Background to SEA 1000 Phase 1A—deliver Australia's future submarine
Defence's decisions regarding the replacement of the Collins
Class submarine with a new fleet of more capable boats have been many years in
the making. In this appendix, the committee traces the capability development
phases of the future submarines to date, starting with its inclusion in the
2009 Defence White Paper.
The Defence White Paper is a key strategic document that
presents the government's long-term strategic forecast and commitments for
Defence including its future capability. In its 2009 White Paper, the
government indicated its intention to replace and expand the current fleet of
six Collins class submarine with a more capable class of submarine. It
recognised that some decisions on significant aspects of Australia's defence
capability must be taken over the next few years, including in submarine
forces. This project would be a multi-billion dollar decision requiring very
long lead-times for project development, acquisition and entry into service.
The White Paper indicated that, through consideration of
current and future requirements, a major new direction had emerged with
significant focus on enhancing Australia's maritime capabilities. It stated
that by the mid-2030s, Australia would have a heavier and more potent maritime
force with a more capable submarine, Future Frigate and enhanced capability for
offshore maritime warfare, border protection and mine countermeasures.
Expanded submarine fleet
With respect to the submarines, the government formed the
view that Australia's future strategic circumstances required a substantially
expanded submarine fleet.
The government would double the size of the submarine force to 12 replacing the
current fleet of six Collins class submarines. This enhanced capability was:
...to sustain a force
at sea large enough in a crisis or conflict to be able to defend our approaches
(including at considerable distance from Australia, if necessary), protect and support
other ADF assets, and undertake certain strategic missions where the stealth
and other operating characteristics of highly-capable advanced submarines would
be crucial. Moreover, a larger submarine force would significantly increase the
military planning challenges faced by any adversaries, and increase the size
and capabilities of the force they would have to be prepared to commit to
attack us directly, or coerce, intimidate or otherwise employ military power
The future submarine was to have 'greater range, longer
endurance on patrol, and expanded capabilities compared to the current Collins
The boats were to be equipped with 'very secure real-time communications and be
able to carry different mission payloads such as uninhabited underwater
vehicles'. The White Paper specified the boats capability:
The Future Submarine
will be capable of a range of tasks such as anti-ship and anti-submarine
warfare; strategic strike; mine detection and mine-laying operations; intelligence
collection; supporting special forces (including infiltration and exfiltration
missions); and gathering battlespace data in support of operations.
The White Paper recognised that the long transits and
potentially short-notice contingencies in Australia's primary operational
environment demanded high levels of mobility and endurance in the future submarine.
The boats needed to be able to undertake prolonged covert patrols over the full
distance of Australia's strategic approaches and in operational areas. They
would require low signatures across all spectrums, including at higher speeds.
The government placed a priority on broadening Australia's
strategic strike options, which would occur through the acquisition of
maritime-based land-attack cruise missiles. These missiles would be fitted to
the AWD, future frigate and future submarine. The incorporation of a
land-attack cruise missile capability would be integral to the design and
construction of the future frigate and future submarine.
The government ruled out nuclear propulsion for these
Australian industry involvement and
assembled in Adelaide
The government understood that the strategic importance of
the future submarine's capability was such that Australian industry involvement
would 'need to be factored into the design, development and construction
phases, and the sustainment and maintenance life cycle' of the boats. It
anticipated that the operational life of the boats would extend well into the
2050s and possibly beyond.
The White Paper indicated that the government would give early consideration to
the complex capability definition and acquisition issues involved in this
substantial undertaking; consider matters such as basing and crewing; and would
seek early advice from Defence on those and other issues.
The construction program for the future submarines would be
designed to provide the government with the option to continue building
additional submarines in the 2030s and beyond, should strategic circumstances
According to the White Paper, the government had decided
that the boats were to be assembled in South Australia.
The White Paper acknowledged that this major design and
construction program would span three decades, and be 'Australia's largest ever
single defence project'.
Given the long lead times and technical challenges involved, the White Paper
argued that the complex task of capability definition, design and construction
must be undertaken without delay. The government announced that it had already
directed that a dedicated project office be established for the future submarine
within Defence, which would closely oversee this project.
