Tag Archives: Collins Class

Australia Reviews Plan to Double Submarine Fleet

Decision to Revisit $32 Billion Purchase Comes as Asian Neighbors Bulk Up Military Muscle

The first of Australia’s six Collins class submarines hitting the water at Port Adelaide in 1993; Australia is reviewing a plan to replace its fleet with 12 new subs at a cost of more than $30 billion.

CANBERRA, Australia—Australia will review plans to double its fleet of submarines, with the new conservative government under pressure to rein in its budget even as Asian neighbors dramatically ramp up military spending.

Defense Minister  David Johnston  said he was unconvinced that Australia needed as many as 12 new conventional submarines currently foreseen by military planners. It comes as regional neighbors, led by China, build up their naval and air arsenals amid disputes over territorial waters, especially in North Asia.

At a cost of up to 36 billion Australian dollars (US$32.28 billion), doubling the submarine fleet would be the country’s largest single military purchase.

“It’s a mystery to me [where that number of 12 came from],” said Mr. Johnston, who has called for a review of military-equipment spending as part of a yearlong strategic planning process launched by the conservatives, who swept to power in September elections on a promise of fiscal restraint.

“That is a technical issue that the current circumstances will dictate and I want [the] navy to tell me what they foresee is the way forward. It might be more than 12, it might be less. I’m not sure,” he said in an interview.

Australia’s former Labor government in 2009 released a defense planning paper that called for a dozen large, conventionally powered submarines to replace the country’s existing six-boat fleet of Collins class submarines.

Although much larger than submarines operated by regional neighbors, the Collins class submarines have been plagued by technical problems. On Thursday, a fire erupted on the submarine HMAS Waller off the West Australian coast, Australia’s Defense Department said. There were no casualties.

A new fleet of larger, more powerful and longer-range submarines would counter a growing undersea presence in Asia. Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are fielding new submarines to counter threats to some of the world’s most important energy-trade routes, as well as to hedge against Chinese ambitions.

China in January sent a surface warship fleet—possibly backed by a submarine—into waters between Indonesia and Australia, demonstrating Beijing’s naval reach. The move prompted some alarm in Canberra, which sent a maritime patrol aircraft to keep watch.

Southeast Asian nations typically operate submarines of about 2,000 submerged tons, while Australia envisages boats of 4,000 tons or more, possibly equipped with submarine-launched cruise missiles for land attack and capable of deploying special-forces soldiers.

Australia’s submarine-replacement program, no matter how ambitious it turned out to be, wouldn’t add to regional rivalries, with the close U.S. ally having long fielded a small but highly capable military that was well respected regionally, Mr. Johnston said.

“For many, many years we have owned and operated the world’s largest conventionally powered submarine, so the neighborhood is well used to us having a large and unique diesel-electric submarine,” he said.

Australia already has embarked on an expensive buildup of military equipment, including two 27,000-ton amphibious assault ships, new attack and transport helicopters, guided-missile destroyers, tanks and Super Hornet strike and electronic attack aircraft.

Australia has a defense budget of some A$26 billion in the fiscal year to June, or 1.6% of gross domestic product. The government plans in the next few years to buy up to 100 F-35 Lightning joint strike fighters to provide radar-evading air power, at a cost of up to A$16 billion.

But the military has come under pressure to reduce costs as the world’s 12th-largest economy retreats from a mining boom, driving up joblessness and eating into government revenues. The government in December forecast budget deficits totaling A$123 billion over the next four fiscal year to June 2017, and said it would cut billions from spending.

Mr. Johnston said he was open to the idea of Australia’s far-flung Cocos islands, in the Indian Ocean southwest of Indonesia, being developed as a base for U.S. or Australian Tritons. But he said there was no proposal currently to upgrade the islands’ dilapidated airstrip to expand maritime reach, as Chinese vessels increasingly patrol further from home.

China’s growing assertiveness in the East China Sea and elsewhere was to be expected of any country with growing energy needs, Mr. Johnston said, including a demand for Australian oil and gas resources. China is Australia’s largest trading partner.

“They are hostage to the importation of food and energy. I think they would be dilatory were they not to want to protect those sea lanes,” he said. “I’m not reactive to these things that are happening in the South China Sea.”

Source – The Wall Street Journal

Aus – Collins one of the most capable conventional submarines

THE navy has defended its troubled Collins-class submarines, saying it had to identify properly all of their faults in a report to help determine whether their service life could be extended.

