, the Collins submarine is probably considered the premier SSK in the world. I don't think anything quite matches it as far as the diesel submarines are concerned. So they learned a lot of lessons from that.

Henri (00:26:22):

Now, when they want to replace the Collins, because the projected life cycle, or the budgeted, or planned life cycle of the Collins submarine was only about 25 years. But by the time they got their act together about five years ago, we're already got to the point where, Hey, we're nearing the end of the lifecycle of the Collins and we need to replace it.

Henri (00:26:44):

And this was when there was a huge diplomatic fuckery, if you will, where the Australian prime minister had a really good relationship with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister. And he famously said that, Hey, we love Japan, and our strategic partnerships, and everything's great. But most famously, he said, he basically insinuated... This was a prime minister, Tony Abbott, by the way. He basically insinuated that Australia would want to use the Japanese Sonyu class submarines, or excuse me, Soryu class submarine. Well, it doesn't matter what class it is, but basically, we'd love to have the Japanese build our next generation submarine. And obviously this is a huge foux pas, because he didn't consult with the military, he didn't consult with the parliament. And obviously these types of things, you have to first get your guidance from them -- from the military -- on what is actually their requirements. It has to be validated by the parliament and voted upon. And also this has to go up to for a bid. You don't want to just unilaterally give this contract to a country.

Henri (00:27:55):

So once it happened, there was a huge, big shitstorm, but at the cat was out of the bag. So they said, okay, fine. We're going to open this up to bidding. And famously, the United States did not bid on this, but the Germans bid on it, the French obviously bid, and the Japanese. And I don't think the Swedes bid on it, but basically those were the three, I think, main candidates: the Japanese, the Germans, and the French.

Henri (00:28:20):

And one of the requirements of this was that it has to be a diesel submarine. Which obviously wasn't a problem for the Japanese and the Germans, because that's what they use. They have SSKs diesel electric and they were going to give the SSK technology to the Australians.

Henri (00:28:36):

The French, on the other hand, use SSNs, which is a nuclear submarine. So what the French offered was that they're going to take their Barracuda class submarines, or Suffren class submarine, as the French call it. Basically, they're going to take their nuclear, their SSNs, and they're going to base the SSK design on this SSN and make it a conventionally powered Barracuda, the short fin Barracuda. And reason why they proposed this was because that's what the requirement was. The Australians wanted a conventional diesel-electric submarine, so the French proposed a diesel-electric submarine. It wasn't about the French being inferior or anything like that. It was just that this is what the requirement was.

Henri (00:29:21):

And then, given the the geopolitical situation of the day, it obviously made sense, because Australia did not have a nuclear capability, and it wouldn't make sense to have an SSN, because in order to have an SSN, you would need a whole nuclear infrastructure. You would need the engineers, as you would need the know-how, you would need the facilities. You'd have to mine the uranium, you would have to enrich it. The whole life cycle of that, including the disposal.

Henri (00:29:49):

You would have to mine the uranium from the uranium ore, and then you'd mill it into what's called "the yellow cake", which everyone remembers from the Colin Powell talks during Congress. And that's how Bush conned us into go into Iraq, because Iraq allegedly had a yellow cake, which is the precursor to nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons. Anyway, from the yellow cake you have to enrich it, so it can actually be used as a nuclear fuel. And this is what actually matters -- the enrichment process. Because natural occurring uranium is shit for weaponry or for fuel. You can't really use it, because it's mostly Uranium-238 with only about less than 1% U-235, which is the actual stuff that you need for a nuclear propulsion, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, et cetera.

Henri (00:30:37):

And so what you have to do is you've got to take that yellow cake, which has, again, less than 1% of U-235, and then you've got to enrich it so that it's useful for nuclear power. And typically for civilian cases, it starts off at 3% and then it goes up from there. And this is called "low enriched uranium".

Henri (00:30:57):

The issue is, once you get to 20% enrichment, that's the theoretical minimum to create a nuclear weapon. And depending on who you ask, to actually create an engineeringly feasible nuclear weapon you need about 85% to 90% of enrichment of uranium. This is the whole issue with Iran right now that we're dealing with, because they're basically saying, No, we're using our uranium for nuclear power, which obviously they totally can do. But they're getting into the point where it's above 20% and God knows how much percentage, but it's enough to create a nuclear weapon. And that's obviously an issue.

Henri (00:31:37):

So in order for Australia to have an SSN, they would need the enrichment capabilities to at least enrich this to a 3% range, right?

Henri (00:31:48):

The Brazilians, for example, they were considered a non-nuclear state, they didn't have nuclear weapons. But they developed their own nuclear infrastructure so that they can have an SSN. Because a non-proliferation treaty does not prohibit nuclear power, Naval nuclear propulsion, but what the treaty specifically says is that you can't just give a nuclear technology to non-nuclear nations. So the Brazilians had developed in-house their own nuclear capability and nuclear infrastructure to enrich the uranium to, I think, it's like 7%. I think this is what they use right now for their subs.

Henri (00:32:24):

And, uh, and Australia, when it would need to do the same thing and the Australian government and Australian people as a society have made a determination that they don't want that.

Henri (00:32:35):

So SSNs were immediately off the table when they were looking for the Collins class replacement, because they weren't really interested in creating the nuclear infrastructure and they didn't want it. So obviously, diesel it is. Again, this has nothing to do with the French technology being inferior or not, this is purely about the fact that Australia didn't want a nuclear infrastructure, it doesn't want to invest in that. And obviously it's in their right to do so.

Henri (00:33:04):

Now going back to the Barracuda class ship, well, the French SSN is a technological marvel. Of course I shouldn't be too flippant for what the panel said, because, realistically speaking, obviously, American technology, at least when it comes to the military technology, is hands down a superior to any other country. But even if they didn't know anything, which they clearly don't know, based on their statements about it being quiet and whatnot, clearly they don't know... they don't understand anything about the submarine technology. But you can excuse them, because it's a safe bet to say, Hey, if I put a gun to your head and said, who has the best in the military weaponry, you're probably going to say "the United States". That's a pretty safe bet. So I can't really shit on them too much for that. But the thing is, even though the U S submarines are a class above everyone else, that doesn't mean that the United States won this contract, which again, it wasn't even a contract, because it was awarded to France, because again, the United States did not bid on it. But again, it doesn't matter, because even though the Virginia class submarines are a technological masterpiece, it's not like the Australians are going to get the Virginia class submarines. There's technological restrictions. There's the ITAR, which is the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations. As great as an ally Australia is, a lot of our technology is just a restricted, and we're not going to just freely give it away. So just because we make the best ships, just because we won this contract, doesn't mean Australia is going to get the best ships.

