Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR June 2017 Contents 36 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter JUNE 2017
particular that applies in the area of our conventional
submarines. We have a situation now where one
very large conventional class leads to an even larger
conventional class. There's a lot of evolution in the
technologies, and also understanding how best they
can be utilised. I think that's a key part of looking at
this domain – it needs to be viewed as an evolution
KB: I'm just a little bit surprised at what I perceive
to be the drawn-out timescales on SEA 1000. I
thought it would be possible to do it a little bit
quicker - it just still does look like a very long time
before the capability becomes available.
Chris Jenkins: I can understand your perspective.
I think as for difference in speed to define and finalise
the requirement or how the programme will go it is
important to remember that this is a unique platform.
Just as Collins was unique - it was an evolution of
another vessel but a significant evolution in scale. The
Shortfin Barracuda is, again, a unique solution so in
most of the other big Navy programmes we've been
capitalising on large chunks of pre-existing technology.
Of course many changes have been made with
elements that are adapted to Australia's specific needs.
However, I think with SEA 1000 there is a lot more
newness to it – so to speak - and there is a lot more
innovation, uniqueness in the solution.
I think the good book always tells us spend a bit
more time up front in the planning before you get into
cutting metal and executing the build, particularly on
something new like SEA 1000. It does tend to make a
lot of sense in the long run so I can understand people
seeing a different rate of progress on this compared to
some of the other larger maritime or other programmes
generally - but it is a special case. It is a very important
solution that has levels of complexity throughout it. I
think people are spending the right amount of time and
that's probably not such a bad thing.
KB: One more on Collins because as we know it
will be around for quite a while. What are the plans
with the sonar suite? Are you looking at some point
replacing the arrays with a newer generation of
Chris Jenkins: Yes - there's a capability
assurance programme for Collins which basically
makes sure that the submarine is staying at a peak
level of performance - whether it's in the sonars or
the other equipment on board. We're involved in the
sonar aspect of it but I'm not going to get into much
more detail than that. As you'd expect, it's a reasonably
sensitive area of endeavour. The capability upgrade or
capability assurance programme for Collins, given that
Collins has considerable more time in its future and an
increasing number of submarine threats in the region,
Collins needs to be kept at a peak - and we're very
happy to be involved in that with Defence as we have
been in the last 30 years of the Collins story.
KB: OK – moving on. The F90 rifle - which I've had
a good look at - is something that the Australian
Army says is an excellent product. But I noticed
several months ago that in France they took what I
thought was a strange decision for their Army to go
to Heckler & Koch for their next generation rifles.
Did the French have a look at the F90 at all?
Chris Jenkins: Yes, but the different
requirements, because the bullpup design of the F90
didn't meet the specification that the French were
looking for and so we didn't compete. It's a bit like
the situation we sometimes encounter with vehicles.
People see a vehicle with four wheels and they think
it's the same as a Hawkei, or it's the same as this or
that. Not surprisingly there are a lot of vehicles out
there with four wheels and it’s possible to assume
that they have all been built for the same set of
requirements. Of course that isn’t really the case,
as you would know. A vehicle like Hawkei suits the
requirements for programmes that have an absolutely
mandatory need for soldier protection – and very high
levels of protection at that. The F90 meets a particular
requirement that is for a very, very high level of
performance accuracy. The bullpup design - and that's
certainly been satisfying the Australian Army - doesn't
necessarily meet all the requirements or specifications
that other defence forces put out.
KB: That makes sense. Now on a related topic -
ammunition. I didn't realise that France gave up
production of 5.56mm ammo and I think 7.62mm
as well. Do you see an opportunity to get into that
market on the ammunition side of things?
Chris Jenkins: Yes, we're exploring that. It's
one of those areas that is not known by many -
but Australia undertakes very important and quite
incredible research and development into small
arms munitions. The 5.56mm rounds we produce,
the propellant we use in it is Australian intellectual
property and has a very significant performance
advantage in terms of thermal stability and accuracy
in all temperature ranges. It is an incredibly important
capability for Australia to hold and we think it's
something that other countries should be looking into
and maybe working with Australia on. France is one of
those countries we're working with at the moment so
it's being explored for sure.
KB: Rather than importing from Australia, would it
be feasible if they wanted a production line set up.
Could Thales do that? I mean, you own the IP and
you own a lot of real estate in France. Or is that
getting too speculative at all?
Chris Jenkins: Speculative but I think a lot of
countries are looking for that as a sovereign capability.
They see the importance of having an independence of
action around their supply and as Australia has done
Five Collins Class submarines alongside Diamantina Pier, Fleet Base West, with submarine crews, Submarine Force
Headquarters, and additional submarine support staff.Credit: CoA / Ben During
29/05/2017 3:16 PM
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