To ensure the project's success,
the government stated that it would need to engage with a number of overseas
partners during the design and development phase.
In particular, it noted its intention 'to continue the very close level of
Australia–US collaboration in undersea warfare capability', which, in its view,
would be crucial in the development and through life management of the future submarine.
Turning to the current submarine fleet, the government also
agreed to further incremental upgrades to the Collins class submarines
throughout the next decade, including new sonars, to ensure they remained
highly effective through to their retirement.
The White Paper noted that the government was determined to
respond decisively to deficiencies in the availability of operationally ready
submarines. The Navy would embark on a major reform program to improve the
availability of the Collins class fleet and ensure that a solid foundation was
laid for the expanded future submarine force. These reforms were intended to
change how the Navy attract, remunerate, train and manage the submarine
workforce, and improve the deployment and maintenance of the submarines.
Defence Capability Plan
Details of the capability Defence was seeking to acquire from
the acquisition of 12 submarines specified in the White Paper was then
translated into a more concrete proposal in the Defence Capability Plan (DCP)
2012. The DCP is a 'classified and costed 10-year detailed development plan for
Australia's military capabilities (including workforce requirements)'. The
...lists the rolling
program of major capital investment projects that meet the capability
objectives and priorities that fall from the Defence White Paper (or subsequent
strategic updates) and the DPG [Defence Planning Guidance].
Government approval for entry of projects into the DCP provides
'the foundation for subsequent capability work in Defence'. Defence also publishes a
public version of the DCP designed to:
with a synopsis of the projects including: confirmed scope; background;
indicative schedule; Australian Industry opportunities; cost banding; and
points of contact. The format of this Public DCP also introduces stakeholders
to the concept of Program and Sub-Program management.
The 2012 DCP included a costed and scheduled plan for the
acquisition of the future submarine and its sea-based strike capability, which
entered the plan as project SEA 1000. The DCP noted that:
SEA 1000 will provide
Australia with a new and more potent Defence capability with greater range,
longer patrol endurance and increased capability compared with the Collins
Class submarine. Key capabilities will be in the areas of anti-submarine
warfare, anti-surface warfare, strike, intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance, electronic warfare, mine warfare, and support to advance force
The DCP explained that, as part of the 2009 Defence White Paper
preparations, significant work had been undertaken to identify and quantify the
maritime capability developments that would be required to meet government’s
expectations. For example, the government had allocated $15.4 million for early
studies and research in relation to the future submarine project of which $9
million had not been spent by May 2010.
In mid-December 2011, the Minister for Defence announced that
the government had approved the release of Requests for Information to three
overseas submarine designers offering military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) designs. It
had also entered into a contract with Babcock to study the establishment of a
land based propulsion systems test facility to inform engineering development
of the future submarines.
Options 1–4 for future submarines
Rear Admiral Gregory Sammut, Head, Future Submarine Program,
DMO, explained that initially the submarine program had investigated four broad
Option 1—a MOTS submarine modified to conform to Australian
Option 2—a MOTS submarine with a combat system of Australia's
choosing that would be aligned pretty much to the combat system methodology
used for the Collins class today;
Option 3—an evolved Collins; and
Option 4—broadly termed a new design.
The DCP anticipated that a staged acquisition process would be
undertaken to acquire this capability. As noted in the White Paper, the project
was to be the largest and most complex Defence acquisition yet conducted. It
was expected that the government would on multiple occasions consider the
project as information was gathered that facilitated government decision-making.
Phases 1 and 2 of SEA 1000 would entail the design, build and
delivery of 12 conventionally powered submarines as well as infrastructure
and Integrated Logistic Support requirements. At the time of publication, the
DCP indicated that all options from military-off-the-shelf to a new design were
being examined. The DCP envisaged that:
...this phase may have
multiple decision points identified as the project definition matures.
Accordingly, as the project is in a very early stage of development an
acquisition strategy has yet to be determined.
The DCP confirmed the government's intention that the future
submarines would be assembled in South Australia.
The DCP set out the following schedule for SEA 1000:
First Pass Approval financial year
2013–14 to financial year 2014–15
Year-of-Decision financial year
2016–17 to financial year 2017–18
Initial Materiel Release financial year
2019–20 to financial year 2025–26
Initial Operational Capability financial year 2025–26
to financial year 2026–27.
