April 6, 2017

Was the main problem of the Collins submarines in their construction?

While Australia is in the design phase of a revolutionary submarine class
 it may pay to avoid the pitfalls of the past.

The following is an edited version of a very interesting and much longer Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) article by James Harrap, REFLECTIONS OF A COLLINS SUBMARINE CAPTAIN written in Perth, published May 4, 2012.

In 2012 James was leaving the RAN “...having completed almost 20 years in the Royal Australian Navy, 15 of them as part of the submarine force, culminating in Command of submarines HMAS WALLER and HMAS COLLINS.

[THE GOOD]

"Military and naval capability is not, as many believe, resident only in the specifications of the hardware employed. Capability is a much more complex equation depending on: weapons, equipment, personnel, communications, command infrastructure, training and experience to name but a few.

Despite the problems I [will highlight below] our submarines deliver a significant capability and that this is because of the whole package, not just the platform but all other components as well. This could not happen without a solid commitment and strong leadership by government and the most senior levels of defence to sustain the capability. 

[THE BAD]

Submarines are highly complicated machines and being a submariner has always required a skilled blend of operator/technician unique within naval service; but the Collins Class has taken the technical arguments to a whole new level. The planned maintenance requirements are onerous enough but the constant stream of defects and operation control limitations makes getting to sea difficult, staying at sea harder and fighting the enemy a luxury only available once the first two have been overcome. The submarines have maintained an operational capability for most of the past 15 years, but that is often despite many aspects of the submarine’s design rather than because of it.

[AND JUST PART OF THE UGLY]

“Lack of available stores inventory, increased equipment failure rates and submarines living with reduced capability is something I expect will persist for the remaining life of the [Collins] Class.

... The seagoing workforce currently consists of three submarine crews with a desire to stand up a fourth as soon as practicable, each crew consists of about 60 officers and sailors of various skill sets and experience levels. 

...  Skills shortages here also impact on submarine maintenance schedules, work quality, availability and ultimately capability.

 Some components of the submarine are either not able to be changed or to do so would carry a prohibitive mix of risk and cost. The Collins Class has many components that we are simply stuck with for the life of the platform. For example the diesel generators fit into this category because of their size; unfortunately they are quite possibly the least reliable diesel engines ever built. They have been problematic throughout the life of the class and, despite some design modifications and improvements, are only kept running by ingenuity and sheer determination of the crews at sea and supporting contractors alongside. Because of components and immutable design issues such as these, Collins has a finite service life.

numerous advances have occurred in batteries, electric motors, air-independent propulsion, sonars and electro-optics – all of which have revolutionised submarine design even further...most advances can’t be retrofitted and the boat will most likely be so technically obsolete by 2022 that the credibility of the capability it offers will be seriously eroded.

China continues to build submarines at a rate unmatched anywhere in the world whilst the quality and capability of the Chinese submarine fleet increases faster than the nation’s GDP.

I don’t believe that the Collins Class are sustainable in the long term and many of the expensive upgrade plans which have been proposed would be throwing good money after bad. Though sustaining what we currently have is essential until we can get a replacement class of submarine commissioned.

Lack of platform reliability is the single most limiting factor for the Collins Class, let’s never repeat that mistake.


See the whole ASIA-PACIFIC DEFENCE REPORTER ARTICLE by James Harrap.

James Harrap (Photo courtesy Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter)
---

COMMENT/QUESTIONS

1.  Could constructing the Collins better in Adelaide have made a difference?

2.  Can their propulsion systems ever be fixed effectively?

3.  Is it true ASC workers during the Collins construction years (1993-2003) suffered no major
      accidents or incidents? 

Pete

27 comments:

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

the last sentence you cited is interesting but what James Harrap writes in the next sentence is far more essential. "A submarine capable of most of the tasking available most of the time is better than one that claims to do all of the tasking but is only available some of the time."

Collins class problem's described by Mr. Harrap are maintenance problems related to Collins class being an orphan class.

Conclusion: don't build an orphan class again.

Australian solution: Let's build another orphan class so expensive, spare parts only available on other submarines of its class...


Add 1.: No. The error is within the system and not the place where a piece of equipment is put together.

Add 2.: Yes. Cut the engine section away and add a Dophin2 class engine section.

Add 3.: ASC had no history for submarine building and therefor no experience maintaining submarines.

The Short Fin could be less orphan by using standard equipment e.g. reliable Diesel engines, inherited combat system, ...

