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