In order to deliver the new capability submarines in time to
replace the Collins class, preliminary work to prepare first pass approval in
late 2013/early 2014 is clearly a demanding priority.
Australian Industry Capability
An Australian Industry Capability Plan is required for each
project procurement where the estimated value of the procurement is equal to or
greater than $20 million or where the procurement will impact on a Priority
Industry Capability (PIC). The DCP indicated that it was likely that Phase 1
and 2, the design and construction of the submarines, would require Australian
industry capability, priority industry capability, strategic industry
capability and global supply chain. It noted further that the project would fully
explore and define the priority industry capability requirements such as 'they
can be recorded in the Acquisition Strategy'. According to the DCP the exact
nature of Australian industry opportunities would be identified as the project
The DCP indicated that through-life support needs would be
refined as the capability solution developed but that planning would be based
on through-life-support being provided in Australia.
On 3 May 2012, the then Prime Minister announced that $214
million would be provided for the 'next stage' of the future submarine project
and be directed towards further detailed studies and analysis to inform the
government's decisions on the design of the next submarines.
Defence White Paper 2013
In May 2013, the government
brought forward the delivery of its anticipated Defence White Paper by one year
from its original 2014 timetable 'to address a number of significant
international and domestic developments influencing Australia’s national
security and defence posture internationally and domestically'. The 2013 White Paper
recognised the strategic value and importance of Australia's submarine
capability and reaffirmed its commitment to replace the existing Collins Class
fleet with an expanded fleet of 12 conventional submarines.
When releasing the 2013 White Paper, the then Prime Minster,
the Hon Julia Gillard MP, noted the government's decision to have the future
submarine program focus on two options: an 'evolved Collins Class' design; and
new design options likely to best meet Australia’s strategic requirements. The
White Paper spelt out this intention:
The Government has
also taken the important decision to suspend further investigation of the two
Future Submarine options based on military-off-the-shelf designs in favour of
focusing resources on progressing an 'evolved Collins' and new design options
that are likely to best meet Australia's future strategic and capability
The Prime Minister indicated that the government had also
directed further detailed work on establishing a land-based test facility in
Adelaide. This Submarine Propulsion Energy Support and Integration Facility was
intended to 'substantially assist submarine capability design, delivery and
sustainment and reduce risk in all stages of the Future Submarine Program'.
As noted earlier, the government had approved expenditure of
over $200 million to fund design, modelling, analysis and technology studies to
examine in detail options for the future submarine capability. A range of
studies, which looked at the different technologies in terms of propulsion,
whole design and so on, were undertaken to help Defence build-up a base
knowledge so it would be an informed customer and able
to understand likely future advances in submarine technologies.
According to Rear Admiral Sammut, DMO also conducted various
studies into each of the four options. He indicated that DMO was trying to
ascertain the capabilities of MOTS submarines; whether further exploration was
required; or whether DMO needed to concentrate on other options that may have a
chance of coming closer to meeting Australia's capability needs. He informed
the committee that by the middle of 2013, DMO had reached the point where, as
indicated in the White Paper, the program was beginning to focus on options 3
He explained that both options 1 and 2 fell into the 'suspended' category:
We had not done any
further work on the options so that we could focus our energies on option 3 and
option 4. I do not think that necessarily amounted to a decision to completely
eliminate consideration of MOTS submarine at that stage but an ability to focus
the resources we had on looking at what would be involved in involving the
Collins class as an option and what would be involved in progressing a new
Combined with the various investigations looking at the
different acquisition options, the studies involved with modelling and
analysing submarine technology formed the bulk of the work undertaken with the
It should be noted that on 30 September 2014, Rear Admiral
Sammut informed the committee that to date total expenditure on phase 1A, for
which the $214 million was allocated, accounted for $68.4 million. The
remaining budget, including contingency, was $185.3 million.
Aside from the $214 million, an additional $34.2 million was
allocated in April 2013 for the Submarine Propulsion, Energy, Support and
Integration Facility. According to Defence, first pass approval for this
submarine design and test facility was achieved in April 2013 but no
construction work has commenced.
