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]

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




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

Show all
Show less
Back to top