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

China is upping the pace on submarine manufacturing in Bohai with likely other super factories to follow suit.
KQN

Anonymous said...

Pete,
Interesting comments on TLAM (Tomahawk) density with submarines at the end of this article. Will need a greater number of VLS.

http://navy-matters.blogspot.fr/2017/04/syrian-tomahawk-strike.html

KQN

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN

Seems the author of http://navy-matters.blogspot.fr/2017/04/syrian-tomahawk-strike.html has admitted he knows very little about the Missile Strike Syrian Airfield (MSSA). But then he quantifies and extrapolates to an excessive extent.

1. he seems unaware that Virginia Block Vs will soon be launched not with the limited 12 Tomahawks but 40 - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine#Block_V and sidebar on "Armament"

2. Building Ohio or Columbia sized SSGNs is therefore unnecessary. It is als too expensive and won't happen.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

After years of study TKMS officially offered the also unusually large, paper design, Type 216 ORPHAN class for the SEA 1000 CEP. DCNS offered the already built Barracuda hull with a propulsor.

After Australia worked for years part developing the Combat System that is on the Collins transfer of that Combat System to the SEA 1000 winner was a fixed, non-negotiable, issue/criteria.

You are right focussing on the diesel propulsion. That seems to be the main defect with the Collins.

The new submarine (due to the unusual size required by Australia) will also need to use new diesel engine arrangements. Some technical risk.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Everyone fails. MHI suffers from delayed delivery of MRJ (Mitsubishi Regional Jet) and fire of cruise ships. KHI had an experience of bad maintenance of diesel generators. Toshiba, a manufacture of ITO-LIBs is under fatal management crisis.

Regards

Anonymous said...

MRJ is the first airliner designed and manufactured by MHI so delays are to be expected even in the best of circumstances.

In the case of Collins submarines, it appears there are serious issues with maintenance, from both a lack of skilled personnel as well as lack of spare parts. With the latter, I suspect there is too little budget or no budget set aside for those. I do not know if any of the problems are related to end of life products. Usually spare parts are available even after EOL for some years.
Russia is now marketing small Piranha submarines, a few hundreds tons to 1000 tons. Interesting that they can be offered with a titanium hull as well as Klub (on the largest version). They claim fuel cell AIP but I will take that with a large dose of Vodka. That may be a good complement to Kilo.
KQN

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

If organisation (ASC, MHI) can not adequately provde product or service to customer, it is major failure of management system. What customer needs is delivery of perfect product or service in a timely manner, and customer does not need explanation of failure or company circumstances.

MHI did not have information on various tests for clearing the type certification which is essential for private aircraft and information on document preparation necessary for judging. MHI did have such personel who understands importance of such information, and it means lack of needed resource (personnel). ACS also did not offer needed resources (money, technology, etc).

Regards

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I think James Harrap exactly critics the “the unusual size required by Australia” with his statement "a submarine capable of most of the tasking available most of the time is better than one that claims to do all of the tasking but is only available some of the time."

Type 216 and also the DCNS offer with a Barracuda hull are just other orphans Australia should avoid according to Mr. Harrap. Scorpène-class or a Type 214 would have been a far better decision according to capability gained by Australian taxpayers’ money. For one Shortfin Barracuda Australia could have built 2 or 3 submarines at a displacement of 2,000 t. - No way! India is building Scorpène-class submarines and South Korea operates for years Type 214. It would be disgraceful for Australia to use such a common submarines. Therefore Australia needs something else.

Australia does not need a superior submarine on paper. Australia needs an existing superior submarine fleet. Today even Indonesia has a superior submarine fleet. That won’t change until 2030 or even never with the decision for Shortfin.

The biggest problem of Collins class was the idea to do build everything in Australia and then the split from the original designer. The idea behind domestic built may be convincing at first but why was this idea cancelled for systems like F-35 Lightning II attack aircraft and M1A1 Abrams tanks? Why doesn’t Australia try to build gas turbines for the M1A1?

The problem with building parts in Australia for about 5 time the price is related to a virtually none existing stock pile for spare parts due to high prices. A bought stockpile for 20 years or complete life time would have been far cheaper.

Finally, I still think the decision about the combat system is a political one enforced by nothing less than cronyism.

Regards
MHalblaub

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [at 11/4/17 12:20 AM ] and MHalblaub [at 12/4/17 11:46 PM]

Australia choosing Kockums, a very small submarine producing company, which met a dead end in sales/revenue set the scene for downstream problems.