The 2013 White Paper reaffirmed the government's intention to
have the future submarines assembled in South Australia and again ruled out
consideration of a nuclear powered submarine capability to replace the Collins
Class fleet. It again highlighted the challenges facing the project:
The Future Submarine
Program is a capability design, construction and sustainment challenge of
unprecedented scale and complexity, and will span decades. Implementation will
require a sustained and coordinated national effort. The Program will harness
the knowledge, skills, expertise and lessons learned over the last 50 years of
Australian submarine ownership.
According to the White Paper, Defence would work with relevant
Commonwealth and State Agencies and authorities and Australia's strategic
partners along with suitable Australian industrial capacity during all stages
of the program. It recognised that such engagement and collaboration would be
critical to the project's success. In particular, the government intended to
continue close cooperation with the United States on developing undersea
Australian Defence industry
The White Paper also recognised that the future submarine program
'a true nation building endeavour' which presented both challenges and
significant opportunities for Defence and Australian industry. It argued that
to complete the program successfully, the government would need to support the
Australian naval shipbuilding industry to develop and maintain a workforce
'skilled in a wide range of specialist activities'. They included 'systems
engineering, design, production engineering, construction and project
management'. It stated further:
While building new
skills within the maritime sector is important, it is equally important to
maintain the skill level of the existing maritime workforce. The Government is
committed to a program of naval shipbuilding that will ensure that the skills
developed during construction of the Air Warfare Destroyers and Landing
Helicopter Dock ships will be available to be applied to the Future Submarine
Program and Defence's broader long-term needs.
According to the White Paper, to do otherwise would result in a
later delivery of the future submarines at a higher cost than is necessary,
thereby resulting in a loss of capability for the ADF.
Election and new government
In the lead-up to the 2013
general election, the now Defence Minister visited ASC and said:
The Coalition today is committed to building 12 new
submarines here in Adelaide, we will get that task done, and it is a really
important task, not just for the Navy but for the nation.
As part of its Defence policy, the
Coalition announced that any substantial decision on Defence acquisition,
including Australia's submarine fleet and capabilities, could only be made
responsibly with the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force and Service
It made clear, however, that within 18 months of winning the
election it would make the decisions necessary to ensure that Australia would
not experience a submarine capability gap. It also gave assurances that the
work on the replacement of the current submarine fleet would centre around the
South Australian shipyards.
New or evolved design
In April 2014, the Minister for Defence reminded a conference
on submarines that before the last election, he gave his support to
Defence's charted course for the Future Submarine program—the suspension of
investigations into options 1 and 2 and more detailed investigation of options
3 and 4 (a bespoke new design). He concluded 'we are left with options 3 and 4
at this particular time'.
The following month, the minister announced that, as promised
before the election, the government would soon consider Defence's plan to
progress the future submarine to ensure it was achievable and that it balanced
cost, capability and risk. He stated:
We will ensure that
Defence is investigating all appropriate options and is drawing on private
sector expertise in order to successfully deliver this complex project.
At that same conference, Mr Simon Todd, lead of the Future
Submarine Integrated Project Team (ITP), told the audience that one of the key
assumptions and derived requirements that underpinned the ITP's work was that
Australia's future submarines would be assembled in South Australia. He
explained further 'so any design created overseas must be imported and matched
to Australian shipyard practices'.
The May 2014 Portfolio Budget
Statement confirmed that work would proceed on options 3 and 4. It provided
further information on the future submarine acquisition:
2014–15, the strategic direction of this project will be reviewed by Government
as part of the White Paper process. To assist this review and maintain
schedule, work will continue on Option 3 (Evolved Collins Class) and Option 4
(New Design). Consultations with industry will also commence to progress
planning for the delivery of the Future Submarine, which is being scheduled to
avoid a capability gap as the Collins Class is progressively withdrawn from
service. The project will refine proposed arrangements to ensure the roles and
functions of the Commonwealth can be fulfilled over the full course of the SEA
key risk for this project remains the mobilisation of resources across
Government, industry and academia necessary to manage the Future Submarine
Program with appropriate international support, informed by our experience and
knowledge of similar programs.
