Royal Australian Navy Discussions and Updates

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
I can imagine that the naysayers will put a negative spin on this, linking it to ‘problems’ with the Attack class.

On the other hand, I’d say it a good move to ensure ‘all’ six Collins stay relevant for the equivalent of another FCD, this to me is part of ‘Plan B’
This should have probably been announced back when the sea1000 was announced..
Upgrading and life extension of Collins is no suprise. It would have been required even if the attack class had been bough years forward.

There is a global shortage of subs, other navies are also life extending their platforms. Its the only meaningful way to increase subs in service.
 

ASSAIL

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Australia will spend $10billion on re-fitting its six submarines (msn.com)

A good move given the current situation. Even with the Attack class being delivered on time this provides contingency and an improved deterrent. It is better than an interim class of submarine IMHO. It will be interesting to see what is included in the upgrade.
An interesting aid to underwater navigation that could be incorporated into the Collins LOTE, as proposed by Billy Connolly
Couldn’t help myself :)
 

vonnoobie

Well-Known Member
Considering the $10 billion budget for the Collins class life extension and upgrade is that purely in work to the boats or also some R&D? I'm just wondering if they are using this as also a way of preparing the Collins design as a fallback if the deal with naval group collapses.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
So I guess that will see the Collins serve through to 2033 after which one sub will be withdrawn every 2 years until 2043.
 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
Australia will spend $10billion on re-fitting its six submarines (msn.com)

A good move given the current situation. Even with the Attack class being delivered on time this provides contingency and an improved deterrent. It is better than an interim class of submarine IMHO. It will be interesting to see what is included in the upgrade.
Yes it is a good move, we all knew this was coming, but at least now we know the upgrade will apply to all six Collins boats.

Depending on the extent of the upgrade and life extension, there is the potential for the RAN submarine fleet to be expanded sooner, depending on additional manpower and operating budgets.

We’ll have to wait and see if this news will put to bed all the speculative Furphy reports regarding the Attack class and a fleet interim subs.

Look forward to the official announcement and the details too.

Cheers,

PS, to all non Aussies who my not know what a ‘Furphy’ is, it’s the equivalent of today’s ‘fake news’.

It’s origins date back to WWI.

 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
Considering the $10 billion budget for the Collins class life extension and upgrade is that purely in work to the boats or also some R&D? I'm just wondering if they are using this as also a way of preparing the Collins design as a fallback if the deal with naval group collapses.
I don’t know that I’d be getting too carried away or concerned with the headline budget figure of $10 Billion as yet, got to wait for an official announcement and details too.

According to the MSN report the upgrade starts in 2026 and goes for two years per boat, followed by the next boat every two years and so on, if that schedule is kept, the last boat returns to service in 2038.

The figure of $10B sounds a lot, but the project is also spread over a 10+ year period.

Cheers,
 

Stampede

Well-Known Member
What is the best estimate date for the first Attack Class submarine to enter service.
2030 to 2035 ish

Recognizing its a big project yet hoping all goes well ,is there an actual YEAR we are aiming for HMAS Attack to enter service?

With all six Collins Class getting an extra lease of life, I'd be interested as to when our collective submarine numbers get to 7 and above.
Assumption being that HMAS Collins will retire much later and will initially be in service with the early build Attack Class vessels.



Regards S
 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
So I guess that will see the Collins serve through to 2033 after which one sub will be withdrawn every 2 years until 2043.
I think you’re ‘under selling’ the potential service life of the Collins class once this fleet wide life extension has been completed.

From memory the first boat was originally due to retire in 2026 after a 30 year service life.

But now with the first boat due to start it’s upgrade/life extension in 2026, re-enter service in 2028 (after the two year docking/upgrade), it should be good for another 10 years service life, eg, 2038, and each subsequent boat follows at two yearly intervals.

Now I’m not suggesting that the first upgraded Collins will still be in service in 2038, but it certainly gives the Government a fair bit of wriggle room if required, much better to have a fleet of submarines retire at a peak and not be completely shagged at time of decommissioning.

You never know but we could flog them off to our Canuck cousins, a fleet of pre-loved, well maintained and upgraded subs is just the sort of bargain the Canucks love!

Cheers,
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I think you’re ‘under selling’ the potential service life of the Collins class once this fleet wide life extension has been completed.

From memory the first boat was originally due to retire in 2026 after a 30 year service life.

But now with the first boat due to start it’s upgrade/life extension in 2026, re-enter service in 2028 (after the two year docking/upgrade), it should be good for another 10 years service life, eg, 2038, and each subsequent boat follows at two yearly intervals.

Now I’m not suggesting that the first upgraded Collins will still be in service in 2038, but it certainly gives the Government a fair bit of wriggle room if required, much better to have a fleet of submarines retire at a peak and not be completely shagged at time of decommissioning.

You never know but we could flog them off to our Canuck cousins, a fleet of pre-loved, well maintained and upgraded subs is just the sort of bargain the Canucks love!

