Australia: Chief of Navy Reports on Collins Class Capability

Chief of Navy Reports on Collins Class Capability

“Today, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) released its paper “Mind The Gap: Getting Serious About Submarines”. As a result of this there has been some quite critical, and in some cases dated, analysis reported in the press.

There is no denying the issue that submarine availability is not where we need it to be. We require three boats running consistently to ensure we meet our various commitments while also training submariners as we build experience levels and overall workforce numbers. Our submarine arm has grown steadily since 2008 and has a healthy training pipeline. Our immediate goals this year are achieving our FPDA, Kakadu and RIMPAC exercise commitments and achieving the goal of establishing the fourth submarine crew. This latter task remains finely balanced but is being closely managed and overseen by CNSAC.

I had the priviledge of spending nearly 24 hours underway in HMAS Dechaineux last year in a very busy operational setting. What I saw was a very capable boat with an exceptionally professional and hard working team. It gave me great heart to see the skill levels resident in the force – we should be very proud of our submariners.

The ASPI paper highlights a number of well-known issues with the Collins Class. Some issues are historical and have been remedied. These include the submarine’s combat capability. Soon, all of our submarines will be equipped with the same combat system installed in the USN submarine fleet. We also share the same advanced heavy weight torpedo. These improvements, along with the close relationship we’ve developed with the USN submarine force, have enabled us to maintain high levels of operational proficiency. Similarly regular, complex exercises with USN submarines are proving the capability of the Collins Class to operate very effectively in its warfighting roles.

The current issues raised in the ASPI paper are the focus of ongoing and concerted efforts to improve overall reliability across the submarine fleet. These efforts are meeting with success and Navy, DMO, and industry are working together closely to systematically address remaining issues. We are also conducting the analysis expected of us in assessing the ability of the Collins Class to operate beyond the time we originally intended to decommission the boats- a task other navies have undertaken with similar rigour and with some success.

You will appreciate that we do not publicly discuss the operational capability of the Collins fleet or any other defence capability for genuine reasons of national security. I can say that I remain confident in the capacity of the submarine force to meet the operational requirements of government. The Collins Class retains its relevance as a potent strategic capability, reflecting both the effectiveness of our submarines as well as the professionalism of our people.”

Naval Today Staff, April 23, 2012; Image: navy