Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2010 Contents 22 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
he acquisition strategy for SEA 1000 – the Collins Class
submarine replacement project – can logically take two paths.
The first is for Australia to develop a new class of submarine; the
second is to procure a military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) product
with some changes to meet local requirements. Of course there
can be some blurring between the two because if an existing design is
sufficiently altered then in essence it becomes a new submarine – a lesson
that should have been learned with the Collins Class.
There are several MOTS submarines in service but realistically the two
that might be available for Australia are the German HDW Type 214 and
the French DCNS ‘Scorpene’. Two other submarines will meet the MOTS
classification within the SEA 1000 timeframe and they are the Spanish
Navantia S-80, currently under construction, and the Swedish Kockums /
HDW A26, which has been ordered and is in the design stage.
Of these four submarines, the largest is the S-80 which will have a
maximum displacement of 2,400 tonnes. The Royal Australian Navy has
always maintained a preference for a large conventional submarine based
largely on the argument that size correlates directly to vital operational
requirements such as range and endurance. Before detailing other features
of the S-80 it is worth examining these features because they can be
somewhat fuzzy and misleading.
The range of a submarine is determined by the amount of fuel it carries
and uses. Just like a car, the sheer size of the fuel tank is not itself a guide
to range – as any driver of a Toyota Prius (such as the author) is aware. A
large submarine can carry more diesel but it also needs more energy to
push it through the water. Another factor influencing range is the way the
submarine is operated – having extremely long range but at an extremely low
speed might not be an operationally desirable formula. Having mentioned
this, the stated range of the S-80 is 12,500 nautical miles at 4 knots (even this
qualified by the hotel load, the frequency of snorting etc), reducing to 11,700
nautical miles at 9 knots and so on. This is comparable with the Collins
Class and while some commentators have called for the new submarines to
have even greater range the justification for this looks flimsy.
In other words a large submarine does not necessarily have greater range
than a smaller one and it may transpire that something of a displacement
of 2,400 tonnes – or even less than that – will meet Australia’s range
Turning to endurance, this is simpler to work out than range because this
is a matter of calculating how many days the submarine can remain at sea.
This relates to the amount of supplies that can be carried on board relative
to the size of the crew and in this case the S-80 has enough for in excess of 50
days. This is with a crew of 32 and an additional 8 special forces personnel.
If just the basic crew were on the submarine its endurance would be
considerably greater. This relatively small crew size – a highly desirable
feature – is due in no small part to a high level of system automation.
This again is comparable with Collins. It is also worth pointing out that
because of continuing reliability problems not a single Collins Class has
ever been able to stay at sea for its specified maximum endurance. Again,
it can be concluded that it is more than possible that a submarine such as
the S-80 will have endurance similar or perhaps greater than that of the
On the 31st of May this year the RAN’s Future Submarine Project
Director, Rear Admiral Rowan Moffit was asked in the Senate whether to
meet the requirements set out in the Government’s Defence White Paper,
the Collins Class replacement would need to be a bigger design of around
4,000 tonnes. He replied: “There are submarines in existence or in design
today which can come very close in some respects to answering all of
those questions and which are not 4,000 tonne submarines.”
He added: “The difficulty that we confront in simply comparing some of
these things against the stated white paper objective, is that we are looking
at technologies which are not well developed today and which we need to
understand the development path for, so that we can know what sort of
increased capabilities might be available to us from them, in the event they
reach a level of maturity that makes them available to us.”
What a large submarine tends to have over a smaller one is internal
volume and therefore a larger payload and possibly increased crew
the SEA 1000 dark horse?
CARTAGENA & CANBERRA
Artist’s impression of the S-80 Credit: Navantia
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