Defence said the Collins remained one of the most capable conventional submarines in the world despite a report, revealed in The Australian this week, that found 68 critical faults that could force the boats into early retirement.

The report by the Defence Materiel Organisation late last year found hopes of extending the life of the six Collins submarines until the 2030s when new submarines could be built would be “unachievable” unless urgent action was taken to fix major systems faults aboard each boat.It revealed that the submarines were getting hotter, heavier and noisier each year and detailed flaws in the diesel engines, command and control systems, periscopes, sonars and other key systems and equipment.

This contrasted with the sanitised public summary of the report given by the former Labor government that focused on a single sentence in the report saying that there was “no single technical issue” which would prevent the service life of the boats being extended.The report’s findings have left the new Coalition government with difficult choices about whether to attempt to extend the life of the submarine fleet or purchase or lease smaller submarines as an interim measure to ensure Australia continues to have submarines to defend it into the early 2030s.

Defence said the submarines were subject to a rigorous safety and certification system and were operated by a dedicated and well-trained team of officers and sailors.It said The Australian’s articles were based on “an internal report prepared by the Defence Materiel Organisation which examined the feasibility of extending the life of the Collins-class submarine”.

“The purpose of the report was to identify potential issues and risks that would need to be addressed to extend the life of the class,” Defence said.”This is a common and normal process to be followed if consideration is being given to the life-extension of any system. It was always expected that the report would identify systems that would require attention should a life-extension be required.”Defence said many of these were already known and some were being addressed in planned upgrades or through continuous improvement programs.”As with any risk analysis, a risk must first be identified before it can be assessed and determined whether controls will need to be put in place to manage the risk,” it said.Defence said there had been “significant improvement” in submarine availability over the past 15 months. It said its submarines were “busy operating domestically and as far afield as conducting exercises in Japan and Hawaii”.

“This is a testament to the hard work being conducted by all members of the submarine enterprise involved in the sustainment of the Collins-class submarine,” it said. The DMO report made it clear that any plan to extend the life of the Collins fleet would be high risk.

Source – The Australian

Coalition vows to build new Collins-class submarines in Adelaide

HMAS Dechaineux and HMAS Waller

Collins-class submarines HMAS Dechaineux and HMAS Waller on exercise off the Western Australia coast. Picture:

THE man most likely to be Australia’s defence minister in less than six months time has promised 12 new submarines will be built in Adelaide and indicated they will be designed here too.

Federal Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston today said the subs strategy unveiled in a defence white paper released last week by Prime Minister Julia Gillard is “what the Coalition accepts and will deliver”.

The Federal Government’s announcement contains no timelines, but says the new subs fleet will be built in Adelaide from a new design or as an updated version of the ageing Collins-class vessels.

Senator Johnston last week was highly critical of the idea of an evolved Collins.

However, in Adelaide today, he had softened his position.

Stephen Smith

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

“We will deliver those submarines from right here at ASC in South Australia,” he said.

“Right across Australia, there is only one place that has all of the expertise that’s necessary to complete one of the most complex, difficult and costly capital works projects that Australian can undertake.

“It’s ASC here in Adelaide. We believe that all of the expertise that is necessary for that project is here.”

SA Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said the announcement was “fantastic news”.

Julia Gillard on Collins-class submarine

Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks to Vice-Admiral Chris Richie and other official on the deck of a Collins-class submarine as she visits Australian Submarine Corp at North Osborne in South Australia. Picture:

Current polls show the Federal Opposition is likely to claim power on September 14.

Senator Johnston said he accepted the Federal Government was “taking the best available professional and technical advice” and that he would “be picking up … the cudgels for this project as fast as we possibly can”.

“We will have a plan that you can pick over, you can point to, you can see dates, times and money,” he said.

“I accepted the Minister’s down-selected to those two options, the evolved Collins and a new design.

“He’s said that … the military off-the-shelf option and a modified military off the shelf option will be, and he’s used a bit of a weasel word, he said they will be suspended. Now I don’t know what suspended really means.

“If everything that the Minister has said is based on fantasy, we’ll tell you and we’ll revisit this. But at the moment I believe he has accepted the best advice technically and professionally that he can.”

Source – Adelaide Now

Coalition torpedoes Collins submarine plan in Labor’s defence white paper _ Video Clip

White paper a ‘disaster’ for defence

Click on Picture for Video Clip

White paper a ‘disaster’ for defence

Greg Sheridan believes the government’s defence white paper lacks both operational and strategic sense.

