Submarine task force thinks about “son of Collins” before nuclear boats arrive
While the nuclear submarine task force is focused on acquiring submarines from the United States and Britain under the AUKUS agreements, sources said the task force’s chief Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead had an order that too includes the study of interim submarine capabilities.
The government had initially rented a British or American nuclear submarine until the first of the new boats were delivered, but this is viewed as increasingly unlikely.
Admiral Mead told a budget committee last month that the defense wants at least one nuclear submarine before 2040, and ideally more, and is working to accelerate that schedule.
Meanwhile, the lives of all six Collins-class submarines will be extended for an additional 10 years, starting in 2026 and two years thereafter. However, that means the first submarine is slated to retire in 2038, which will be fine in the event of delays in the nuclear program.
Navy chief Mike Noonan has left open the option of a second lifetime extension of the Collins-class submarines, but sources said the price difference between renovating an aging submarine and building a brand new diesel-electric boat based on the Collins, but with more modern systems it would be comparatively small.
ASC has carried out extensive studies to modernize the existing Collins-class submarines which, based on the original design, could form the basis for a new boat.
“Building a new Collins-class submarine would give you more options and keep the workforce together in Adelaide. And you’re not trying to force a 40 year old submarine to do things, ”a source said.
The new test of submarine provisional capabilities comes after Secretary of Defense Greg Moriarty told the Senate last month that the department had “not at the moment” advised the government on the matter.
“The focus of the nuclear-powered submarine task force is to work closely with the UK and US over the next 18 months to determine the optimal route to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia,” said one Statement from the Ministry.
“In parallel, the government is investing between $ 4.3 billion and $ 6.4 billion in extending the life of all six Collins-class submarines. The Collins-class submarine is still one of the most powerful conventional submarines in the world. “
Marcus Hellyer, analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said building a “son of Collins” was having problems including the fact that there were no longer any original component manufacturers and the Navy was reluctant to operate three classes of submarines, however nevertheless, this could help to reduce the risk.
“We are in a dire situation. But it’s definitely worth exploring seriously, ”he said.
“You set up the schedule [for retirement of the Collins and delivery of the nuclear-powered submarines], and it doesn’t fit. If your delivery drum for the nuclear submarines is longer than two years, you will get new boats more slowly than the old ones are retired. “
The Australian Industrial and Defense Network said that while the decision on an interim submarine was a matter for the government, such a program would benefit local defense companies and preserve the capabilities brought about by the aborted French submarine program were created
“It would make it possible to build up an Australian workforce and prepare them for the construction of the nuclear submarine. This would enable the Australian industry to efficiently and effectively establish itself for the task ahead, ”said CEO Brent Clark.