Collins Class Crippled
The story that won’t go away is the troubled Australian Collin’s class submarines, which seemed a good idea at the time. From the Australian, we learn:
THE navy’s $6 billion Collins-class submarines face serious operational restrictions after being hit by a run of crippling mechanical problems and troubling maintenance issues.
Some senior engineering experts now contend that the Swedish-supplied Hedemora diesel engines may have to be replaced – a major design and engineering job that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years to complete…
The Australian understands that in recent times only a single Collins-class boat has been available for operational duties but it is unclear whether this involves more than extended training missions. Senior Defence leaders are also vitally concerned about the productivity and efficiency of ASC, the Adelaide-based wholly government-owned builder and maintainer of the Collins class.
One senior Defence source characterises the level of concern in senior government ranks about the availability of the Collins submarines as “extreme”. In the recent defence white paper, Kevin Rudd announced that the government would double the size of the RAN’s submarine fleet from six to 12 when it came to replacing the Collins-class boats from 2025.
“If you can’t do this right, how do you do the next one,” observed one senior Defence source last night.
This goes along with what we were saying this morning, of grandiose visions which go wrong. In the 1990’s Australia looked for a super-submarine, similar to American nukes boats but without the nukes. They took an existing Swedish designed craft, greatly enlarged it with their own specifications, and came up with this billion-dollar boondoggle. But the sub builders had already figured out how to enhanced the abilities of conventional boats, with the addition of Air Independent Propulsion, offering extended underwater deployment without the high price or risk.
Now the Aussies envision even a grander arms buildup, 12 such supersubs, plus new destroyers and air-capable amphibious ships. Though we wish them well, with even the mighty US Navy struggling with its future high tech plans, we can only imagine the outcome will be much worse than their RAN’s current troubles.
How can this be fixed, you ask? On this, Eric L Palmer and myself are of one mind:
Off the table due to arrogance is the only logical suggestion; buy off the shelf subs. Something like 12 low-crew 212 AIP boats would be lethal and capable. Yet, in order to preserve home industry graft in the form of dysfunctional ship building, this won’t happen.
Sad, but he’s probably right. Still, bankruptcy can take you places you never thought you’d go, including naval reform.