BIPARTISANSHIP on defence policy has been fractured after the Coalition today ruled out a “Son of Collins” submarine, which Labor is keeping on the table in its latest defence white paper.

The white  paper released today rules out an off-the-shelf design for 12 new  submarines, which would be either a more highly-evolved version of the  existing Collins Class boats, or an entirely new, tailor-made, design.

The  paper also commits Australia to the purchase of 12 new “Growler”  electronic warfare fighter jets at a cost of $1.5 billion, while taking a  more conciliatory position on the rise of China than the previous  strategic blueprint in 2009, which warned against China’s growing  military might in the Asia Pacific region.

The document, released  today, rules out an off-the-shelf design for the new submarine fleet to  replace the trouble-plagued Collins Class boats.

“We’ve come to  the conclusion, as reflected by the white paper, that an off-the-shelf  submarine does not give us the strategic or the operational reach that  we need for Australia’s interests as a maritime country and continent,”  Defence Minister Stephen Smith said.

He said Australia had gained  intellectual rights to the Collins Class design, “so we’ll progress  that”, while the alternative was a wholly new design.

Whatever the design, the fleet would be built in South Australia and be installed with US combat systems.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston said a new design could present problems, but the Collins Class design should be avoided at all costs.

“You know, I wouldn’t want to go back near Collins if it was the last thing on earth that we had to do” he said.

“I think Collins has been a very expensive disaster.”

Minister Smith and Julia Gillard said the upcoming May budget would include a modest rise in defence spending, after last year’s cut.

Mr Smith confirmed the government aspired to lift defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP, subject to economic circumstances.

“What we have discovered over the time since then is it is very difficult, if not impossible, to map out precise funding for defence or any other area of government when you are facing changing economic and fiscal circumstances,” Mr Smith said.

“In this case, it is called the global financial crisis … the adverse consequences of which are ongoing,” he said.

Senator Johnston said the Coalition had a similar target, but it also had a plan to get there by lifting defence spending by 3 per cent a year.

He attacked the white paper for its lack of financial detail, saying the Coalition would redo the white paper in office, including the full cost of hardware procurement.

“What sort of a plan is this when the department cannot or is not permitted to put a dollar figure on any of these acquisitions?” he said.

“We have the biggest capital works program, not just in defence’s history but in commonwealth history, (and) there is no plan, no schedule, no money. So where does that leave 12 submarines?”

Defence Force Chief General David Hurley said he believed there had been a good budget process given the reality of the government’s fiscal position, which preserved defence capability into the future.

“I think this has been a good outcome for all,” he said.

The purchase of the 12 new Growler aircraft is a change of plan for the government, which had intended to refit 12 of its fleet of 24 Super Hornets as Growlers.

The government says that will not affect plans to buy around 100 fifth generation Joint Strike Fighters.

The government will also bring forward replacement of the navy’s Armidale Class patrol boats, which have been heavily used on border protection operations across Northern Australia.

Replacement supply ships may be built in Australia to replace HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success.

The white paper makes no commitment to acquiring a fourth air warfare destroyer.

Neither does it make a firm decision on long-running proposals to acquire long-range surveillance drones to watch over Australia’s northwest.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the white paper was a “long list of acquisitions without the money to pay for it”.

“The reality is this government talks a good game on defence, but defence spending as a proportion of GDP is at the lowest level since 1938,” Mr Abbott said.

But a leading defence analyst says the new white paper fixes some of the errors of the 2009 document and does a far better job of matching capability with available resources.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute defence capability expert Dr Andrew Davies said some unnecessary capabilities, such as offshore patrol combatant vessels, had gone, while the number of Joint Strike Fighters had been scaled back from 100 to 72, with future governments able to opt for more.

“Resources and aspiration have come back closer. It remains to be seen whether they will match but it’s certainly closer than it was four years ago. Let’s give credit where it’s due. This fixes some of the errors of the last one.”

Source – The Australian

Australian Navy considers Japan technology to repair submarine fleet – Radio Clip

Click on picture to hear the radio broadcast interview.

The Australian Navy says it hopes to secure a deal that would allow it to rebuild its troubled Collins-class fleet with Japanese submarine technology.
Aust Navy considers Japan technology to repair submarine fleet (Credit:  ABC)

The deal could postpone the spending of an estimated $40 billion to build 12 new submarines proposed by the Australian Government.

Australia’s Future Submarine project was discussed during the Australia-Japan Conference in Tokyo this month.