I suspect much of the Collins spare parts problem is that the Kockums designer/builder gave up its responsibilities and was sold to HDW years ago.

A Kockums that continued to exist over the decades (like HDW and DCNS) could have maintained far larger stocks of the same or similar spare parts for the Collins.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Workforce planning is basis of military. Investigation Committee on submarine operation of RAN recommended 3-watch system years to ensure crews, and RAN agreed with this recommendation. In 3-wtach system which needs 50-60 crews, 2000 ton-class (surfaced) submarine is too small. Considering situation of Australian submarine operation such as long period, female crew or multipurpose operation, 3500 ton-class (surfaced) submarine is reasonable selection.

Germany submarines are famous, in fact, non-magnetic steel hull and methanol reforming are cutting edge technologies and admirable. But, I think there are some issues as follows.

TYPE 212 equips with single dieasel generator and lacks enough redundancy. LOx or LABs will be used at failure of diesel generaton for short operation period, but, it provides seriours result for longer operation. Once, TYPE 212 achieved long submerge record (ca16-17 days), but, it was for demonstration and not for combat situation.

TYPE 214 equips with two diesel generators. Though bow of TYPE 214 is norrower (6.3m) than that of TYPE 212 (6.8m), two diesel generators are arranged in parallel; as a result, there is not enough space between MTU and inner wall of hull which results in bad maintainability. For example, simple bulb exchange of right cylinder in starboard is difficult as demonstrated in pictures of Korean 214 building. Another issue is position of LOx tanks. As Lox tanks are bottom of hull, gravity center of submarine shifts upward with comsumption of LOx, reducing stability of submarine. In this point, position of LOx tanks of TYPE 212 is better, because the tanks are on the top of hulls.

As sizes of TYPEs 214 and 209 are similar, TYPEs 214 can share many equipments and process providing better profit. But, best selling does not always mean best performance. Numbers and arrangement of diesels in Collins are better than German subs.

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Thankyou for your 3 comments.

Interesting that "KHI had an experience of bad maintenance of diesel generators." This is even though KHI and MHI continuous build (every year), And I assume both are involved in continuous maintenance?

You make an interesting point that a 3-watch system needs a crew of 50-60 in a submarine of 3500 tons (surfaced).

Countries like Sweden and Germany just don't seem to understand long transits = long missions = a need for 3 watches, These require large crews and large subs.

It seems true that virtually no transit distances in the Baltic permit return to basee on AIP and Batteries even if the diesel(s) break down

I wonder if the average Swedish or German mission is a week or less in the Baltic?

Only requiring 2 watches or 1 and a half?

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

(1)Trouble case of KHI

In Jun and July 2008, damages of piston and bearing of diesel generators were found. KHI found that exchange of bearing by its subcontractor used specified but thin materias for a connecting rod based on Standard B instead of formal Standard A, and KHI submitted the report to JDSF in Oct and Nov/2008 and exchanged adequate parts until Mar/2009.

In 2012, Board of Audit (BoA) of Japan checked the case and pointed out following facts: i) JDSF did not approve Standard B, ii) JDSF did not find Standard B is un inadequate specification for bearing, and iii) though JDSFseemed to notice these problems, it did not take needed action.

BoA requested corrective action to Ministry of Defense, proving soundness of BoA to check governmental organization. (JDSF, KHI and MHI must have definitely checked their quality system by themselves). Other problems of MHI or Toshiba caused by missing of independent, powerful and potent audit functions.

(2)2-watch system

According to JMSDF submarine officer, there are minimum numbers of crews in submarine. As 3-watch JMSDF submarine is operated by 65 crews (cooks are in 2-shift work), minimum numbers are 21. German submarine is operated by ca.35 crews, means 2-watch system.

Following simulation model with total 21 days are reported for German AIP submarine [1]:
Transit 1 (2days)->Patrol 1 (14days)->Transit 2 (1day)->Patrol 2(2days)->Transit 3(2day)

In such a short operation period, AIP submarine will show outstanding performance. But, in very long operation period of 70 days, it is not the case.


(3)Fatigue, etc

Medical consideration is also important. US reported that most effective (less fatigue) on/offs are 12/12 and 6/12 for 2-and 3-watch systems, respectively.