Henri (00:34:43):

It's not like we're going to give them Virginia class submarines. I mean, look at the joint strike fighter: as much of a debacle as that was, it's considered to be an international program, which obviously mostly United States funding it. And of course, yes, there are costs overruns, which we could talk about until the cows come home. But part of the considerations during the programmatics of the F-35, of the joint strike fighter, is what technology transfer was going to be allowed and permitted for the coalition partners, who are also investing in the joint strike fighter. What were they going to get? Because the JSF that we're building for ourselves, it's going to be, obviously going to be different than the ones that the UK, for example, is going to get.

Henri (00:35:29):

It's not even a contract, right? It's just the strategic agreement, a partnership agreement. So we don't even know what the details are, because the details are still not out. It's too early to know about anything. And a lot of that stuff is TBD.

Henri (00:35:44):

So what happened was, from what we know, is that Biden essentially talked with Tony Morrison... Well, no, not Tony Morrison, Morrison is a novelist. By the way, "Song of Solomon", great book, you should read it. But anyway, Tony Abbott -- Scott Morrison. Okay. Scott Morrison -- the current Australian prime minister. They made an agreement for the procurement of a to be determined SSN for Australia to replace the Collins. That's essentially all we know right now, but it's safe to say that they're not going to get the Virginia for several reasons. Obviously, it's, you know, other than the Seawolf, it's the most preeminent, attack submarine out there. And just like we said about ITAR and FMS, you know, For Military Sales, as great as an ally Australia is, there'll be significant hurdles and it will be subject to many different regulations and laws on whether we could even transfer the technology to Australia.

Henri (00:36:49):

So that's that. But also we have about 20 Virginia class submarines right now. And we plan on ordering at least double that. So we're going to have like over 60 Virginia class submarines. We can't crank out enough of Virginia class submarines. So even if we were going to give the Virginias to Australia, which obviously are not, but even if we were, we simply can't do it because we can't build them fast enough.

Henri (00:37:17):

So saying that, Oh, the French lost, because the US technology is better -- it's a red herring. This is a classic case of which we talk about in these podcasts -- about talking heads saying one thing that in isolation sounds smart and reasonable, logical; but when you put it in its place with surrounding details, you quickly realize that they're full of shit.

Henri (00:37:38):

And then we got to realize: this is not an Australia-US relationship, it's AUKUS. So there's the UK in this as well. Well, what the hell does the UK have to do with this, if this was a discussion between Scott Morrison and Joe Biden? Well, what we do know about the UK is that they have their own SSNs. And their SSNs are the astute class. And one of the issues with the UK is obviously they've always been traditionally a maritime power, of course, severely diminished since World War II. So that's a constant worry that they have to maintain their maritime expertise, if you will, within the country. But of course they don't have the crazy unlimited budget that the United States does, so they have to make choices. Sometimes painful choices for this. So, whereas we can't, shit out enough submarines, for the UK this is not necessarily like that. In fact, they're about to build their... I don't know if they have finished building it or they're about to, but essentially they're about to build their last Astute class submarine. Which is, again, Astute class is the British SSN. So they're ending that.

Henri (00:38:48):

Now the worry is that for the UK, because there are no more submarines being built, then those factories are going to close down. Those people who are working on it, they're going to move on to other jobs, right. Or retire or whatever. So that institutional knowledge of submarine building is going to be gone. So that in a couple of decades, when they need to replace the submarine for the next generation submarine, they won't have the expertise there to spin back up that capability.

Henri (00:39:16):

This is actually something that, and again, I like to be fair here, this is not a left wing podcast or anything, but the Democrats like to always complain about our defense spending, that, Oh, we're constantly buying tanks that even the army doesn't want. Well, I mean, again, that's not the point. Yes, the army doesn't want them. The army doesn't need tanks, and we've gone away from armored cavalry as far as our main land doctrine. But the point is that Congress keeps ordering those tanks, because if we don't order those tanks, then those factories are going to shut down. And in the future, when we actually do need to build tanks and build tanks in a hurry, we can quickly spin it up. And if we just let these guys shut down their plants and people retire, we lose all that. Then at the point where we actually do need tanks, that's going to be an Oh, shit!" moment. And it's going to be in even deeper "Oh, shit!" moment when we can't even build tanks, because we've lost the know-how to do that. So, going back to the whole efficiency question, not everything is about cost cutting and saving money. They're doing not only the things that we need right now. A lot of it is just long-term value chain management.

Henri (00:40:24):

And that's exactly the problem that the UK is running into. But with this AUKUS program provides a golden opportunity for the UK to provide the Astute class submarine hull for the Australians. And that this gives a chance for the UK to keep their factories employed and, more importantly, it's not even on their dime.

Henri (00:40:51):

So chances are, given the supply chain considerations, the global supply chain considerations between the US and the UK... Again, the details aren't known yet, but a reasonable assumption can be made that this new SSN is going to be based off of the Astute hull design -- it's going to be a British design. It's going to be a UK boat, stuffed with the US shit. And I say word "shit" affectionately.

Henri (00:41:20):

Which brings me back to the points of the French submarine. Yes, of course the Virginias are better than the French submarines, but again, it's not a knock on the French, it just shows you how technologically advanced the US military industrial complexes is. But the thing is, the guts inside the Barracuda are actually very comparable to the Virginia. So the sensor suite inside the the submarine is comparable to the Virginia's. So if you want to make the argument that, Oh, the French lost, because American subs are better. Well, that's also kind of a disingenuous argument, because we've already established here that it's most likely going to be a UK hull with US guts. And the US guts that are going to be in it are comparable. Or anything that the French would provide in the sensor suite will be comparable to anything that the United States would be willing to provide. An emphasis there on "willing", because obviously our best stuff is going to stay within us borders.

Henri (00:42:24):

So given all of these considerations, okay, we might quibble on it. And again, all we are doing right now is just basically chickens pecking at each, other because we don't know the details of it. And even if the details do come out, they would most likely be classified. But from a civilian discussion perspective, which is all we can be right now, is we can essentially say that it's practically a wash. That the sensor suite that the French are going to give you are going to be comparable, let's say, to what the Americans are going to give you.

Jazz (00:43:04):


Henri (00:43:05):

Now going back to the original point here about why did they originally pick the French over the German and the Japanese. Well, there's a lot of reasons for it, but most of all, the one that we talk about: the French ship, when you consider it, especially being that the French Navy is one of the few navies that actually uses SSNs nuclear attack submarines, obviously the technological know-how that the French have is going to be vastly superior to that of what the Japanese or the Germans have. So just like I said, it's pretty safe to say that the American technology is going to be superior to anyone else's, well, it's pretty safe to say that the French technology is superior to anything that most other countries are going to have. You can argue between Russian versus French or UK versus French, but if I was going to do the Mount Rushmore of submarine technology, well, obviously US is going to be there, number one; but then in some specific order for 2, 3, and 4, clearly, it's going to be France, UK, and Russia. And then everyone else is kind of off on the wayside.