Presenter: Joanna McCarthy

Speaker: Alan Dupont, security specialist, University of NSW

DUPONT: Well it’s not a question of whether Australia wants it, Australia is looking to replace an existing fleet of Collins-class submarines and Japan is one of the options. And it could be an off-the-shelf Japanese design which is a Soryu class submarine, this is an advanced conventional submarine which the Japanese have only actually added to their fleet in the last three or four years, or it could be just some components of the system the Japanese use which might be compatible with our own requirements. So there are two options there and the Japanese Soryu class submarine of course would be considered along with other potential candidates, such as a German submarine which is comparable with lesser range, or in building the Collins-class follow-on submarines within Australia indigenously. So they’re the kind of options on the table for the government.

MCCARTHY: So the deal is far from done although it does have some high profile advocates in Tokyo. How likely do you think that it will go ahead?

DUPONT: Look I’d have to say at the moment it’s probably no better than a one in three chance of going ahead for two reasons; one is because it’s not clear yet what kind of submarine Australia’s going to end up with, and I suspect that will be dependent on the next government, which is as you are well aware there’s an election in six months. The other problem with the Japanese option is the constraints on the export of defence technology by the Japanese government. So this has prevented them from exporting submarines in the past and essentially all defence related technology they produce. However these constraints are actually being loosened and it appears the door is now open for potential cooperation with Australia on a range of defence technologies, including the submarine. But at the moment it’s still a little unclear as to where this is going to take us.

MCCARTHY: And assuming Japan does ease this ban that it’s had on defence technology, what’s in it for them?

DUPONT: Well there’s a lot in it for Japan. First of all they need to be world’s best practice in their defence sector too, and they can’t do it just confining themselves to their own capabilities, so cooperation with other partners with leading edge defence technologies is essential for the development for Japan’s own defence industry. Second, this has become much more important for Japan now as geo-political tensions are ratcheting up in north-east Asia, and particularly with China. So the Japanese are very concerned now about making sure that they can have the best technology possible for the development of their own defence force. So that means that they’re going to have to cooperate with friends and allies. Now previously Japan has had a pretty close relationship with the United States and has been able to export some of its own technology to the United States and receive some in return. But I think Japan is looking for other partners that it can do with and this is where Australia comes into the picture, because we are a leading edge country in many of these sectors as well, and there would be some benefits for Japan in building cooperation with Australia through the defence sector.

MCCARTHY: So it’s fair to say then that Japan sees strategic value in this kind of relationship with Australia, rather than it simply Australia being the only country lining up and asking to buy these subs?

DUPONT: Absolutely, you have to see it in the context of a broader more ambitious relationship between Japan and Australia which transcends the old trade relationship.

MCCARTHY: And if Japan’s motive here is about building strategic alliances to try and counter the growing might of China, what’s that going to mean for Australia’s relationship with China, how will they view these closer military ties between Canberra and Tokyo?

DUPONT: Yes well look there are some obvious sensitivities around all this, so even if it was technically feasible and politically feasible for Australia and Japan to do this in terms of their own domestic audiences, obviously both countries have to give consideration to the likely regional response, particularly that of China. But not only China, because other countries too might be a bit nervous about the implications. So I think all of this is doable and manageable, but there would have to be a considered political strategy, a narrative around this which would basically reduce and lessen any potential tensions with other countries, especially China.

Source – Radio Australia

Australian Submariners Documentary Part 1 of 12 (Video Clip)

12 part documentary series following the exploits of the Australian controversial Collins Class submarine

Part 1 of 12 

Featuring CO – Steve Hussey (EX RN Submarine Officer)

Source – Youtube

Australia – Nuclear not an option for next generation of submarines

Current – The Australian Collins-class submarine, HMAS Rankin (SSK 78), enters Pearl Harbor for a port visit after completing exercises in the Pacific region

By Paul Dibb

LATER this year, the government will make a decision to narrow the choice for Australia’s future submarines. Contrary to opinions expressed in The Weekend Australian (“Past sub mistakes make a case for going nuclear”, January 5-6) the preferred option will certainly not be a nuclear submarine.

And – contrary to recent views in other media – whichever submarines we choose, they will not be built overseas.

So why not get American nuclear submarines? As the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, has noted, the US has never exported or leased a naval nuclear reactor. The US will not simply hand over sensitive nuclear military knowledge, even to its close ally. The US ambassador has observed we don’t have a nuclear energy program and that unless we get that kind of infrastructure, “it’s very, very difficult to maintain any sort of other nuclear industries”. If you don’t have a nuclear industry, you don’t know how to operate nuclear submarines safely.

