Collins Class submarines set for a longer life


Stephen Smith

Defence Minister Stephen Smith, visiting a shipbuilding yard in Adelaide, says the Collins Class submarines could keep operating until 2038.

THE life of the navy’s Collins Class submarines may be extended to 2038, with the federal government claiming the boats’ performance can be significantly improved within three years to meet new performance targets.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith released the second part of the Coles report in Adelaide today, which concludes that achieving “acceptable availability and reliability” of the Collins fleet can be achieved by 2016.

Mr Smith said that extending the life of the notoriously problematic boats would not delay the building of the navy’s new submarine fleet, which is slated to begin service in 2036.

“There is nothing in the reports today which would cause us to put off the build of the future submarine program,” Mr Smith said at the ASC shipbuilding yard in Port Adelaide.

“On the contrary, there is a lot of information in the Coles review which will be of assistance to our decisions on the future submarine program.”

Mr Smith said a final decision on which submarine option Defence would choose for the new fleet would be made by 2017, but dismissed criticism of a potential $36 billion cost for an Australian built and designed fleet.

“We continue to exhaustively assess all of the options – all of the options are an off-the-shelf submarine, an off-the-shelf submarine modified, a derivative of the Collinsor a brand new design,” he said.

“The only option we have ruled out is a nuclear-powered option.”

The potential to extend the life of the Collins Class boats for an additional seven-year operating cycle would mean that the ageing vessels would be available to the navy through from 2031 until 2038.

However Mr Smith cautioned that the potential extended lifespan was a finding “on paper”.

“I say on paper because by that time we will be dealing with an ageing platform or an ageing submarine.”

“(But) it gives us confidence that we can do the work on the future submarine program and not have a gap in capability,” he said.

The second part of the Coles Review, which was received by the government in June, recommends new availability targets for the six-boat fleet, which would ensure two submarines are available 100 per cent of the time, three submarines available 90 per cent of the time, and four submarines available 50 per cent of the time.

The review includes 25 recommendations for meeting the new availability targets and says that previous expectations for availability had been overly optimistic.

“The performance of Collins Class submarines can be substantially improved,” Mr Smith said.

“Once the Collins is in the water, it is a very good and effective submarine, what we need to do is get it in the water on a more regular basis.”

Mr Smith said Adelaide-based ASC, which was allocated an additional $700 million in May this year to sustain the Collins Class submarines, would be able to meet the new availability targets with its current resources.

The government also announced today that a future submarine land-based test site would be built in Adelaide at an approximate cost of $100 million to test systems for the future submarines.

However, Mr Smith said the government was still working through the details for the project’s funding, which would be found within the existing Defence budget.

Source – The Australian

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