Henri (00:44:10):

So, and obviously because of some unfortunate events in 1945, there's not exactly a good rapport of nuclear technology in Japan. It's changed obviously recently, but not to the point where the Japanese are cranking out nuclear Naval vessels. Partly because of the culture of being anti-nuclear, which again, like I said, is changing. But also around the fact that their constitution that we, the Americans, forced them to sign, is that they can't really have an offensive Naval capability. It has to be purely defensive. So for the doctrine of the Japanese, it doesn't make sense to spend all that money on not just the construction of nuclear submarines, but to have the nuclear infrastructure to accommodate the maintenance of nuclear submarines, because their Navy is a constitutionally mandated defense force. Now, of course, that's in the process of being changed right now, or just being encouragement of altering the constitution to make it more of an offensive capability with, obviously, the blessings of the United States. But that's something to discuss in the future, years from now.

Henri (00:45:20):

As for Germany, well, Germany has only recently been reunited. So its capabilities to field such capital intensive ships was limited. And also their green party is pretty dominant within their politics, and they have an anti-nuclear stance, which we can talk about in the next, in a future episode on the European Union's green initiatives, and how they're shooting themselves in the foot with respect to nuclear energy. Germany also doesn't really have the need for nuclear weapons.

Henri (00:45:50):

Because again, in the beginning of this podcast, we talked about the three discriminators of SSNs: endurance, power, and indiscretion rate. So we already talked bout the indiscretion rate, so let's go to endurance here.

Henri (00:46:07):

And for countries like Japan and Germany, endurance is not as big of a concern, because for primarily being defensive navies, they're not required to go out and be out out at sea for long periods of time. And if they are, they're usually pretty close to the Homeland. For Japan, obviously because of their constitutionally mandated defense posture, and for Germany it is just a simple matter of geography, which has always plagued them in World War I, World War II, where they have to get past the UK and France to actually physically be out there in the blue ocean. And now have divesting themselves from being a military power to being more of an economic one, there really is no need for a long endurance submarine that would necessitate the use of an SSN.

Henri (00:46:56):

France on the other hand, having the largest economic exclusivity zone in the world, requires a blue Navy force posture. So, endurance is a big issue for it. Which is why it has heavily invested itself and nuclear vessels.

Henri (00:47:13):

And United States and UK, of course, are no exception. Being blue Navies themselves and US Navy being the preeminent blue Navy, not only in the world, but in history.

Henri (00:47:23):

And of course, Soviets, or I should say the Russians now, inheriting the Soviet posture of being a blue force adversary to the United States, it makes sense for them to also have nuclear weapons.

Henri (00:47:35):

China is an interesting story, because they mostly have SSKs, but they've been doing significant investments, obviously in SSNs, which goes against their propaganda, that they espouse is that all in all, we're really here to protect ourselves. But now with them focusing on SSNs, obviously, that would be more for a blue water posture rather than a brown water. What we call brown water posture of being within the lateral combat regions.

Henri (00:48:03):

So now for Australia, it's an interesting point, because up until recently, within the past couple of years, Australia's doctrine has always been about national defense. And they've actually made it a point to criticize the United States and say, Hey, look, we don't want to have an adversarial relationship with China, because China's in our doorstep. And we want to work with China as a geographic neighbor. So the need for an SSN, wasn't really there. Now, as China has become more antagonistic over the years, the doctrine necessarily for Australia has changed. Now to the point where it says, well, no, we now need to recognize that China is no longer interested in being a peaceful neighbor. And within the Asia Pacific region, we need to have a capability to not only defend ourselves, but to project the fore to make sure that we don't have a disastrous war. Because just like Germany has a painful memories of the 1940s, so does Australia. The Imperial Japanese Navy did quite a big number on Australia. And so Australia is no stranger to the devastating effects of a powerful adversarial Navy. Which is why they need to take into consideration endurance, because the main submarine base of Australia is in Perth, which is in Southwestern Australia. And it's about 3,000-ish miles to the south China sea, which is where most of presumably Chinese Naval operations are going to be occurring.

Henri (00:49:44):

And that's part of their issue here of why Australia is under a change of its doctrine, because originally they wanted to have a kind of a cold friendship, if you will, a look-warm friendship with China, because it's a regional partner. And it's also one of the biggest trading partners of Australia. But as China has become more adversarial, specifically with the a Nine-dash-line.

Henri (00:50:12):

And Nine-dash-line, by the way, for those who don't know it, is basically this claim that the Chinese government submitted to the UN, where it claims all those random little tiny islands all around the South China Sea. And basically it says the entire South China Sea is under the Naval jurisdiction or authority of China. So if you don't know much about South China Sea, that means they're claiming not just the waters around mainland China, but all the water essentially around Vietnam all the way down through Singapore, to Indonesia, Malaysia, back up towards Philippines, and then up from Taiwan to Japan. basically, forget about the South East Asia international community. They're like, yeah, we're not splitting this with anyone. They're just taking everything. It's like that comic, that Garfield: he has a birthday cake with John Arbuckle, and then he cuts a little slice and John thinks that that's what he's going to take, but instead of taking a little slice for himself, Garfield takes the entire pie and eats it, leaving a little slice for a John. And that's basically what China is: China's basically the Garfield of the South China Sea.

Henri (00:51:23):

So that's kind of an issue that China is basically tacitly threatening all shipping and Naval activity throughout the South China Sea, saying that anyone who doesn't ask for our permission or who we don't give a specific authorization to, without actually saying, you know, we can basically sink you, because this is all our territorial waters. Which obviously is a big problem, if you're Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Philippine., Basically, anyone, because you can't do any shipping over there. And, you know, Malacca Straits: 20% of the world's global shipping goes through the Malacca straits, which is that's the straits between Malaysia and Indonesia with Singapore at the tip. So 20% of the world's global shipping goes through there. So it's kind of a, as Biden would say, it's a big fucking deal. And with that, I think it's 20% of the global shipment. I think it's over 60% of Chinese. And I don't know what it is for Australia, but Australia being a Pacific nation, a lot of its shipment goes through there. So this focus on the South China Sea and the Nine-dash-line that China is proposing, is obviously causing a lot of adversarial problems.

Henri (00:52:36):

So going back to the point here is that from Perth to the South China Sea is around 3,000 miles. So the endurance that you would need to go there is pretty hefty, which means now it's not just about a territorial defense where SSKs should be sufficient. It's about actually now operating in the South China Sea and providing a good deterrent against the Chinese Naval ambitions.