Cheers,
Junior is probably still looking for used jets to further delay the fighter replacement so the used subs that will become available need to be put into storage until he finds the money (stored Upholders worked out so well). He hopefully will be long gone before Australia’s Collins subs become available.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
What is the best estimate date for the first Attack Class submarine to enter service.
2030 to 2035 ish

Recognizing its a big project yet hoping all goes well ,is there an actual YEAR we are aiming for HMAS Attack to enter service?

With all six Collins Class getting an extra lease of life, I'd be interested as to when our collective submarine numbers get to 7 and above.
Assumption being that HMAS Collins will retire much later and will initially be in service with the early build Attack Class vessels.



Regards S
The date has been slipping. At the moment the best estimate is around the mid thirties.

If you look back at the introduction into service of the Collins class we ended up with only two operational Oberon's to cover for our troubled new submarines. Hopefully history won't repeat.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Honestly, if that's the only option between having subs and not having them I would take it. :(
I think that reasoning was why the RCN accepted Upholders knowing there were going to be problems, refusing Chrétien’s sub replacement idea would have very likely meant losing submarine capability forever. Once capability is gone, it is extremely hard to convince pollies to restore it. NZ’s loss of fast combat jets is a case in point.
 

thatsamguy

New Member
$10B for LOTE for all 6 Collins boats, is it me or is that a staggering amount of money on an existing platform?
Please be careful with how this is presented. Defence said 6, "experts" said 10.

From the article itself:
Defence says the LOTE rebuilding will cost up to $6bn but experts say the realistic cost of such a major program will be as much as $10bn.
 

Git_Kraken

Member

$10B for LOTE for all 6 Collins boats, is it me or is that a staggering amount of money on an existing platform?
Life extension on a submarine is a bit more ruthless than surface ship life extension. Unlike a surface ship, which can deal with some structural/electrical issues and still sail safely, a submarine definitively cannot. If it's reached the end of life you don't roll the dice and hope it lasts longer, store extra spares or just go without, you pull it out and replace it. That can mean large sections of hull or structure depending on testing. Of course, that's before any upgrades.

There is absolutely no screwing around with a submarine.
 

Mark_Evans

New Member
Life extension on a submarine is a bit more ruthless than surface ship life extension. Unlike a surface ship, which can deal with some structural/electrical issues and still sail safely, a submarine definitively cannot. If it's reached the end of life you don't roll the dice and hope it lasts longer, store extra spares or just go without, you pull it out and replace it. That can mean large sections of hull or structure depending on testing. Of course, that's before any upgrades.

There is absolutely no screwing around with a submarine.
And I guess we will have to wait for confirmation of where that full refit will be done. Hopefully Adelaide.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
Another problem could be that the LOTE may not be achievable in a two year time frame. A LOTE will involve replacing almost all the major systems and is far more complex than your standard two year full cycle docking. From what I read it sounds like the entire submarine will be cut open, gutted and rebuilt which I admit does sound only slightly less complex than building a new sub.

If the LOTE cannot be achieved with in two years it could be disastrous as it means a number of the Collins class could run out of life before LOTE work could commence on them.

It looks like Australia might have yet again left a decision too late and should have commenced LOTE work several years ago.

For the benefit of those who can't get through the paywall here is an abridged version.
The Australian
Dutton left with a sub-standard mess

Of all the problems Peter Dutton inherited when he became Defence Minister, none is more urgent or more strategically vital to Australia than sorting out what he calls the “mess” of Australia’s future submarine project.

Dutton is being forced to make key decisions on the submarine fleet that will affect the nation’s security for decades, in the face of a rising China which is aggressively boosting its own submarine war-fighting capabilities.

First of all Dutton has to decide how he will deal with the French giant Naval Group which, having won the $90bn bid to build 12 Attack-class submarines in Adelaide, has tried to play hardball over the level of Australian industry content and, more recently, by asking for what Defence believes is an excessive amount to produce the detailed design of the boats. The project, now five years old, is at a temporary impasse with the government refusing to sign new contracts to allow it to move forward.

The dispute has frustrated both Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and even if the two countries resolve their differences soon the first of the Attack-class boats is not due to be operationally ready until 2035 – a strategic lifetime in an unsettled region.

As The Weekend Australian reveals today, Dutton has made a major decision to extend the life of all six of the Collins fleet by a decade – double the three boats that the navy initially expected to extend – in order to try to avoid a capability gap in Australia’s defence from later this decade.

But this program, known as the Collins class life-of-type extension, or LOTE, is arguably in trouble before it begins. Despite knowing for years that it would be necessary to extend the life of the Collins fleet, Defence has been slow to make key decisions on the program, including what exactly these extensive refits will entail. No design or construction contracts have yet been finalised.

Andrew Davies, author of a forthcoming book on the Collins-class boats, says the government now finds itself in a dilemma because Defence has been too slow to prepare for the extension of the Collins fleet.

