15 April 2011

Australian Defence Force Must Build Submarines, Says Analyst

15 April 2011

HMAS Waller, one of Collins class submarine (photo : Defense Industry Daily)

Plea to build subs now or risk gap in defences

AUSTRALIA must kick-start the building of 12 new long-range submarines or risk a gap in its maritime defences, a defence analyst says.

The submarines were announced as a replacement for the Collins class vessels as part of the 2009 Defence White Paper, but the project has since been ''marking time'', Andrew Davies of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says in a paper.

''To those close to the world of submarine design and operations, the clock was already ticking in 2009.

''The lead-time to design, build, test and evaluate a new submarine is likely to be 15 years or more, about the same as the remaining life expectancy of the Collins fleet. Time is already running out.''

Dr Davies said that if the building of the submarines began now, the 12th would not be delivered until the 2030s, which is roughly the same time the Collins class are due to be decommissioned.

The Collins class itself is an example of the way submarine schedules can blow out, with the sixth and last vessel delivered 21 years after the decision to build was made.

Dr Davies said there might be a temptation within government to hold off on building the submarines, a project that could cost $36 billion, as the Collins class appear to be coming out after a long phase of ''severe mismanagement'', but that would be a mistake.

''However, that approach runs the risk of leaving a significant gap between the eventual run-down of the Collins fleet and the introduction of its replacement. And we've been there before.''

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