Henri (00:53:02):

And for that, yeah, sure. It does make sense, that it's okay. You would want to switch to an SSN as your main submarine force. So you would say, Okay, well, doctrines change all the time. And especially with how long it takes submarines to be built. Whereas the US is one of the faster ones, where it comes to around six years; but generally speaking, it takes about 10-15 years from the initial contract award for the operational capability to the christening of the boat. A lot of things can happen within 10-15 years. So it makes sense to say, Well, you know what, the priorities have changed. And now yes, they gave the initial contract to the French to build an SSKs, but SSNs make more sense, so that's why they picked the US.

Henri (00:53:47):

And that would be true, except for the fact that France are not a bunch of idiots. Most countries aren't idiotic, and they can read the room, as you would say. Then they also know that, okay, SSKs, don't really make sense. Not only that, but the French already had the capability of making SSN. So it's a lot easier for them to make SSNs. And they also can see the writing on the wall, because they also have had a similar thing where most of the maritime territory of France is not in Europe. It's actually in the Pacific, in the Indo-Pacific region. So we may not really realize this as Americans, but France has huge territorial, geopolitical, and economic concerns or interests in the Indo-Pacific region, based on the sheer amount of territory that she has. So she also had this thing where she wanted to be partners with China, this look-warm thing, where we don't antagonize them and just try to work with them as much as we can. But with the expansionist antagonism that China has done in recent years, they have also switched their doctrine to a more of a, I wouldn't say, blatant adversarial position against China, but definitely a tacit adversarial relationship with China.

Henri (00:55:00):

And because of this, during the whole process of the Barracuda submarine, initial design review, they kept asking, there are reports, and even the French administration -- the Macron administration -- the French government had stated, they repeatedly asked the Australian government, Hey, are you sure you still want to do the SSKs? We have the SSNs. We think SSNs would be better for you. And Australia was like, no, no, we don't want SSNs. We want SSKs. Even now we're starting to find out they even said this, "No, we don't want to SSNs" at the same time that the Australians were talking with America, with Biden, with the Biden administration, saying, Hey, you know, about those SSNs... So that's kind of a pretty fucked up situation.

Henri (00:55:50):

It's kind of like with "The Game of Thrones: the HBO executives were realizing that seasons seven-eight were gonna be a shit-show, 'cause they only budgeted for a hundred episodes. And they said, Hey, you know, if you want more money, if you want more episodes, you want more seasons, we'll give you the money, here you go; you can have as much money and time as you need, take them. And DMD -- the "Game of Thrones" directors -- were like, No, no, no, it's okay, we got it, we can wrap this up within one, two seasons max. It's like, "Are you sure? You can have more money." And they like, "No, no, we're good". And of course they completely shit the bed on seasons seven and eight. So it's kind of like that here with Australians and the French. So that's the point I wanted to make about the endurance.

Henri (00:56:32):

Now the third point was power, which is kind of a minor issue here. But another advantage of nuclear propulsion is power. In that again, like we talked about with diesel-electric diesel engines, you snorkel up to Periscope depth, use your diesel engines to charge your batteries, and then you submerge. Then you use that battery power for all your operations. And then when they deplete, you, obviously, have to resurface and recharge your batteries again. And everything that you use is going to impact your endurance. So anything as innocuous, anything from using an oven in the galley to even, you know, charging a sailor's laptop for RNR -- rest and relaxation -- reduces your endurance, because all that, whether it's the oven or charging the sailor's laptop, requires battery power from the main batteries of the submarine, which reduces the endurance of the submarine. So there's all the huge power budget considerations that you have to worry about, which frankly, it doesn't exist with nuclear reactors.

Henri (00:57:39):

Because nuclear reactors provides so much power that basically not only do we not have to worry about ovens and sailors' laptops, but we're actually thinking about using all that excess power to shoot down drones in the sky with fricking laser beams, Austin Powers' style. That's actually, one of the acquisition programs that is being run in the DoD right now is putting lasers on Virginia class submarines for aerial drone warfare. So, if you have enough power to use a laser, the amount of power that it generates, it's almost embarrassing. So that's that.

Henri (00:58:15):

And actually this was one of the considerations of the French proposal, which is actually another reason why they won. Because they knew this and they purposely didn't use some ancillary technology that the Germans and the Japanese proposed. The Germans and the Japanese were proposing and ancillary technology like AIP, which is Air-Independent Propulsion, and lithium ion batteries, fuel cells, combination of thereof to lower the indiscretion rate. And the French famously, well, not famously, but notably they didn't do that. Their design was, Okay, yeah, we're just going to use the conventional diesel-electric propulsion system along with your conventional lead acid batteries. But the thing was, because they didn't have to waste space with all this ancillary technology, and the fact that their hull was bigger, and because of their just Naval construction expertise, even though they use, quote, "the shittiest technology", which is lead acid batteries, with just conventional snorkeling for recharging, for running the diesel engine, their endurance was so much higher. And under normal operational parameters for an Australian submarine, the indiscretion rate was so low that the advantages of having an AIP or a more efficient battery like fuel cell or lithium ion battery, didn't really matter. So that despite using "the shittiest technology" the Australian Navy realized that, Wow, as far as meeting the KPIs are concerned, the French design blew everyone else out of the water.

Henri (01:00:04):

That's how good the French technology and French design was, or is. And not only that, but because they didn't have all this other ancillary technology in there, the crew quarters and the amenities, were much bigger.

Henri (01:00:21):

And that's another interesting point here. Do you know what the weakest subsystem of a submarine is? The limiting factor of a submarine's performance? It's the sailors, it's the humans in the submarine. So especially with nuclear submarines, they can go on forever. And with a lot of these SSKs, these diesel submarines, they can essentially go on forever too. What limits the submarines performance is the fact that the humans are cramped inside a metal tube without any sun or natural air in cramped quarters. And obviously they have to eat food, and everything. And so that's the limiting factor. And that's why we don't get a bunch of people going postal. And for the mental health of sailors, usually most Navy's limit the tour of duty for submarines to about three months, 90-ish days. Obviously, some are more extended, but that's basically the average. So the limiting factor of submarines is actually the crew stamina.

Henri (01:01:20):

And that was one of the soft characteristics, if you will, of the French design: because they didn't waste all this space with other technology, and their base technology was so much better than everyone else's, they had way more room for crew quarters and crew living spaces. Which as far as for a human endurance or human factors engineering standpoint was monumental. And when you're talking about the limiting factor of a summary and the difference being the people, well, this is another added bonus to the French design over the German and then the Japanese designs.

