I note the size of Australia’s sub purchase and the risks involved given its performance requirements. Runaway costs and production delays will have a large impact on any Australian, American, or Japanese regional maritime strategy. Relative to this, any strategic gains achieved from buying from one country over another are vanishingly marginal. A military alliance is useless with no military underpinning it.
To put this in perspective, I note that:
The United States’ Joint Strike Fighter, which Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, dubbed as the “jet that ate the Pentagon” owing to its spiraling costs. The JSF’s current price tag stands at about $400 billion, approximately two-thirds the annual budget of the U.S. Department of Defense. Australia’s initial estimate for its submarine is more than one and a half times the country’s 2015–16 defense spending. In other words, Australia’s budget seems in far greater danger of being devoured.
The United States should not pressure Australia to buy the Japanese boat, but use its vast technical expertise to help Australia purchase the best value weapon. This is because:
Submarines are an essential, if not the most essential, component of the maritime strategy of any regional power in Asia. China is projected to have 70 submarines of varying capabilities by 2020. The United States currently has 57 attack submarines but forecasts that its inventory will drop to 41 in 2028. Delays or, worse still, reduced numbers of Australian submarines will alter the undersea balance in the region. And that makes it all the more important that Australia get the submarines it needs without draining the defense budget. A budding military alliance in the Pacific is of no consequence if there is no military to underpin it.