March 7, 2016

Mid-life upgrade of the Collins class will be a real headache.

HMAS Rankin - probably at Fleet Base West - Rockingham, Western Australia. The Collins submarines have been extra-ordinarily problematic. Even after a mid-life upgrade systemic problems (eg. continuing diesel engine unreliability) are likely. HMAS Rankin may have had the most problems. APDR Reported "With reference to delays, it is worth mentioning at this point the history of HMAS Rankin – the 6th submarine in the series. She was launched 41 months late because in the late 1990s during her construction resources had already been diverted to making urgent improvements to other members of the Collins Class. Rankin started a prolonged period of maintenance in 2008 and is still out of the water and is likely to remain so until [2014] – an extraordinary absence of six years." (Photo of HMAS Rankin courtesy nachohat(dot)org).

In continuation of Submarine Matter’s article on the Collins mid-life upgrade issue of March 4, 2016 further information and comments are:

-  All foreign and Australian companies involved with the Collins mid-life upgrade will most probably need to work with ASC. ASC will likely have main carriage. This may have eventual impacts on blowout of Government cost estimates and extended timings Collins are out of the water being upgraded.

-  the Collins mid-life upgrades will occur while ASC is heavily involved completing the AWDs (see problems) (now due to be completed by 2020) and ASC will then be ramping up to build the Future Frigates (from 2020). A midlife Collins upgrade will be intricate. 

-  Mid-life upgrades to the Collins is of course not a start from clean-slate issue. There is a whole series of issues and costs in upgrading an old problematic submarine. Upgrades to the Collins may continue to be as many and as complex as reflected in Kym Bergmann’s comprehensive Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) article of May 6, 2013 - see .

-  Reflecting how over-committed Australia’s warshipbuilding programs will be in the early 2020’s (clashing with a mid-life upgrade for the Collins) see:

   =  Page 21 of the 2016 Defence White Paper (10MB): “The Government’s shipbuilding plans are based on long-term continuous builds of surface warships, commencing with construction in Australia of offshore patrol vessels from 2018 and future frigates from 2020.” The AWDs may be further delayed past 2020. And

   =  page 89 - 90, Table 6, Summary of key investment decisions from FY 2016-17 to FY 2015-26 of (5MB) which appears to be a spike in warship, submarine and naval aircraft spending.

The Government will suddenly need to accelerate Defence spending regardless of expected low revenue and heavy commitments for non-defence spending.

-  the alternative of steadily retiring 5 of the Collins (no mid-life upgrade) until 2030 should be considered. Given all those years HMAS Rankin (launched 2001 but in dry-dock 2008-2014) was out of the water it perhaps could remain operational to 2035. 

-  This is noting the last time Australian submarines fired torpedos in anger - was 1915 near Gallipoli. There were no Australian submarines operational during World War Two.

-  On the more usual intelligence collection function - there are other platforms and other countries' submarines that will continue to contribute.

-  Large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) launched from northern Australia may offer a new intelligence-collection solution. These could utilise the rapid advances in Lithium-ion batteries.

-  If a mid-life upgrade (perhaps on only two Collins) is done - perhaps better to have it done in Sweden. ASC will be too busy building the large warships anyway. Saab Kockums is doing mid-life upgrades of two of Sweden’s three Gotland class submarines. There is limited information on the upgrades (to occur in 2017?) on Saab’s website - more information would be useful.



Ztev Konrad said...

The whole defence program is bombast for the election and will be whisked away once the voting is done.
The 2% of GDP budget. The UK struggles to get to that point and it has a nuclear deterrent to pay for on top major commitments. The US value is 3.3% excluding secret programs.
Its like there is some with the forceful personality of a Rickover in the PMs office running the future submarine program come what may.

Anonymous said...

If this technology pans out, a lot of conventional submarines may be refitted with it:

Spanish company Graphenano claims Graphene Polymer batteries with triple the energy
density of lithium ion and commercialization by end of 2016:


It will also revolutionize electric cars.