Henri (01:01:59):

So another criticism of the French deal was that of cost overruns. The reason that's a bullshit argument is because there hasn't been any formal cost estimation or report done by the Australian government. The actual details of that would be, of course, classified, but any broad scope general auditing of the program famously hasn't been done yet. And all the reports of 60 billion Australian dollars, which is about 42-ish billion American dollars, those cost overruns -- a big part of this is because of the lessons learned from the Australian Navy, from the Collins and even before that -- the Oberon class submarine -- was that there needs to be the national infrastructure, native in Australia, to be able to do the maintenance on these submarines. Not be reliant on an external power. Especially if you're talking about building a French submarine, which has the guts of an American sensor suite, if you will. But again, the point is that it's a foreign service, essentially. It's a foreign made submarine for Australia. They wanted to have, to develop the in-house knowledge. To de-risk that supply chain problem and not be reliant on a foreign power. And especially when you're talking about France. France is practically on the other side of the world. So having to sail your submarines all the way across the globe for their maintenance was obviously not only unacceptable, but impractical. So many of the cost overruns was the fact that because the Australian engineers didn't have the institutional knowledge of submarine shipbuilding, part of the cost overruns was sending these Australian engineers to France to get the know-how, to build these submarines. And they reportedly were struggling on that. And so a lot of the cost overruns were due to the Australians themselves, and not necessarily anything that the French were doing.

Henri (01:04:11):

So it was kind of disingenuous to say, oh yeah, there was a lot of cost overruns, and it was a really expensive project, when a lot of that expense of the project was based on the specific requirements for the technology transfer from France to Australia. So a lot of these costs overruns were self-imposed by the Australians and not necessarily some sort of negative performance by the French.

Henri (01:04:37):

And another thing about these cost overruns, if cost over runs really are the issue here. Well, here's the thing that's already coming out in the news right now. So it's already how colossal of a fuck up this is, is that the life cycle of the Collins submarine was only about 25 years, I believe. And they're rapidly coming to the end of their life cycle. And these Barracuda class submarines were supposed to replace them. Now, of course they aren't going to make it in time. So they were considering extending the life cycle of the Collins for a couple of years, like 5-ish, years or so, so that it would bridge the gap between the time that the Barracudas came online and the nominal end of the Collins' life cycle.

Henri (01:05:25):

But now, because they completely scrapped the French design, that's five years of basically contracting work down the tubes. And because we're going on this hybrid UK-US submarine model, that's pushed the procurement schedule for the next generation submarines even further beyond. And now the Australian government is saying, yeah, well it looks like we're not going to even be able to extend the lifecycle of the Collins, and we're going to actually have to get a new bridge submarine. New submarine to bridge the gap between the Collins and the US-UK submarine. So what originally they were saying, Oh yeah, cost overruns because the blah, blah, blah, because of the French -- now they're actually going to have to spend even more money for a new alternate submarine to have in-between the Collins and whatever the presumed the AUKUS submarine is. So this is how much of a cluster fuck it is right now in Australia. And which is why, even if we don't consider diplomatic points, which we'll get to later, but they don't really have leg to stand on when torpedoing in the French deal.

Henri (01:06:41):

Not only that, but actually the day before this thing was announced, and this just shows you how shady the Australian government was acting, 'cause they have legal requirements, right? Because they signed a strategic partnership between France and Australia. So when there were specific checkpoints that they had to go through to fulfill specific contractual requirements. And one of those requirements was the thing called the preliminary design review. And it actually... so, part of this strategic partnership... And this is one of the criticisms that Australians would levy on the French, I mean, I guess rightfully so, but the point here saying that, Hey, this wasn't a contract, this was a strategic partnership. And we specifically had clauses in here to opt out of the strategic partnership at specific times, milestones, of the procurement process. And one of those procurement process was after the preliminary design review.

Henri (01:07:31):

And what they actually did was the day before this bombshell announcement came out, the Australian government okayed the preliminary design review of the short fin Barracuda to fulfill that strategic partnership requirement. And the very next day is when the bombshell news came out, that they're ditching the French submarine. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad and, you know, real life.

Henri (01:07:57):

Now, why did this, why the strategic partnership fail? Well, according to these talking heads and you know, the US government, and the Australian government -- again, they have all these different excuses on, "we want a nuclear submarine", even though that's bogus, because the French offered that, and they met the KPIs, and what have you -- all things that we just discussed. But quite frankly, it would have been just easier if they just acknowledged and said, Hey, look, our strategic requirements have changed within the past five years or so with the accelerated antagonistic behavior of the Chinese where, quite frankly, our doctrine changed. So what we initially wanted out of the Collins -- a replacement submarine -- now no longer applies and we need a new submarine. And that's perfectly fine, but that's not what they said. Instead we saw what happened. It was that they're basically saying one thing to the French and then secretly behind their back talking to the US and UK on something else.

Henri (01:09:02):

So why did France actually lose their strategic partnership? We have all these reasons why we just went through in detail on why that's not really the case. Well then what really is the case? Well, quite frankly, we don't really know. This story is still relatively fresh. And a lot of the discussion is going to be privileged communication, which we may never even know about, as the details may never come out to the public. But the point here is that's undeniable that while there might be technical reasons that you could fall back on for the legitimacy of this, doctrinal reasons, which we talked about, that she could fall back on for going with the AUKUS deal. And we also discussed the legal points that you could fall back on and saying, this wasn't a contract, this was strategic partnership, which Oh, by the way, with this AUKUS, that's still not really clear.

Henri (01:09:51):

Just like the debacle that Tony Abbott did with Shinzo Abe, saying, Oh yeah, we totally want the Japanese submarines. And there was a huge uproar, because there was no competitive bid for that. Does it now mean that the AUKUS deal will have to go through a new competitive bid, or they're just unilaterally saying, No, we're skipping that. Why was it not okay for the Japanese, but it was okay for the US? So there's other ramifications to think about here: the Japanese are already sore from losing the bid in the first place, especially if you're being courted with this whole bilateral budding relationship between Australia and Japan. But now all of a sudden they see that not only were they screwed out of this sweetheart deal with the Australian Navy, but the very thing that they were screwed on is now being granted to the United States and the UK. So what does that say for Australia's partnership with Japan as well? So this is not just about off the French. You've also pissed off Japanese.

Henri (01:10:50):

And Oh, by the way, because this is a nuclear submarine, and New Zealand -- their closest neighbor -- famously has a policy where they don't allow nuclear vessels within their territory, you're also pissing off New Zealand. Because they're not going to allow you to dock your submarines anywhere near them, or even sail your submarines anywhere near them.

Henri (01:11:08):

So in one move!.. This is like Trump level of diplomatic fuckery is how many allies Australia managed to piss off. Again, if this wasn't real life, it would be comical.

