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likely to rise. Collins is on the rising edge of the
wear out failure curve shown in Figure 2.
It is difficult to understand how Defence
assessed the money being spent on Collins to be
value for money. In fact, when Defence was asked
in at Estimates how they determined they were
getting ‘value for money’ they were unable to
provide a clear answer.
Figure 3 shows the dilemma (note that Defence
stopped providing availability figures post
The French recently signed an AUD$635M
(EUR$500M) sustainment contract with DCNS for
their six SSNs for five years. This contract includes
one nine month intermediate refit and three 18
month “complete overhauls”. The French always
have three SSNs available and get about 200 days
of availability from each of them. The sustainment
costs for a French SSN are AUD$22M per boat
per annum. Australia will pay $81M per boat on
sustainment this year; the submarines will get
significantly less availability, with 3 years full cycle
docking (FCD) periods not assisting in this regard.
Compared to ASC’s 900,000 work-hour three
year FCD, ASPI reports that “a typical European
conventional submarine undergoes a 10–12
month full-cycle docking entailing less than
200,000 work-hours every eight years”.
When the fixes recommended by Coles and a
submarine life extension program are added, costs
are going to rise even further.
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that
Coles fixes can be implemented or that a life
extension program will be successful; surely if the
Collins Class could be “fixed” and made reliable
they would have been by now noting we have
owned these submarines for over twenty years
and already dedicated a disproportionate of the
Defence budget to their upkeep.
The situation is untenable.
Australia’s submarines are costly.
They are expensive to maintain, their
unreliability has eaten away at ADF
submarine warfare and ASW acumen
and, from a personnel perspective, the
continued struggle to keep the boat at sea
has been moral sapping.
By 2016 it is highly likely that Australian
taxpayers will be spending more than
a billion dollars per annum to have a
submarine force. For this price there it
is likely that the submarines will still not
meet availability expectation and will,
unquestionably, be behind with respect
Decisive action needs to be taken. In
considering our position we must move
away from specific platforms and focus
on the capability need. More specifically
the ADF has a genuine requirement for a
submarine capability; they do not have a
genuine requirement for the Collins Class
specifically. The impending capability
gap must be staved off, whilst ensuring
“efficient, effective and economical”
expenditure of Commonwealth resources.
The solution many are deducing appears
to be an interim MOTS submarine
program in conjunction with ‘euthanizing’
the Collins Class submarines.
Continuing down the current path
places national security at risk and is
nothing short of being cavalier with the
taxpayer’s hard earned money. APDR
Figure 3 – Submarine Sustainment Costs vs. Availability
The reality is that, after spending money extending the life of Collins, the RAN will be left
with submarines that have a significant capability disadvantages compared with regional
submarine and ASW capability
The French recently signed
an AUD$635M (EUR$500M)
sustainment contract with
DCNS for their six SSNs for
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