In the event of a safety problem with the nuclear reactor, who would fix it? Britain had exactly such a problem 12 years ago with one of its nuclear attack submarines, which had to spend 12 months in Gibraltar with a potentially serious leaking weld in the primary reactor circuit that involved partially draining the re-actor coolant. How would we cope with that sort of event in Fremantle if we didn’t have properly trained and experienced nuclear engineers?

The fact that we have no experience with nuclear propulsion means we would be totally dependent on the US for the submarines’ regular and safe maintenance. This could be a big problem if we ever wanted to use these submarines in a regional conflict where Australian and US interests were not aligned.

My understanding is that at the highest levels, the US has indicated very firmly to us that it prefersAustralia to have conventional submarines that can go places and do things that large nuclear submarines cannot do so easily. That was certainly my experience with Australian covert submarine operations in the Cold War.

Whichever submarine we choose, it will have a US combat system, which will give us a crucial operational advantage over potential regional adversaries. We are the only other country in the world to have the US AN/BYG-1 combat system and advanced US weapons such as the ADCAP Mark 48 torpedo on our Collins-class submarines. Washington will not allow European submarine builders to integrate such a highly secret capability in their shipbuilding yards. It would have to be done in Australia.

So what options does that leave us with? They are as follows:

We could simply buy a European military off-the-shelf solution, unmodified except for Australian regulatory and environmental requirements. That would be the cheapest solution. But if it was built in Europe, it would come with a European combat system that would give us no operational advantage over similar origin submarines that might be exported into our region.

A more attractive option would be to choose a significantly modified European vessel that would accommodate our requirement for greater range and endurance, given our demanding strategic geography. It is conceivable that were such a European submarine to be built in Australia, the US would agree to us integrating their combat system. That is clearly one option for consideration.

The third option is for an evolved Collins-class once the government is satisfied that the present operational problems of these submarines have been resolved.

The chief executive of Defence acquisition, Warren King, is of the view that important lessons have been learnt from building the Collins. The key lesson is that we can construct world-class submarines in Australia, but next time we will need to choose a proven combat system and propulsion.

The fourth option, which I consider to be highly unlikely, is to have a brand-new, large conventional submarine designed especially for us. That would be both the highest risk and cost and should not be considered.

Whichever submarine we choose, I do not believe we should calculate the number of boats we require based on highly unlikely scenarios of war with China. That was the fatal flaw in the 2009 Defence white paper. We require submarines optimised for our own strategic requirements, which means an operational area extending from the eastern Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and defending our vast maritime approaches.

The bottom line is that we need a submarine that is capable of supporting our sovereign requirement for independent submarine operations. The sort of money involved ranges anywhere from $10 billion to $30bn. That may suggest we end up with a preferred option and another option held in reserve as more reliable cost, schedule and technological risk data are developed.

Paul Dibb is emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. He is a former deputy secretary of Defence and director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation. He is an adviser to the SA government on defence policy issues.

Source – The Australian

Australia – Past submarine mistakes make a case for going nuclear

  • HMAS Dechaineux and HMAS Waller

RAN Collins-class submarines Dechaineux and Waller in an exercise off the West Australian coast. The fleet has been plagued with problems. Picture: Australian Defence Force Source: Supplied

Julia Gillard on Collins-class submarine

Julia Gillard is shown around a Collins-class submarine.

Virginia-class attack submarine

A US Virginia-class attack submarine, which could be leased.

ON Tuesday, the National Archives released the 1985 cabinet submission that led to the decision to build six Collins-class submarines in Adelaide. A key question is whether the lessons from that experience have been learned by the current government as it moves to buy a new class of replacement submarines for the navy. Continue reading

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

Stephen Smith to rule on submarine building – Australia

DEFENCE Minister Stephen Smith will make a significant announcement today about Australia’s naval capability.

The minister will release the long-awaited second volume of the Coles report on the sustainment of the Collins-class submarines, which is believed to be highly critical of past measures to keep the boats operational.

Mr Smith will say the issues the report raises have largely been fixed over the eight months he has had the report.

It is considered likely he will confirm that the navy’s promised 12 new Future Submarines will be built in Adelaide, at or near the Australian Submarine Corporation facilities.

A giant testing unit will enable close examination of the entire propulsion system for the new submarines before the systems are built into the Future Submarines. It is hoped this will ensure there is no repeat of the problems that emerged as the Collins submarines were developed.

Source – The Australian