Henri (01:11:21):

So why did they do that? We don't know, but there are speculations. And we can go off of what most people in the know are saying, that this is part of the Biden's or, you know, the America's desire to disengage from Southwest Asia, basically, this global war on terrorism and focus on the actual, real strategic threat, if you will, of the Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. And that's, obviously, it's a very, a good thing that we are focusing on that. Especially ending all these countless wars, that don't amount to anything.

Henri (01:12:01):

And from the American viewpoint, this is a colossal win, because while it's about 3,000 miles from Perth to South China Sea, from Hawaii, it's a double that, it's about 6 to 7,000 miles from Hawaii to the South China Sea. So presumably, if your infrastructure is going to be built within Perth for accommodating nuclear attack submarines, then now all of a sudden the American Naval forces Pacific fleet now not just rely on Hawaii and Guam (which... Guam... The facilities in Guam, being such a small island, are limited in itself), but now you're going to have a fallback base with Australia and you can basically, get on station twice as fast because it's half the distance.

Henri (01:12:47):

It's also, there's the quadrilateral Alliance, or they call it "the Quad", which United States has been focused on. Which is between Japan, Australia, India, and obviously the United States. And this is kind of encircling, a diplomatic encircling initiative to encircle China and counteract their expansionist, the aggressive policies, with their own strategic Alliance between India, Australia, Japan. So it covers the entire, if you will, the semicircle, of the Indo-Pacific region.

Henri (01:13:21):

So with providing the submarine technology for Australia, this gives a good balance where we can have our ships, of, excuse me, our Naval assets to not only to the South China Sea, but also into the Indian ocean as well. Not being so reliant on the Suez Canal or going around the horn of Africa. That's obviously a big win for us. So to blame the United States for doing this, I mean, that's not, that's not right either because obviously it's in the United States strategic interest to do this.

Henri (01:13:53):

And also we, obviously we have a lot of submarines, we have a lot of Naval assets, but strengthening our allies with our, especially with our technology, means while having a more capable allies, we can rely on them further for our own national objectives. I mean, this is one of the reasons why you want to have a strong ally, so you can actually rely on them. So this AUKUS deal is obviously going to be a huge win from that perspective.

Henri (01:14:16):

So no one's really criticizing, and even France recognizes this, right? They tacitly recognize that. That's not the issue. That's not the reason why France called off their ambassadors and canceled the gala, the 240th anniversary of the French and colonial forces defeating the English. The gala and the recalling the ambassadors is because this is a colossal diplomatic faux pas. And this is the main issue I want to bring up, because anyone can be a monkey in the peanut gallery, as my dad would say, and throw shit at talking heads, especially when it's a live recording, and they misspeak. The point here is the underlying thing that these talking heads, that this panel was talking about here, is that somehow that the French are completely inferior and America rightfully should initiate this AUKUS deal with a complete disregard to diplomatic protocol.

Henri (01:15:17):

And this is what the, the French foreign minister and even the French president said. They said, this is the type of behavior we would expect from Trump. And again, not to bring politics into this, but from an international perspective, Donald Trump and his cabinet, specifically, the secretary of state diplomatic core was reviled. Especially with this whole "America First" attitude. And Biden was supposed to be this breath of fresh air, restoring the diplomatic prominence of the United States to the Obama and even before years. And everyone was ready to welcome the United States back into the international community. With all these aspirations of America, returning back to the international scene, to come around and basically stab France in the back as, as their foreign minister said, it was just inexcusable. And again, here, this is not about shitting on Americans saying that, Oh, America didn't have the right to do this. Of course, America had the right to do this. And as we discussed, it makes perfect sense from a doctrinal standpoint. But it's kind of like that Jeff Goldblum's scene in "Jurassic Park" where he says, "You guys were so concerned with..", I'm butchering the quote, "You guys were so concerned about, whether you could, you didn't stop to think whether you should", when talking about the dinosaur eggs.

Jeff Goldblum in "Jurassic Park" (01:16:41):

Yeah, yeah. But your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

Henri (01:16:46):

And that's exactly the point here. We have a Jeff Goldblum situation. And yes, the United States could do this, but should we have done that? And it's not just even whether we should have done that. It's just, when I say, "should we have done it", It's not about, should we have done the AUKUS deal. It's about, should we have conducted the AUKUS deal in a manner that we did. Namely, as the French would say, as we stabbed them in the back. Because the whole point is the French government was asking, Hey, how's everything going with the Barracuda program? And there were these text messages from Macron that apparently got leaked onto Twitter that people can read about. And Scott Morrison said, Oh yeah, everything's good. He did not say anything. There was the whole discussion at the G7 this year, where Macron and Biden were talking and getting all chummy with each other, having a good time, and not once did Biden take Macron to the side and say, Hey, by the way, there's this thing happening with the submarines that I just want to let you know, give you a heads up.

Henri (01:17:51):

Bad things happen all the time on the international stage. But especially with allies, it's considered good protocol to give people a heads up. And actually this is not just diplomacy, this is just good general life advice for anyone. At work we say, Hey.. If you have a good boss, you just say "I don't mind something bad is going to happen, it's just, if it's going to happen, just give me a heads up before it does happen".

Henri (01:18:13):

So if I was a king for a day, if I was, you know, Biden, what I would have done was, Okay, AUKUS is happening, that's fine. But at least tell Macron beforehand and say, Hey, look, this is happening. And obviously Macron's going to be furious about it, but he's saying it in private, and this will give him an opportunity, for both France and the United States, to either work something out, where France is still part of this deal, or even if not, worst case scenario, France is completely out of it, but then at least you give France the opportunity to save face.

Henri (01:18:44):

And the way to spin that story is painfully obvious. Where we say, Hey, look in the past five years again, you could just blame everything on China. In the past five years, China has been very aggressive. You don't even have to mention China if you're worried about ruffling feathers, but you could say, Hey, in the past five years, the strategic requirements or strategic realities of the Indo-Pacific region have changed to the point where a conventional sub, like the Barracuda, does not make sense. Or you can make some other reason to basically say that, Hey, look, this doesn't work. And even the French could say, look, we tried to do this, but there's too many issues with the technology transfer, where the Australian engineering community cannot assimilate our technology. And also there are concerns with intellectual property transfers. The point here is that you can make a hundred of bullshit statements like this, basically to save face. And then France would say, because of these realities and hardships or problems, we've decided to pull out of this strategic partnership with the Barracuda and focus our efforts on other things. On strengthening our relationship with Australia in other aspects, or something like that. But the fact that I come up with this in the span of five minutes means, that the United States government in its infinite wisdom and resources should be able to come up with that thing too.

Henri (01:20:08):

You know, Fox news, they like to talk about and like shit on on, Hey, look, this is such a colossal fuck up by the Biden administration with the pullout of Afghanistan. And in some respects they're kind of right on that. In this case, this is completely no excuse, that diplomatic fuck up of the AUKUS deal. It's just completely inexcusable.

