Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Oct 2013 Contents 28 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter oct 2013
torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.
“In Australia it looks like a similar pattern is
emerging, with the Collins Class at around 3,000
tonnes. Looking to the future, if you take into
account factors such as design margins, builder’s
margin, through life margins, margins to ensure
reserves of buoyancy, reserves of power and so
on – these things are combining to push the size of
the submarine in one direction, and that is upwards
towards a slightly larger submarine.
“How you keep control of these various factors is
the question – and it is an absolutely vital one. Let me
illustrate with the Vanguard Class, which were built
to replace the first nuclear Polaris missile carrying
submarines. The Vanguard’s are the UK’s strategic
deterrence. The Vanguards are basically a Trafalgar
Class cut in half with the missile section placed in
between the two parts - and with a different reactor.
The missile section was jointly designed by the UK
and the US around the Trident D-5 .
“Having come up with the basic concept of what
the Vanguard Class would look like, what we then
did was to keep absolute iron control of that design.
The decision was taken not to make any changes
once the design drawings were being produced.
This meant that within the Ministry of Defence we
were actually quite careful to closely hold information
about design margins in case anyone would be
tempted to start adding things in. Interestingly, that
also happened to an extent on Astute – but here the
outcome was different.
David Gould explained that the current Astute
Class started its conceptual life as a Batch 2
Trafalgar Class, which as we have noted earlier is
some 2,000 tonnes smaller. The new submarines
were intended to be a disciplined evolution of the
Trafalgars. However, because there was a lengthy
gap – about 20 years - between the two classes
many of the people with relevant knowledge had left
or retired. This meant that the process of designing
Astute followed a different set of principles with more
capability being added in during the detailed design
stage – and hence its larger size. He added:
“So it might be said that perhaps we didn’t keep
enough control at the time over the process – as
good a submarine as Astute is. There always comes
a point in design where you want to add in some
growth potential and that needs to be managed.”
We then discussed the history of the Collins
program and the importance of having the right sort
of prime contractor. Mr Gould continued:
“It is early days for Australia’s future submarines and
SEA 1000, though we now need to be considering
a number of important issues. The Government has
stated that this project is really about Australia taking
sovereign control over its submarine capability, so
that all of issues about intellectual property are
sorted out early on in the project – at the front end,
rather than the back end.
“That is the key - being able to start a process of
designing a submarine in Australia even if many of
the techniques and disciplines have to be imported".
That enables you to take a basic design and
subsequently evolve it. That does not mean that you
have to start with something difficult – it might be
best to begin the exercise with a relatively mature
design – but you need to bring that capability to
We discussed various aspects of the Collins
program and the author’s experience in being
involved in the attempt by the prime contractor
the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) –
to place the combat system supplier Rockwell in
default for non-performance. This occurred in 1993.
ASC and especially one of shareholders Kockums
of Sweden – who were also the designers of the
submarine – had become increasingly nervous about
the ability of Rockwell to meet their delivery dates.
However, because of the way the contract had
been constructed, ASC had no visibility of what
Rockwell were doing, who reported directly to the
Commonwealth – that is to the RAN project office.
When ASC commenced legal proceedings to
safeguard their own position – and importantly that
of the Commonwealth – they were shouted down
by Defence, with threats being dished out along
the lines that Kockums in particular would never do
another dollar of business in Australia if the notice of
default went ahead. In reality, ASC had little choice
but to cave in to the threats and say effectively: “you
have let Rockwell off the hook – so now it is your
problem.” The consequences of this are being felt
to this day.
We also discussed the design of the Collins Class,
which continued to change even during the build
phase. Anyone who has viewed the original Kockums
471 Class (as the Collins was then known) could
only be impressed by its sleek lines. To give but one
example: at a relatively late stage the RAN decided
that they wanted a much larger cylindrical array
located on the bow, giving the Collins its inelegant
bulbous nose appearance.
David Gould continued:
“Quite a lot of Collins changes were made late in
the iterations of the final design – and we are living
with the consequences of that process. What I would
like to develop is an approach where we recognize
HMAS Rankin (SSG 78) sits pierside at Naval Base Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii. Credit: USN / Bradley J. Sapp
We also discussed the design of the Collins Class, which
continued to change even during the build phase.
19/09/13 9:52 AM
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