15 Februari 2010
Collins class (image : Navynews)
TWO of Australia's six trouble-wracked Collins class submarines will not return to sea until they have been of action for a total of at least nine years.
The revelation is another blow to the reputation of Australia's multi-billion dollar submarine fleet, which has been dogged by problems since HMAS Collins was launched in 1996.
It was also revealed yesterday that the federal government is demanding $5 million in compensation from the Australian Submarine Corporation over defects that have kept HMAS Collins incapacitated.
Under the contract with the government, which is worth $170 million a year to the corporation, that is the maximum compensation payable, a senate estimates committee heard.
Questioned by the Coalition defence spokesman, David Johnston, the Chief of Navy, Russ Crane, admitted that HMAS Rankin had been inoperable for two years and would be for another three years. Similarly, the sister ship HMAS Sheean had been laid up for two years and would not put to sea for another two years, Vice-Admiral Crane said.
HMAS Farncomb was recalled to port last week after a generator failure, while HMAS Collins is on restricted operations because of problems with its diesel engine.
Of the remaining two submarines, HMAS Dechaineux is undergoing maintenance and is supposed to be operational next month, while HMAS Waller is the only operational submarine, and will set sail tomorrow from the HMAS Sterling naval base in Western Australia.
Vice-Admiral Crane said the navy hoped to have three operational submarines in the water by mid-year, with HMAS Collins slated to set sail with HMAS Farncomb's crew in May.