Henri (01:20:31):

And it just further underpins what a lot of our allies, specifically our European allies, are saying. That United States has fundamentally changed since the election of Donald Trump. And Biden is no different than Trump. And actually, even before Trump, because they were saying this about Obama as well, is that since the election of George W. Bush, the United States has been coming increasingly antagonistic, which means our adversaries are also becoming increasingly antagonistic. It first started with the Iraq war, which obviously famously France was against. Remember that whole freedom fries versus French fries debacle that happened, that started with that?

Henri (01:21:10):

And then they thought, Europeans and specifically the French thought, Okay, with Obama things were going to change. And they welcomed with open arms. And of course, Obama continued the war. Even despite his campaign rhetoric of Afghanistan being in the good war, and Iraq being the bad war, he still continued with the drone strikes, which international community objected to, even from a Russian perspective. You know, this is not just about our allies, but from the Russian perspective, there was the famous reset where Hillary Clinton brought the reset button button saying, Hey, look, we reset. And it didn't reset.

Henri (01:21:45):

So this is just the continuing pattern for almost two decades now, where the United States from the diplomatic standpoint has been constantly screwing up. And where most countries obviously don't have the military or martial power that we do, they rely on the diplomacy. It is a big thing. As a matter of fact, it's a big thing for us too.

Henri (01:22:07):

So at the G7 Biden should have pulled Macron to the side and told him in private that this was what was going down. And someone might make the argument, Well, it's not really United States' concern, because it's not America's message to give, it's Australia's message to give, because it's the partnership between France and Australia. But that's a very obtuse take on, it because again, in diplomacy, and especially with the supposed friends, this is not something you do. And again, this is the whole point of private conversations is that you bring someone to the side and tell them, Hey, this is the thing that happened. Because if this happened to you, you wouldn't like it either. So I dismissed the argument that's saying, Well, it's not really Biden's fault, it's Australia's fault. That's just the, it's a colossal application of responsibility. Especially for the world's only superpower. Talking about "with great power comes great responsibility". Well, one of the responsibilities of a super power like the United States is to manage its diplomatic relations with its allies. At the bare minimum, to inform them of things in private. So I dismissed that argument out of hand.

Henri (01:23:12):

So there's this feeling in the international community for about two decades. And again, it has nothing to do with politics, because they criticize both Republican presidents and Democrat. And we had two of each. Which crystallized with Trump saying "America First!" This "America first" mentality means that our allies can't trust us anymore.

Henri (01:23:33):

And I know like some of your, people, are saying, Oh, well, you're so stupid, of course it's America first, because all countries are their country first. Because they care of their interests first. Yes, yes, okay, I understand what you're saying there, but that's not really the point here. The point here is that, of course, America has to care about America first, but when you've been talking about diplomatic circles, you certainly don't shout that off the rooftops. It's about having the diplomatic chutzpah to work with your allies and to address their concerns. And even not just your allies, but your enemies as well. Or I shouldn't say enemies, but your adversaries as well. But specifically your allies.

Henri (01:24:12):

The only time that the "America first" policy was a legitimate diplomatic course was essentially during our first 50 years of our existence. Which was culminated, or I should say, which was crystallized with the Monroe doctrine. It was that, Hey, we are United States, we're not going to bother with the affairs of Europe, and Europe, likewise, you guys are not going to bother in the affairs of the Americas. So we leave you alone and you leave us alone, right? That's where "America first" is appropriate. And that carried on through to all the way up into the 1940s, where we've always had an isolationist standpoint. You know, we didn't want to get involved with World War I, that was a Europe's problem, not ours. But then we got sucked into it. And then even after World War I, we got sucked into it, we still said, you know what, we're still getting out of there, America first! We don't want to deal with your, guys, crap. We're doing our own thing. And then only after the Second World War happened, with the advent of nuclear weapons, we realized, okay, this whole "America first" attitude is not really working. We have to be the world's policemen. And again, you can criticize the United States being the world's policeman and everything like that, that's fine. It's a fair criticism for you. But the point here is that because we've adopted that as our foreign relation posture, if you will, we don't have the luxury to say "America first" anymore, because by being the world's policeman, we have to ensure that we have proper allies, because we can't just do it all alone.

Henri (01:25:46):

And especially if we're taking our adversaries seriously, like Russia and China, then we have to make sure we have our allies on our side, and not constantly push them to the side of our adversaries. The classic point here is with Turkey. That a lot of people are talking about is that how the West has constantly pushed Turkey away from the West. And now Turkey's chumming up with China and Russia. And same thing can be said about India. That's another point here is that, Hey, we're in Alliance. Look, India needs to be a good ally. Originally they were kind of a tacit ally of the Soviet union, but after the Cold War, there was a good opportunity to bring India into the fold of the Western sphere of influence, and then being a really good ally. And then we started pissing them off, especially with dealing with Afghanistan, and unnecessarily having starting the chumming up with Pakistan, their own primary adversary.

Henri (01:26:38):

But with this constant diplomatic faux pas that we've been doing, even India now is looking and saying, Hey, you know what, maybe China, even despite the adversary relationship that India has with China and Russia, they are going after relationships with those countries. Famously right now, I think India is looking at getting the S-400 missile system.

Henri (01:27:00):

The other thing is, okay, it may be also America first, which again, I just pointed out here, that it really isn't. Because being the global policeman, being the global superpower of where you have to be reliant on the allies. But also America has always been the foundation of America, it's our national ethos, if you will, has always been about international maritime trade, the free trade. And a lot of our prosperity comes from our close relationship with European nations. And we've done a pretty decent job, despite everything that I just said, we still have very good relationships with the European union. But two things have happened recently.

Henri (01:27:39):

One: Brexit happened. So now one of our staunchest allies, practically brother and arms, if you will, the Brits, are no longer part of the European union. So we can't rely on them as our foot in the door with Europe.

Henri (01:27:54):

But secondly, Angela Merkel has stepped down after 15 or so years. The reason why I mentioned that is because up until recently, Germany has pretty much dominated the Europeans sphere of influence. So if anything's going to happen with Europe, we pretty much had to run it by Germany. And now with Merkel leaving, well, there's essentially, I would not call it a power vacuum, but I guess you can call it a power vacuum in Europe or in the European union, which France is very eager to pick up. And in some way has already picked up. And this is a lot of the things that Macron has been doing in the international circle is showing the prominence or the re-emergence of France as a, if not a global power, definitely a regional power or a multi-regional power here.

