Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR November 2016 Contents 40 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter NOV 2016
future submarine contract defies logic. The
Department darkly mutters that it does not have
the resources – meaning people and money – to
support two parallel design efforts. Well, it should
find them. Money is not a real problem at a time
of increasing Defence budgets and skilled people
can be hired. Anyway, the extent to which the
Department needs oversight of the design process
is unclear and might well have been exaggerated.
The German designer TKMS would like to
continue in this role, though it appears to have
burned some bridges with Defence for not meekly
accepting their decision to go with DCNS.
Another logical choice would be to bring the
designer of the Collins Class Saab-Kockums back
into the game. They should never have been excluded
and this decision seems to have been based on
personal prejudice on the part of some Australians
rather than a detailed, methodical assessment of
the company’s capabilities. Not only will Saab-
Kockums remain active in Australia for at least the
next 20 years supporting the existing submarine
fleet, they have already done a great deal of work
on a New Generation Collins – an effort partly
funded by Defence itself. To continue developing
this design could be done very cost effectively with
little oversight needed from Defence.
The company is constructing the A26 Class
in Sweden, which is far too small for Australian
requirements – but it is actually the only new
conventional submarine being built in the western
world. All other diesel-electric submarines being
produced by the likes of Germany and France
have designs from the 1980s or at best the 1990s,
whereas the Swedes were able to begin with a
fresh sheet of paper.
In turning its back on the three decades of
experience gained designing, constructing and
improving the Collins Class the RAN has taken
a uniquely backward approach to SEA 1000.
Other nations that wish to get into the business
of submarine building do it the same way: select
a design; build it locally and then use that as the
basis for the next class and then the one after that.
A good example is South Korea, which started
acquiring submarines from Germany in parallel
with the Collins program. In the same time as
Australia produced six Collins Class, South Korea,
using a rolling program, was well on the way
to building three classes of progressively more
modern submarines with increasing amounts of
South Korea now has 15 modern diesel electric
submarines in service – and is building two or three
(depending on who you speak with) for Indonesia.
Even more importantly, the country will soon start
constructing nine ultra modern, 3,000 tonne long
range ocean going attack submarines – not bad
for a country that, like Australia, had no previous
submarine building expertise.
Contrast that with what is happening with SEA
1000 – basically Australia has decided to start all
over again. A more wasteful and risky approach
could not be imagined. It is a policy failing of
enormous dimensions and unless corrected could
leave the nation extremely vulnerable. There is still
time to correct this mistake and continue with the
concept of a New Generation Collins – at the very
least this would provide the nation with a more than
acceptable fallback position if for whatever reason
DCNS is unable to come up with a suitable package
for a reasonable price.
The RAN might also want to use the Collins
Class to start testing some new technologies – and
the best place to begin would be to fit some or
all of them with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP).
Preliminary work has been done on this based on
Swedish Stirling external combustion technology.
This is found not only on Swedish submarines, but
also those of Japan and Singapore.
For reasons that are opaque, unlike every other
navy the RAN seemingly would prefer to go to
sea with an extra 500 tonnes of baked beans than
in a submarine capable of sustained under water
endurance. The time has come to start using Collins
as a test bed for this type of technology to show –
or disprove – just how important AIP is. Because
the Collins will need to receive major upgrades to
keep them going until SEA 1000 delivers a product
well into the 2030s these refit periods could be
used for installing an AIP section, as well as other
(The author worked with Saab for the period 1998
2005, much of it on the Collins program)
At this point it is worth raising once again the notion of strategic
risk because of the Department’s policy of ending the competitive
process and selecting a single designer so early in the piece.
Perhaps in their hearts the RAN has looked at the AWD methodology
and decided to ignore the lessons learned because they still
secretly yearn for a bigger ship – even one that would be delivered
ten years late and be multiple billions of dollars over budget.
HMAS Dechaineux manoeuvres into position above the safe bottoming area in preparation to sink to bottom
of Cockburn Sound and conduct a Disabled Submarine (DISSUB) exercise during Ex Black Carillon 2016.
Credit: CoA / Bradley Darvill
25/10/2016 9:46 AM
Links Archive APDR October 2016 APDR Dec16/Jan17 Navigation Previous Page Next Page