Significant Steps to Be Taken to Maintain Capability of Australia’s Collins Class Subs

Further significant initiatives will be undertaken to both maintain the capability of Australia’s Collins Class submarine fleet and further improve Collins Class maintenance, sustainment and availability, Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Mike Kelly said today in a joint media release.

The Collins Class submarine fleet of six submarines is an essential part of Australia’s national security capability.

The Collins Class was designed with a theoretical platform life of 28 years, which provides for an on paper indicative service life for the fleet of 2024 to 2031.

A Service Life Evaluation Program was undertaken by Defence in 2012 to identify any issues that would prevent the Collins Class from achieving their indicative service life. The study also considered the possibility of a service life extension for the Collins fleet.

The study found there is no single technical issue that would fundamentally prevent the Collins Class submarines from achieving their indicative service life or a service life extension of one operating cycle for the fleet, which is currently around seven years, excluding docking periods. Based on the commissioning dates of the submarines, this provides an indicative service life of the fleet of 2031 to 2038.

Combined Pass approval for Collins Obsolescence Management

In this context, Ministers Smith and Kelly announced that the Government has provided Combined Pass approval for the first stage of SEA 1439 Phase 3.1 Collins Obsolescence Management to resolve obsolescence in the Integrated Ship Control Management and Monitoring System in the Collins Class submarine fleet.

The Integrated Ship Control Management and Monitoring System, designed in the 1980s to control, is a highly automated computerised system which enables the crew of the Collins Class to control, monitor and manage the large number of diverse and complex systems on board the submarines.

The Integrated Ship Control Management and Monitoring System has performed effectively and reliably, but it is essential to ensure the system can be maintained for the remaining indicative extended service life of the Collins Class fleet.

The Government has approved ASC Pty Ltd to work with Saab Systems in the first instance to engineer replacements for obsolescent system components and update and test the system in on-shore test facilities and subsequently one Collins Class submarine.

This first stage work is valued at around $65 million and will be conducted at ASC Pty Ltd in Adelaide in South Australia.

The Government has also given approval for Defence to plan for the second stage of the project to update the system in the remaining five Collins Class submarines once installation and testing in the first submarine has been completed. Government consideration of the second stage is scheduled for 2017.

Major reform to the maintenance of Collins Class Submarines: Implementation of Coles Review Full Cycle Docking Period to Two Years

The Ministers also announced a major reform in the maintenance of the Collins Class submarine fleet, to improve submarine availability across the fleet  by reducing the planned full cycle docking period for each submarine from three years to two years.

This reform is part of the extensive transformation program being implemented in the Collins Class submarine fleet maintenance and sustainment following the Study into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability, led by Mr John Coles (the Coles Review).

Implementation of the Coles Review recommendations will improve Collins Class availability through a variety of mechanisms including the delivery of more efficient logistic support arrangements, implementation of performance based maintenance contracts with defence industry, and development of a revised approach to the programming of planned maintenance and usage.

A key recommendation of the Coles Review 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.

Under the current Collins maintenance cycle, each submarine operates in-service for eight years (including intermediate dockings) followed by a planned three year full cycle docking. The in-service period is punctuated by shorter intermediate duration dockings and maintenance periods alongside.

This means that two submarines are in full cycle docking at any one time, with, in general terms, one and sometimes two in shorter dockings and maintenance. This means Defence can currently plan on having two and sometimes three submarines available to the Fleet Commander for tasking at any one time.

The Coles Review proposed transition to a ‘single stream full cycle docking’ involving 10 years of in-service operation followed by a two year full cycle docking.

While the new in-service 10-year period will include longer intermediate docking periods to account for the reduction in full cycle docking duration, the result would be a consistently higher level of availability overall, extending the duration of operational periods.

Over the long term, the ‘single stream full cycle docking’ means that Defence can plan on having three and sometimes four submarines available to the Fleet Commander for tasking at any one time from 2016-17.

ASC has proposed an immediate transition beginning with HMAS Farncomb in mid-2014. ASC has assessed that this would lower the risks associated with the progressive transition suggested by the Coles Review, particularly risks related to funding requirements, the time required to re-allocate labour, workscope adjustments, and managing the overall program to deliver availability. The Government has agreed to ASC’s recommendation.

Under the immediate transition, HMAS Collins, which is currently undergoing pre-full cycle docking preparation in Adelaide, will remain in Adelaide until completing full cycle docking in mid-2018. During this period, all pre-full cycle docking preparation on HMAS Collins, including remediation of a class-wide main motor defect, will be completed. HMAS Collins will commence her two-year full cycle docking in 2016.

Defence will closely monitor ASC’s implementation of the new full cycle docking maintenance regime and provide regular reports to Government through the Minister for Defence and Minister for Finance.

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Press Release, June 14, 2013

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