Henri (01:28:45):

So if we've already acknowledged and established that part of our fortunes as Americans comes from our close relationship with the Europeans, and if Francis is now the de facto gatekeeper of Europe, well then maybe we probably shouldn't be pissing off France with these type of a diplomatic faux pas. And not only that with Europe, but again like we established earlier in the podcast is that most of the France's maritime territory is in the Pacific ocean. And they are also agitated by the Chinese aggression. So having them on our side not only is good from a commercial standpoint, from a European trade standpoint, but also from our self-admitted foreign policy objectives and the containment of Chinese aggression. So shitting on France, especially in such a public manner, of saying, Hey, look we did the AUKUS thing and completely blindsiding them. And not allowing them to save face, is just... It's not even "America first." It is not "America first", because we are actively harming ourselves.

Henri (01:29:50):

We're harming ourselves, because we're harming our ability to engage in trade deals with Europe, because now France is going to veto a lot of things, any deals that we would want to do with the European Union. But also it's harming our foreign policy objectives in the Indo-Pacific region, because we need France as an ally to counter the Chinese threat. So even from an "America first" standpoint, we have to realize that "America first" is not America just bulldozing over everyone. "America first" is that we have to use our diplomatic strengths to bring along the entire world to isolate from the aggression, the Chinese aggression.

Henri (01:30:32):

This brings me to my final point about this diplomatic faux pas. And this is specific to the fact that we are giving nuclear technologies to Australia. So, okay. Originally we talked about, earlier in the podcast, we talked about endurance of submarines and specifically nuclear weapons. And this wasn't just me pontificating about nuclear weapons. There was a reason to this, which now I am finally getting to. That is that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that we are signatories of, that the most countries are signatories of, prevents the transfer of a lot of weapons grade nuclear technology to non-nuclear nations, which Australia is: a non-nuclear nation. And this is actually one of our beefs that we have with North Korea and Iran, right? Especially the thing with Iran is that a Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT, says that every country has the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology for their energy needs. And this is why I discussed the difference between low enriched uranium, which is between three to 20% and weapons grade uranium, and highly enriched uranium, which is from 20 to 90+ percent. And this is our thing with Iran is that we're claiming, Oh, no, they're enriching it beyond 20%, so this is violating the NPT, and also, more importantly, they're going to use this to make weapons to launch on Israel or whoever else.

Henri (01:32:00):

So what does this have to do with submarines? Well, again, I mentioned there's two non-nuclear countries that will be using SSNs right now. One is obviously Australia, which we just talked about, and then the first one is Brazil. But Brazil's nuclear submarine uses low enriched uranium. And not only that, but it's technology that they developed themselves, again from their free right, that's recognized by the NPT to develop nuclear technology for peaceful means. They've been able to now parlay that, obviously with some assistance from France, which, oh, by the way, Australia, if you're talking about needing a country, that can actually do this, well, obviously France has already done this with Brazil. But again, the point here is that Brazil has done this, but without violating the non-proliferation treaty, because it was homegrown technology that they developed. And now they're parlaying that into nuclear propulsion, but also these SSNs are using low enriched uranium. Which means, it's not a weapons grade, which is adherent to the NPT.

Henri (01:33:07):

And similarly with the Barracuda, this is one thing that is a drawback, that both Australia and the United States would say, Oh, well, it doesn't really matter, because even if Australia took the Barracuda and took the original SSN design of the Barracuda, well, their nuclear reactor or the nuclear core is only good for 10 years. And it requires a mid-cycle maintenance, where it's a swap of the core for a new one. And Australia does not have the nuclear infrastructure for that, and we don't really want that. But the United States' Virginia submarines are, as well as the UK's Astute ones... So again, we don't know which one is going to be used, but the US Virginia technology has the lifecycle of nuclear core of 33 years, or whatever. But let me ask you, how is it that the nuclear core of the US submarine is 33 years, while the French one is 10? Well, I'll tell you why, it's because the US nuclear core, nuclear propulsion, uses a highly enriched uranium. So, by us giving highly enriched uranium to the Australians, a non-nuclear nation, because they don't want to do mid cycle maintenance, well, that's a violation of the non-proliferation treaty. Because now we're handing a non-nuclear nation weapons grade uranium. That's a clear violation of MPT.

Henri (01:34:27):

Now, of course, this is going to be spun in different ways of saying, No, it's not really a violation, because we're not actually giving the technology or the know-how to the Australians. And it's going to be a completely, they'll probably say it's going to be a completely sealed module, because this is actually, this is how submarines are built.

Henri (01:34:44):

Actually, I encourage anyone who is really interested in this to go to a submarine shipyard and see how subs are built. But they're basically built in different modules. So you have cylinders. That's.. It's kind of like a Christmas yule log. So, it's basically a slice of Christmas yule log. You have a bunch of different slices, and they're bringing them all together. So submarine construction is kind of very modular designed. Anyway. So you'll have a, basically, a Christmas yule log slice of the nuclear reactor, and that's going to be completely sealed, right? And because it's going to last the entire life cycle of the new AUKUS sub, that the Australians will never go into it. It'll be completely sealed. They won't go in there. So, technically we're not really violating the NPT. This is how I imagine that this is going to be spun. But what we know from experience is that give an inch to countries like Russia, China, Iran, you know, basically all our adversaries -- they take a mile. And now you bet your ass, China and Russia are going to use this to say, Oh, well, the United States is giving highly enriched uranium to Australia, so that means, now we can start giving it to other people.

Henri (01:35:53):

So now Russia is going to say, Hey Pakistan, Hey India, Hey Iran, you guys want highly enriched uranium? Well, here you go. And it's like, Oh no, it's not a violation, 'cause, wink-wink, it's totally sealed. And we're going to give it to you, and it's not a violation. And then United States, we're not gonna be able to say anything, because we already did it, with the NPT.

Henri (01:36:12):

Not only did we fuck up by not telling France and doing all this stuff, but even when the news was broken out, there was no initial preemptive press release, if you will, or discussion from Biden, saying, Hey, we're going to give this highly enriched uranium to Australia, but it's not a violation of MPT for these specific reasons. So he wasn't preemptively clear about that. And because the initial media hoopla of the AUKUS deal happened without such an explanation, even if it does happen later on, it doesn't matter. Because it's going get lost, and now Russia and China are already going to have the built-in excuse: well, United States already violated the NPT, so we're going to do whatever the hell we want to do.

Henri (01:36:53):

So when we're talking about just global destabilization from nuclear proliferation, we're not really doing ourselves any favor. And if preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons is not America first, I don't know what is.

Henri (01:37:12):

If you would like to comment on this podcast or on the topics covered within it, or you'd like us to raise a new topic in our next episode, please feel free to leave us a message or a voicemail on That's Charlie Oscar Delta Bravo, Sierra, Mike, dot com. Thank you for listening, and see you at the party, Richter!

Jazz (01:37:37):