“I think the fact that we have lost years in getting to decision points on both the future submarine and on the LOTE means that we have now got ourselves into a really fraught situation where you can’t afford to slip up on either,” he says. “And the ambition of expanding the submarine fleet (beyond six boats) has now disappeared into the 2040s. It’s absurd. This process should’ve begun much earlier and in a more robust way.”

The first of the 12 Attack-class submarines is not due to enter service until 2035, the second in 2038 and then two-year intervals between new boats.

So even without any slip-ups, Australia will not have more than six submarines until well into the 2040s. But there is a real danger that even these tentative plans will be up-ended by reality, leaving Australia with a grossly inadequate submarine fleet of only a few operational boats from later this decade lasting all the way through the 2030s.

Dutton admits the timeline is tight but says he is committed to a serious investment in extending the Collins fleet to prevent such a gap.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we need to pursue life-of-type extension (for Collins) and we are working on that program now,” he tells Inquirer. “All six (submarines) would be on the schedule.

The first risk to the navy’s submarine availability is the nature of the LOTE itself.

Expert advice recently given to Dutton’s office is that the two years which Defence has allowed to rebuild each Collins-class submarine is inadequate for the scale and complexity of such work, which amounts to designing and building a new submarine.

Defence admits it has never done a rebuild as large or as complicated as that required to extend the life of the Collins boats.

“Two years to carry out a full-cycle docking with LOTE is just completely unrealistic,” Patrick says. “It doesn’t show an appreciation of the risks that are involved. They are seeking to change out a main motor on the submarine with a new motor that has never been used in any other submarine before.”

A LOTE will require the submarine to be cut open with almost all the major systems replaced, a much larger job than the regular two-year full-cycle docking which each submarine undergoes after each decade of service. It will involve fitting the submarines with new diesel generators, main motors, batteries, sensors, digital periscopes and new systems across the entire submarine.

Shipbuilder ASC, which maintains the Collins fleet, has never done the sort of major work that a LOTE would entail and will almost certainly need to be assisted in the program by the original Swedish builders of the submarines, Saab Kockums. If the LOTE process cannot be completed for each boat within a two-year time frame it will blow out the government’s schedule, leaving Australia with fewer operational submarines than it wants from the late 2020s.

The Collins-class boats, famously labelled “dud subs” in their early days, were between 21 and 41 months late and were so bedevilled with problems that the entire class was not clear for full operation service until 2004, eight years after the first submarine was commissioned.

So if the schedule for the Attack-class submarines is delayed, then the Collins fleet will reach the end of its life, even with the LOTE extensions, before the French boats arrive.

This is the dilemma Dutton faces and it is one of the reasons the government is now toying with a so-called plan B to give it options if the French boats are delayed, or if the government chooses to walk away from the French deal altogether.

Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty told the recent Senate estimates hearings that although the government was “absolutely committed” to building the 12 French submarines in Adelaide, “prudent contingency planning” was under way if for any reason the program could not proceed.

Moriarty did not say what plan B might entail, but the most radical option would be for Australia to take a closer look at the 3400-tonne long-range submarines that Saab Kockums is proposing to build for the Dutch navy.

These proposed conventional submarines would have a range similar to that of the Collins and Saab is promising to deliver the first two to the Dutch navy in 2027-28, seven years before the scheduled arrival of our first Attack-class submarine.

Dutton will not comment on the plan B option, although sources say the minister is yet to be convinced about ordering a scoping study for a so-called “son of Collins” concept, which would be a locally built submarine based loosely on the Saab proposal for the Dutch navy.

Regardless of how serious the government is about looking at the Swedish alternative, the fact of appearing interested in plan B options gives Australia much-needed leverage over France’s Naval Group.

As things stand, Naval Group enjoys a monopolistic position in which it can dictate the terms of its deal with Australia and has little incentive to improve its performance on cost, schedule and Australian industry involvement.

Keeping the “son of Collins” option alive, if only in theory, helps to keep pressure on France in its dealings with Canberra.

“It would be prudent for the government to look at a plan B and I don’t think it implies for a second there is an issue with Naval Group or the future submarine,” says Brent Clark, chief executive of the Australian Industry and Defence Network, which represents local small and medium defence contractors.

“You need a contingency plan because you just don’t know what may happen. You are talking massive dollars here and if for some reason the future submarine can’t continue in its current form, what are you going to do if you haven’t thought about the alternative? Are you going to go back to square one?’

Clark says that regardless of what the government chooses to do, it is in the country’s interests to ensure all options have the highest possible Australian industry involvement.

What Dutton does next is likely to be heavily influenced by the findings of the review the government commissioned this year to look at the options available on submarines.

The review, by Vice-Admiral Jonathan Mead and Commodore Tim Brown, is looking at the timing, scope and structure of the LOTE program, the problems and ways forward for the Attack-class program and the feasibility of looking more closely at the Swedish submarine for the Dutch navy.

In his short time as Defence Minister, Dutton has shown he is willing to take the hard decisions that some of his predecessors did not.

But nothing will have as much bearing on Australia’s long-term security as the decisions he now faces on submarines.
 
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