Home Latest News A Detectable Subservience

A Detectable Subservience

By Michael Willis

The first operational outcome of the Pillar 2 AUKUS arrangement between the US, UK and Australia has just been announced.

The three countries will share data from their submarine-hunting PA-8 Poseidon aircraft, manufactured by the troubled Boeing Corporation.

This was announced on May 29 in an “exclusive interview” given to US online website Breaking Defense by Michael Horowitz, whose office serves as the Pentagon’s day-to-day lead on AUKUS issues.

(In a deliciously ironic slip, the website referred to the United Kingdom as the “Untied Kingdom”, true of the political cohesion of both the UK and the US at this time.)

All three AUKUS nations:

According to Horowitz, the Pentagon’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development and Emerging Capabilities, a new “trilateral algorithm” will allow them to share information from P-8 sonar buoys between each other.

According to Breaking Defense, the trilateral algorithm requires a high level of trust between the three countries.

Pillar 2 arrangements build on those of Pillar 1 which are solely concerned with Australia’s acquisition of the hugely expensive nuclear-powered submarines.

At a cost averaged out at $A33 million a day over 35 years, we are promised a fleet of 8 submarines with the apparent advantages of extended range and endurance, higher speed, increased payload capacity, and reduced refuelling needs.

But given our own use of sonar buoys and knowing that our own all-but-at-war with “enemy”, China, has the same or superior detection technologies, it is the claim that SSNs (nuclear-powered submarines) have greater stealth and reduced detectability that is the major sales pitch justifying our $368 billion spend.

SSNs are claimed to have reduced noise and to be able to operate at greater depths, thus making them harder to detect.

Reduced noise will affect passive sonar buoys which listen for sounds generated by submarines. These sounds can include engine noise, propeller cavitation, or other mechanical noises.

Greater depth will affect active sonar buoys, those that send out a sound wave which then bounces off the submarine, allowing the buoy to detect the “ping” that travels back to the buoy. That ping is weaker the greater distance it has to travel.

Former Senator and submariner Rex Patrick was critical of the AUKUS decision for Australia to begin its SSN acquisition with the purchase of three second-hand Virginia Class SSNs from the US.

Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) is another method of detection. MAD detects disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by the metal hull of a submarine. MAD sensors are typically deployed on aircraft and can detect submarines at relatively close ranges. The signals weaken with distance.

However, the Chinese are developing the ability to detect extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic signal produced by speeding subs.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter found an ultra-sensitive magnetic detector could pick up traces of the most advanced submarine from long distances away.

The researchers calculated that the extremely low frequency (ELF) signal produced by a submarine’s bubbles could be stronger than the sensitivities of advanced magnetic anomaly detectors by three to six orders of magnitude.

The bubbles are an inevitable consequence of the submarine’s cruising speed, which causes the water flowing around the hull to move faster as its kinetic energy increases and its potential energy – expressed as pressure – decreases. When the pressure decreases sufficiently, small bubbles form on the surface of the hull as some of the water vaporises. This process causes turbulence and can produce an electromagnetic signature, in a phenomenon known as the magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) effect.

Though faint, ELF signals can travel great distances, thanks to their ability to penetrate the water and reach the ionosphere, where they are reflected back to the Earth’s surface.

Detection by ELF turns the advantage of an SSNs higher speed into its opposite, namely the disadvantage of higher detectability.

This ability of science to increase the detection of SSNs led even the pro-US Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) to publish a warning that “the oceans of tomorrow may become ‘transparent’. The submarine era could follow the battleship era and fade into history.”

It titled its article on a study of submarine detection by Australian scientists and academics “Advances in detection technology could render AUKUS submarines useless by 2050.”

According to the authors:

However, it is the expanding frontier of quantum computing that may be the ultimate nail in the AUKUS submarines coffin.

Quantum computing is the sexy new kid on the block – witness the Australian government’s investment of almost a billion dollars in a bid to build the world’s first commercially useful quantum computer in Brisbane. It’s bound to make the shareholders of US company PsiQuantum very happy, including notorious corporate investors such as Black Rock.

In July 2016, the Australia government awarded a contract to local company Q-CTRL to develop a quantum navigation system can use the motions of a single atom to precisely determine the course and position of a submarine and maintain accuracy to a remarkable degree. This overcomes two disadvantages of navigation by GPS: GPS is vulnerable to jamming by an adversary, and its signals cannot penetrate sea water to any appreciable depth.

That’s the good news story.

The bad news is that China has already funded its multi-billion-dollar National Quantum Laboratories to develop quantum-based technology applications for “immediate use to the Chinese armed forces”, possibly including targeting stealthy submarines.

According to Zhu Jin in The Conversation:

Using devices that measure and analyse the gravitational pull exercised by the mass of a submarine on the movement of sub-atomic particles in a sensor would overcome the disadvantages of sonar buoys and magnetometers, rendering any otherwise undetectable object with mass detectable.

The other area in which China is more advanced than its competitors is the use of quantum computing for encryption and decryption of communications.

In a 2022 paper on Quantum Computing and Cryptography, the authors that:

All of this leaves one wondering about just what due diligence was done before Morrison, and the 24-hour copycat decision-maker Albanese, committed us to the folly of paying $A368 billion to purchase a subservient position embedded within the US war machine by means of a soon-to-be fully detectable and therefore likely to be destroyed fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Michael Williss is a member of the Australian Anti-AUKUS Coalition (AAAC) and the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).

Load More Related Articles
Load More In Latest News
Comments are closed.