Collins Class Submarines, HMAS Rankin (foreground), HMAS Waller (centre) and HMAS Collins transitting in formation through Gage Roads, Cockburn Sound. (photo : Aus DoD)
The Government has released several reviews into Australian submarines, including the Final Report of the Coles Review into Submarine Sustainment, and has announced plans for a new submarine testing facility for Adelaide.
Coles Review into Submarine Sustainment
The Government announced the Coles Review—a Study into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability—in August 2011.
John Coles, an expert from the United Kingdom, was commissioned to undertake the review and to develop a plan to improve management of Australia’s submarine fleet.
The Final Report of the Coles Review found that the Collins Class Submarine fleet of six was competently designed and is well crewed by the Royal Australian Navy.
However, there had been no proper sustainment system in place since the Collins Class entry into service in 1996.
Mr Coles observed that establishing the necessary logistical arrangements now and sustaining them into the future would be more challenging than if would have been to establish them when the Collins Class first entered service in 1996.
He found that submarines designed in the 1980s and 1990s, which conduct distant and long patrols, were maintenance heavy and spent around half of their lives in maintenance. An acceptable availability and reliability of the Collins Class could be achievable within about three years.
The Report made 25 recommendations to restore the Collins Class fleet to an international benchmark by 2016.
The Coles Review into Submarine Sustainment is available at:
Collins Class Service Life Evaluation Program
A study into the service life of the Collins Class Submarines has been completed.
The Collins Class was designed with a theoretical platform life of 28 years, which provides an indicative service life for the fleet of 2024 to 2031.
The Service Life Evaluation Program, undertaken by Defence, found there was no single technical issue that would prevent the Collins Class submarines from achieving their theoretical platform life, their planned withdrawal dates, or a service life extension of one operating cycle for the fleet—currently around seven years—excluding full cycle docking periods.
Improved management of the Collins Class following the Coles Review is expected to extend the operating cycle.
Four major Australian companies that are currently contracted to support the Collins Class Submarines assisted in the study and the United States Navy was engaged to independently review the key evaluation outputs.
The outcomes will also be included as part of the implementation of the Coles Review into Submarine Sustainment recommendations.
Submarine testing facility for Adelaide
The Government announced that a new facility for testing submarine systems, including propulsion, energy and integration technology, would be based in Adelaide.
In November last year, the Government commissioned a feasibility study into the establishment of a Submarine Propulsion, Energy, Support and Integration Facility, generally referred to as a Land Based Test Site.
The study was undertaken for the Future Submarine Program by Babcock Pty Ltd with input from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO). The study identified four functions that could be considered in a facility of this type:
-research and development;
-system integration testing;
-pre-build and assembly testing; and
The report found that a Land Based Test Site was essential and it should be located where these functions could be undertaken most efficiently and cost-effectively.
The specific details of the scope of the facility are still being considered. The Government has decided that the Land Based Test Site will be based in Adelaide, South Australia, where the Future Submarines will be assembled.
The Land Based Test Site will enable the submarines’ propulsion, energy and drive-train systems system to be integrated, tested and proved before being installed.
Elements of the facility will also be located in Western Australia, where Navy will have easy access for training purposes, and Victoria, where DSTO maritime specialists are based.
The Future Submarine project will be the largest and most complex Defence project ever undertaken by Australia.
The Land Based Test Site is expected to reduce the risk of delay and cost overruns, poor availability and increased operating and sustainment costs, loss of capability and the risk of a catastrophic accident caused by a failure of the power and energy systems.
The facility will also help with maintenance of the Collins Class fleet. More details about the test site will be announced next year.
Industry skills plan
In December 2011 the Government announced that the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) would develop a Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan to identify what is required to build and sustain the skills required to successfully deliver Australia’s Future Submarine capability.
The key findings of the Plan have been released including:
- the Australian shipbuilding industry is capable, but important white collar skills are spread thin;
- while some Australian companies can reach back into their parent international organisations for design work, our indigenous design capability for submarine and surface ships is weak;
- the current blue collar work force is limited, with production supervisors and electrical trades being the weakest skill areas; and
- the key to building these skills is a continuous ship building plan with long term, predictable work.
The Skills Plan was developed by a team led by the Chief Executive Officer of DMO, Warren King and was supported by an Expert Industry Panel headed by David Mortimer, AO.
The Expert Industry Panel consulted widely with state governments, Australian industry groups, academic organisations and think tanks to develop this Plan.
The Government will release the Plan and its response to the Plan next year.