More problems with the Collins Class submarines

Parliament house flag post

More problems with the Collins Class submarines

Posted 27/09/2013 by David Watt

On 26 September 2013, an article in The Australian newspaper revealed aspects of a ‘confidential’ Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) report which identifies ‘68 critical problems’ with the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines which might prevent them from continuing to operate until the development of a replacement class of vessels. The Department of Defence responded to The Australian stating that the ‘purpose of the report was to identify potential issues and risks that would need to be addressed to extend the life of the class’ and that this was part of a normal process undertaken in the event that the service life of the class was to be extended.

If this report is correct, it undermines to some extent previous government and DMO assurances that ongoing maintenance issues with the Collins Class were under control and would potentially allow the Collins Class to operate until 2038. It is important to note that the Australian does not report the DMO as stating that it will be impossible to keep the CCSM in operation until a replacement is in the water but it does indicate that many challenges will have to be overcome if this objective is to be met.

Since well before the commissioning of HMAS Collins in 1996 there have been ongoing problems with the class. The longevity and complexity of issues surrounding these submarines makes this a difficult issue to follow—outlined below are references to a number of key resources to facilitate a better understanding of the project’s history.

The project to develop and build the submarines is discussed in two Parliamentary Library publications, Procuring change: how Kockums was selected for the Collins Class Submarine and Getting in early: lessons of the Collins Submarine program for improved oversight of Defence procurement, both by Derek Woolner. Woolner’s book The Collins Class submarine story: steel, spies and spin (2008), is also a rich source of knowledge on the history of the Collins Class.

In 1991 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) reviewed the Collins Class project in Department of Defence: new submarine project, (audit report no. 22, 1991–92) and again in Management of the Collins-Class operations sustainment (audit report no. 23, 2008–09).

In March 1999, Malcolm McIntosh and John Prescott were commissioned by the Minister for Defence to provide an independent assessment of the Collins Class submarine (CCSM) project. The review team was specifically instructed to consider reports received by the Minister for Defence, ‘examine the history of the project, the current status of the project and the proposals to rectify any outstanding issues’. The resulting Report to the Minister for Defence on the Collins Class submarine and related matters was publicly released on 1 July 1999.

In August 2011, the Government announced a review into the sustainment of the CCSM, which was headed by John Coles. An interim report was released in December 2011, and the final report, Study into the business of sustaining Australia’s strategic Collins Class submarine capability, was released in December 2012. The Minister’s media release which both announced the release of the Study and touched on the Government’s response can be found here.

A key recommendation of the Coles Review, as it became known, was that a reduction in the duration of planned maintenance for the Collins Class would make the largest single contribution to a higher level of submarine availability. Another recommendation of the Coles Review was to establish an In-Service Support Contract between DMO and the Australian Submarine Corporation for maintenance and support services for the CCSM. This was implemented in June 2012 in the form of ‘a rolling five year contract with options to be exercised subject to satisfactory performance’.

At much the same time as the Coles Review was taking place, the DMO carried out a study into the service life of the Collins Class. This review found ‘no single technical issue that would fundamentally prevent the Collins-Class submarines from achieving their indicative service life or a service life extension’. This finding fed into the Coles Review and has been repeated by the Minister on several occasions. Although it was not released publicly, it is probably this report to which the recent article in The Australian refers.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has also followed the Collins Class submarines during their development and subsequent life. In Cutting edge: the Collins experience (2006), Patrick Walters, while not ignoring the problems in the development of the submarines, takes a positive view of the capability outcomes as well as the benefits to Australian industry.

In another ASPI publication, The once and future submarine—raising and sustaining Australia’s underwater capability (2011), Andrew Davies and Mark Thomson illustrate the ‘unacceptably low levels of availability and capability’ in the CCSM fleet between 2003–09 and point out the need for forward momentum on developing a replacement.

In Mind the gap: getting serious about submarines (2012) Davies and Thomson canvass the problems associated with the Collins Class and discuss the possibility of a submarine capability gap emerging by the late 2020s.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]

We welcome your comments, or additional information which is relevant to a post. These can be added by clicking on the ‘Add your comment’ option above. Please note that the Parliamentary Library will moderate comments, and reserves the right not to publish comments that are inconsistent with the objectives of FlagPost. This includes comments that are not relevant to the article, factually incorrect or politically partisan, as well as spam, profanity and personal abuse. We will close comments after three months.

Generate a new image
Type characters from the image:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




Refugees asylum immigration climate change Australian foreign policy Parliament social security elections welfare reform welfare policy school education Australian Defence Force health financing indigenous Australians women Private health insurance higher education emissions trading people trafficking Middle East taxation Employment illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Medicare disability Sport Australian Bureau of Statistics statistics United Nations Asia criminal law Afghanistan income management health forced labour Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism politics dental health Australian Public Service constitution Australian Electoral Commission WADA transport aid child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system OECD ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme International Women's Day corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senate Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers High Court skilled migration Banking UK Parliament election results voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability Papua New Guinea youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping crime health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy firearms public policy Census Population violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining military history electoral reform employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing by-election European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing political parties water productivity health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum early childhood education Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia United Kingdom GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top