Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2016 Contents Originally it was the preferred position of the
Department of Defence to make concurrent
announcements of the design partner and
CSI. However, that was overtaken by events with the
Government desperate to shore up its base in South
Australia prior to the Federal election and rushing the
decision about the platform choice in favor of DCNS.
This meant that all Departmental resources were
switched to analysing platform issues and for a time
the matter of the combat system was put to one side.
If there is one lesson that must be learned from the
Collins program it is this: never undertake a high risk
platform development with a high risk combat system.
By all means do one, but not both. Much of the public
criticism of Collins – echoes of which continue today
– c oncerned issues of noise and reliability, particularly
of the diesel generators. However, by far the most
serious problem was with the combat system choice.
Mechanical issues can be fixed over time – as has
proven to be the case – but if the software architecture
of a system is fatally flawed then the only choice is to
For Collins the choice of combat system supplier
was between the exceptionally well credentialed
Dutch company Signaal (now part of Thales) with a
conventional approach and Rockwell from the U.S .
with a highly innovative but unproven solution. Privately
the two platform designers – Kockums of Sweden and
HDW from Germany – were far more comfortable with
the notion of working with Signaal. However, their
views were never sought because the RAN conducted
a completely separate evaluation of the combat system
preferring the Rockwell bid.
There was some hubris in this because in the
late 1970s the RAN itself had commenced a very
successful upgrade of their six Oberon class boats
with something called the Submarine Weapons
Update Program. This involved a small number of
Australian as well as U.S . companies, particularly
Singer Librascope. In retrospect this led to a massive
level of overconfidence on combat system issues
and the RAN specified a product not only at the
leading edge of technology but which relied on a
software architecture that submariners in the U.S .
and independently Britain and France – realised was
Even worse in the early years of the program, the
winner Kockums – who quickly established the prime
contractor ASC in Adelaide – was kept completely in
the dark as to what Rockwell was up to. Elements
of the combat system were well defined with the
sonar suite being supplied by Thomson Sintra of
France (now part of Thales) and masts (including
the periscope) going to various well credentialed
suppliers. However, the heart of it all in the form of
the work being undertaken by Rockwell was hidden
from view, with even the RAN only receiving limited
exposure to progress.
This led to the extraordinary situation that in 1993
that Rockwell – seven years after being selected as
the combat system supplier – announced to Navy and
ASC that they not be delivering the software that they
had been paid handsomely to develop. Even worse,
they effectively said they had no idea when it would be
ready – and everyone would just have to wait and see.
This came as a complete shock to everyone – and
the Department of Defence in particular went into full
panic mode because up until that point everyone had
been singing for the “on time, on budget” songsheet.
In retrospect a decision should have been taken
immediately to terminate Rockwell’s contract – which
was the preferred position of ASC – but this was
unacceptable to RAN and the Department of Defence
hierarchy, principally because such a decision would
have reflected badly on those responsible for the
original high risk choice.
Instead Defence opted for a series of interim
KYM BERGMANN // CANBERRA
COMBAT SYSTEM INTEGRATOR
Any analysis of the competition for the SEA 1000 Combat System Integrator (CSI) risks being overtaken by an announcement
of whether Lockheed Martin or Raytheon have been chosen for this critical function. It is understood that the National Security
Committee of Cabinet has been briefed on the issue and now it is simply a matter of time for the Government to go public. The two
companies completed their contributions to the Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) in April and since that time have heard very
little about progress.
Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, USS Albuquerque (SSN 706), and Collins-class submarine HMAS Rankin, in the
waters off Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Credit: CoA / Julianne Cropley
24 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter OCT 2016
22/09/2016 4:58 PM
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