Submarine propulsion test site augurs well for Adelaide


Hillary Clinton's visit to Adelaide

Hillary Clinton, Jay Weatherill and Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance CEO Rod Equid tour the Techport Australia shipbuilding facility in Adelaide last month. Source: adelaidenow

A HI-TECH propulsion testing site will be built in Adelaide, making it an “irresistible” case for the future submarines to be built in South Australia.

Federal Defence Minister Stephen Smith will today visit Outer Harbor’s Techport facility to announce the Land Based Test Site, which industry sources say will cost about $30 million to build, will be based in SA.

The testing facility allows the submarine propulsion systems to be tested and proved before installation, a capability aimed at overcoming criticism levelled at the ageing Collins Class fleet.

Today’s announcement comes as the Federal Government weighs up options for the future sub program, ranging from a complete Australian design and build to an off-the-shelf foreign option.

South Australia is angling for as much local design and build input as possible to get more jobs and investment and Mr Weatherill says that the state is now positioned for “immense” investment.

The ageing Collins Class submarines have been beset by criticism that their propulsion systems are too loud and prone to breakdown. One expert has likened it to an “underwater rock concert”.

Mr Smith said the future sub project, which would create thousands of jobs in SA, was to be the “largest and most complex Defence project ever undertaken by Australia” but came with significant risks.

The new Outer Harbor testing site would help reduce these risks.

“Regardless of the submarine design option that is ultimately chosen, the establishment of the Land Based Test Site will significantly reduce the risk of delay and cost blow-outs,” Mr Smith said.

“This facility will address some of the potential risk areas for the future submarine. (It) will also help ensure that challenges encountered from the maintenance of the Collins Class fleet are addressed.”

Independent reports estimate the cost of the 12 future subs at $36 billion. Further work is to be done on the “form and function” of the program, which will also include investment in research and development with further details to be revealed next year.

WA and Victoria are also to take part in the program, but the main testing site will be at Techport.

Premier Jay Weatherill said building the propulsion test site in Adelaide was a significant step.

“It is building an irresistible case for SA to be the base of the future submarine project,” he said.

“The significance of this project cannot be underestimated – when it goes ahead it will be the largest government procurement project Australia has seen and potentially worth tens of billions of dollars.

“Building a submarine has been described as being as complex as building a spaceship, so the jobs, investment and skills a project of this magnitude would bring to South Australia is immense.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Federal Government to make the Future Submarine project a reality to SA.”

SA Defence Industries Minister Jack Snelling met federal officials in January to make the case for a propulsion testing site and said he was prepared to back the bid with funding.

Other states, including WA and NSW, were expected to start a bidding war for the facility.

The federal and state governments have not revealed how much is being contributed to the build. Defence Teaming Centre chief executive Chris Burns has previously pushed for construction of a propulsion testing facility at Techport, arguing it could be used to test and repair propulsion systems for other boats. Many small manufacturers in SA build propulsion system components.

The test site may attract new projects to bridge the so-called “valley of death” looming in 2017. That is the gap between the end of the Air Warfare Destroyer program and the beginning of future submarine construction, expected in 2020 or later.

Industry figures fear the lack of work in that time will lead high-skilled workers to leave the state and create extreme costs in recruiting when work later ramps up on the future submarines.

Source – Herald Sun

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