On/offs of O-submarine were 6/6, 3/6 and 7/7 depending on situation of operation, and its operation periods were ca. 40days which were equivalent to 70days of 3-watch.

In the terms of effiecy of deployment for the South China Sea, two colliins in Perth are equivalent to three 209s in Darwin.


[1] “Design of a conventional submarines with advanced air independent propulsion systems and determination of corresponding theater-level impacts”, by Konstantinos Psallidas, Clifford A. Whitcomb, and John C. Hootman

Regards

MHalblaub said...

Dear Anonymous (13/4/17 11:25 AM),

German Type 212A submarines use a 2-watch system and have female crew aboard. The crew requirement is related to workload. The crew of Collins-class submarines was raised from 42 (14 crewmen per watch) up to 58 (19 cpw + commander). The Type 212A was especially built for use out of the Baltic Sea. Therefore Italian Navy does use the exact same Type of submarine.

Modern submarines with reliable engines reduce the workload on crewmen much. Ula-class submarines need a crew of 21 for a 2-watch system while proposed 210mod just needs 21 men for a 3-watch system. My assumption for a new Type 214 submarine for a 3-watch system would be less than 40 men (13 cpw + commander). No need for additional 20 plumbers.

The single Diesel engine onboard Type 212A speaks volume about its reliability. The engine monitoring system is capable to detect what parts have to be replaced before after next journey. The fuel cell system is a sufficient back up.

The submerged record was on set on a journey from Europe to the USA to a joint exercise with US Navy. What’s the big difference to a combat situation?

The two Type 214 Diesel engines are hard to maintain? It might be difficult but not impossible. Most spare parts for this type of engines are available nearly all other the world even in Australia. Easy engine access won’t help without proper spare parts. May I mention weird hull cuts on Collins-class?

“Numbers and arrangement of diesels in Collins are better than German subs.” – How many submarines Australia sold due to this reason?

Here are some concerns about the future combat system:
http://www.australiandefence.com.au/news/concerns-abound-over-future-submarine-combat-system

Regards,
MHalblaub

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 13/4/17 8:24 PM]

As you say 3 watch arrangements for long range submarines are very different than short range Western Europe/Baltic assumptions and arrangements.

3 watch arrangements cover:

- Collins and likely on future Shortfin

- likely Dolphin 1s and 2s

- Oyashios, Soryus and Japan's future submarine class, and

- likely US, UK and French SSNs.

I don't know which watch systems would apply to Russian and Chinese designed SSKs and SSNs.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 13/4/17 11:58 PM]

An interesting aspect is that a Commander on a 210mod may need to work harder than a Commander on a Collins because there are fewer crew to cover all the different tasks.

Also if one 210mod crewman becomes ill (or overly exhausted) this makes a greater impact on a small 21 person crew than an ill crewman on a larger 50+ crew.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Pete
[with corrections]

In a combat situation, a submarine may experience strong shocks or vibrations caused by explosions of mines or torpedos, or diving deeper than a sub's maximum permitted submerged depth (a submarine can dive a little bit deeper than max depth for a short period).

If a builder offers proper resources (skilled welders, established procedures, adequate facities, etc) and controls production processes, the builder can provide planned products. But, it does not mean designs or concepts are good, because designs and production processes are different.

Israel and Holland are considering submarine with bigger beams. This is the voice of customers.

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 16/4/17 1:35 AM]

The various types of submarine depth are interesting subjects. Using https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine_depth_ratings

TEST depth is the maximum depth at which a submarine is permitted to operate under normal peacetime circumstances, and is tested during sea trials.

DESIGN depth is the nominal depth listed in the submarine's specifications. From it the designers calculate the thickness of the hull metal, the boat's displacement, and many other related factors.

CRUSH depth, officially called COLLAPSE depth, is the submerged depth at which a submarine's hull will collapse due to pressure. Crush depth should be slightly deeper than a submarine's design depth - since the designers incorporate margins of error in their calculations.

Modern nuclear attack submarines like the American Seawolf class are estimated to have a TEST depth of 490m which would imply a CRUSH depth of 730m.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

The collapse depth (610m) of Thresher was decided by multiplying safety factor of 1.5 to submerge depth (400m), but, Thresher sank APR/10/1968 by suddene drop to depth of 2,400 feet (730 m). This means the design standard of collapse depth decided by simple multiplying safty factor of 1.5 or value of 1.5 does not reflect actual situation.