In July, at an industry and
defence conference, the minister acknowledged that there was significant debate
around the future submarine and whether it should be built in Australia. He
suggested that this debate must consider the cost, risk and schedule as well as
the benefits of the different options. He identified key questions such as:
industrial capability is scarce; where ought it be directed? To what priority
and to which ADF needs?
The minister concluded that with tens of billions of dollars
of new opportunity on the table the government must choose wisely.
On 21 August 2014, the minister informed the Australian
Business Industry Group that no decision had been made on the future submarines
but work was progressing well on options. He gave assurances that there would
be no capability gap.
The following day in Adelaide, the Prime Minister stated that the
government was going to ensure that Australia has the strongest possible
We are going to
ensure that we have the best possible submarines in service for Australia. We
have got six Collins-class boats that were built here in Adelaide; they are
good boats. It took us a long time to get them right, but they are good boats.
Speculation about Japanese submarine
On 26 August 2014, a delegation of Japanese Defence science
technicians visited ASC, Osborne in South Australia, spending two days at
Osborne and one day at Henderson, south of Perth. ASC facilitated the visit at
the request of DMO. Mr Stuart Whiley, Interim CEO, ASC, informed the
committee that DMO wanted to demonstrate to the Japanese the capability
Australia had in-country in terms of the ASC facility and workforce.
According to the Minister for Defence, the delegation was to
visit Perth, Canberra and Sydney. He also noted that many people from overseas
had visited Australia to exchange technical information.
This visit by the 18 Japanese dignitaries sparked speculation
about the government's stated intention to build the submarines in Adelaide.
Media reports suggested that the visit had heightened fears that the Australian
Government was contemplating building the future submarines overseas. The South
Australian Defence Industries Minister, the Hon Martin Hamilton-Smith, told
journalists that he knew nothing of the trip and wanted answers about the
reason behind the Japanese visit. He wanted to know whether the visit
'signalled a back down from the Coalition's election promise
to build the submarines in Adelaide' and was urgently seeking an explanation
the Australian Government.
In response to a question without notice seeking clarification
on the government's intention with regard to the possibility of buying Japanese
submarines, the Minister for Defence, told the Senate on 27 August 2014 that
'We are not ruling in or out anything here'.
According to the minister there were only three places that
Australia could approach for the design of a new submission—France; Germany;
On 3 September 2014, the Senate debated the future submarines,
as a matter of urgency. The motion before the Senate was 'the need for the
to keep its pre-election promise to design and build Australia's Future
Submarine Fleet in Adelaide and to justify why it's planning to destroy
Australia's strategically vital shipbuilding capability'.
The following week, the Minister for Defence explained:
Australia has a 3,400
submerged tonne submarine which gives us enough room for lots of battery space
and lots of fuel. The Japanese submarine is about 4,200 submerged tonnes, which
is bigger than the Collins, it's the biggest diesel electric submarine. But the
Germans also produce some very good vessels and the French have got on offer a
Barracuda which is almost 5,000 tonnes, so we are canvassing widely across a
number of countries...
Even so, speculation continued to mount about the possible
decision to purchase the future submarines from Japan. It was in this context
that the committee decided at short notice to hold a public hearing on 30 September
and 8, 13 and 14 October 2014
to examine the future submarine project and to report to the Senate on its
Through these public hearings, the Committee has been able to
the significance of, and messages emanating from, the Japanese
visit in August 2014 and subsequent government announcements on discussions
with Japan regarding submarines;
Australian requirements and the future submarine—range, endurance
potential contenders for designing and building the future
the capability of Japanese submarines as measured against
the tender process and the merits and feasibility of having a
funded project definition study, the benefits of undertaking a competitive
tender process and whether there was time to complete such a process while
avoiding a capability gap;
the capacity of Australian shipyards to build submarines onshore,
the costs, including through-life-support and the broader economic benefits;
the strategic importance of the Australian Defence industry and
of building the submarines in Australia; and
recommendations designed to ensure that the future submarine
program succeeds in acquiring a world-class, highly capable conventionally
powered submarine that meets Australia's requirements and is truly a national
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