Friday, March 02, 2007

After nine decades, lost sub may have been found

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The Age
By Brendan Nicholson
March 02, 2007


SEVERAL of Australia's neighbours are building up fleets of submarines — but Australia may have added one to its fleet, with the possible discovery of the nation's first sub in Papua New Guinea waters.

On August 11, 1914, five days after Australia declared war on Germany in World War I, the submarine AE1 was sent to a PNG island, which was a German possession. But on September 14, it vanished without trace, possibly due to an accident, taking with it its 35 crewmen.

Nine decades later, HMAS Benalla and HMAS Shepparton are searching for the AE1, and may have found it.

Veterans Affairs Minister Bruce Billson said yesterday he was cautiously optimistic an object detected during the search was the AE1, and further work would be done when "operational commitments permit".

Ancient subs aside, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says that today's navy is not equipped to deal with the regional build-up.

Institute analyst Dr Andrew Davies warned that regional fleets could threaten Australia's maritime movements and the safety of Australia itself.

" Submarines will be able to seriously threaten the operation of surface fleets and commercial trade," he said. "Australia simply cannot expect to be able to conduct major naval operations in waters patrolled by submarines without a major upgrade to its anti-submarine warfare capabilities."

China and India are working on building their own nuclear submarines and China's large fleet of conventional submarines is set to double to 40 in 10 years.


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