After this tragedy, the design standard or calcuration of hull strength definitely was definitely revised. The design standard of Thresher was never applied to Seawolf-class built 1989–2005. Clushing depth of 730m for Seawolf-class is wrong, and it is much deeper.

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 16/4/17 7:09 PM]

See http://www.military-today.com/navy/seawolf_class.htm

Maybe the CRUSH DEPTH of the Seawolf are more like 1,000m. Maybe USS Jimmy Carter, with its cable splicing missions, has even deeper depths.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

If maximum diving depth of Seawolf is 610m (http://www.military-today.com/navy/seawolf_class.htm), its clushing depth may be much deeper than 1000m.

Regards

Anonymous said...

(continue)

When product or service fails, there is thee kinds of failure (in design, in production and in deliverly). In the case of Thresher accident, submarine had suddenly dropped 120m deeper than its clushing depth. Unless this fact is take into account in the design of Seawolf, US Navy may lose in court in the tragedy. Plaintiffs' attorney will point out failure in design and jurors will admit it.

So, clushing depth of Seawolf will be more than 1035m (=610m (max submerge depth) + 305m (safety margin) + 120m (predictable drop)). In this calculation, if prectable drop is bigger than 120m such as 200m, then, clushing depth will be 1115m.

Regards

MHalblaub said...

Dear Anonymous and Pete,

according to my knowledge the collapse depth is only useful for classification of the pressure hull. The problem for USS Thresher was very probably a broken pipe for cooling water. This occurred at a depth of 300 m (depth of the actual testing back then).

At which depth the actual crash happened was not available or was not mentioned.

Therefor the collapse depth is rather irrelevant because a breakthrough may collapse earlier. That may be the main difference to the "design depth" respecting all breakthroughs.

The assumption that a drop of 120 m is respected could lead to another safety procedure: stay 120 m above the test depth during peace time.

Quote from https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/deep.htm :

Submarine designers normally intend their creations to operate well away from the hull's physical limits, imposing a safety margin that varies from country to country [1.5 in the USA, 1.75 in the UK, and 2.0 in Germany]. Typically a submarine will have three diving depths:

a normal operating or "test" depth
a safe excursion depth
a crush or collapse depth

Therefore a US test depth of 250 m leads to a crush depth of 375 m,
a Royal Navy submarine is expected to crash at 437,5 m and
a German submarine with same test depth might crush at a depth of 500 m.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Following procedure is applied for calculation of hull strength.

First, test depth is decided. Second, clushing depth is decided based on specific equation. For example,

Clushing depth = Drop + Test depth x safety margin = 120m + 250m x 1.5 = 495m

Third, hull strength at clushing depth is calcurated.

Clushing depth is key factor to decide strength of pressure hull.

Regards



Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 20/4/17 9:06 PM] and Anonymous [at 21/4/17 6:08 AM]

cRush depth, design depth and test depth are yet more complex issues made more difficult by the necessary secrecy of builders and navies.

Another complication is how each national submarine builder builds pressure hulls to warp/distort under pressure. Might the distortion of the pressure hull rather than total catastrophic collapse of this hull tell the Captain to stop going deeper?

Modern secrecy forces us to go far back in submarine history to know what happened at what extreme depths.

The author of Das Boot [1] provides details. In the film, distortion is illustrated by heavy creaking as well as nuts and bolts flying around https://youtu.be/I-hadDvJseg?t=2m20s as they dive lower than the depth measuring device.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lothar-G%C3%BCnther_Buchheim

Regards

Pete

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I guess I made an error. That should make more sense in a technical view:

Design depth X Safety margin = Crush depth

The test depth or tested depth should be less than design depth.

In my opinion how to care about a drop is up to naval procedures and not relevant for construction safety margins.

On the other side you can test a submarine below the designed depth.

Right at the beginning of "Das Boot" the KaLeu (KapitänLeutnant / NATO OF-2 / Commander) is testing the submarine beneath design depth or as mentioned in the movie/book the assured depth by the builder.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 23/4/17 7:07 PM}

Thanks for specifying. That makes sense

Das Boot has proven the most interesting and useful submarine movie because it concentrates on non-nuclear propelled subs which don't have SLBMs.

I've just been watching another fine German WWII U-Boat movie which is the "The Sinking of the Laconia" by U-156. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sinking_of_the_Laconia .

"Hilda Smith" played by Franka Potente is very attractive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franka_Potente She's become more famous in "The Bourne" series of films.

Cheers

Pete