Sunday, August 16, 2009

Australia Begins Search for Submarine Designers

Australian Defence Minister Sen. John Faulkner announced Aug. 6 that Canberra will call for tenders in the near future to carry out a design study for the Royal Australian Navy's Future Submarine project, code-named Sea 1000.

The 12-boat program is expected to be the most expensive defense procurement undertaken by Australia, with estimates ranging up to 20 billion Australian dollars ($16.8 billion).


The 2009 defense white paper, published in May, revealed that the Navy's six Collins-class boats will be replaced by about 2025 by 12 conventional submarines. The white paper calls for the Future Submarine to be more capable than the current 3,500-ton Collins-class boat, with greater range and patrol endurance, and armed with land-attack cruise missiles as well as heavyweight torpedoes.

A spokesman for Faulkner said the request for tenders announced by Faulkner and his deputy, Greg Combet, the defense materiel and science minister, is designed to assess whether Australian companies have the capacity to design such a submarine. The request also will help the government's defense procurement agency, the Canberra-based Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), determine the feasibility of establishing an indigenous submarine design capability in Australia.

"My interpretation of their announcement is exactly that," said Graham Bulmer, acting CEO of the Collins-class builder, ASC Pty Ltd., Port Adelaide. However, he said, the wording of the announcement is ambiguous, and until the request itself is released, Bulmer declined to speculate on what ASC's response might be.

At present, there is only one company in Australia recognized as a submarine design authority, and that is ASC, which established in 2007 a research and development subsidiary, Deep Blue Tech, to carry out self-funded research and development for the next generation of submarines. Bulmer said he couldn't say whether ASC or Deep Blue Tech might respond to the request.

This is the second stage of a two-part process that began earlier this year, when a team of Navy and DMO officials visited submarine construction yards in the U.S. and Europe to assess design and technology options.

The request is a tacit acknowledgement that there is no submarine available off the shelf that meets the Navy's needs, said Terry Roach, vice president of the Submarine Institute of Australia, a Canberra-based group comprising many former Navy submariners. Roach himself is a former Navy submarine captain and former director of the Navy's Submarine Warfare Systems Centre here.

The institute published a paper last year setting out the key design factors for the Future Submarine project and urged the government to invest in the R&D required to support the design, construction and sustainment of a new fleet of submarines.

The Navy has unique requirements for range, submerged endurance, speed, stealth and payload. The Navy/DMO study tour this year confirmed that no existing conventional submarine can meet these requirements, Roach said Aug. 7. In addition, the Navy has a close strategic relationship with the U.S. Navy, with whom it collaborates on the development of the AN/BYG-1 submarine combat management system and the Mk48 Mod. 7 heavyweight torpedo.

To maintain that vital relationship and protect sensitive U.S. technology, Australia must have a secure, indigenous design and project management capability, rather than working with a European designer, Roach said. All that points toward ongoing investment in indigenous submarine design capabilities.

The domestic design study forms part of the initial definition phase of Project Sea 1000, which is due to end in December. It will be used to shape the design, procurement and production process for the Future Submarine, Roach said.

Phase 1A of the Future Submarine project, the concept design process, is due for Cabinet approval in 2010 or 2011, with the preliminary design stage, Phase 1B, due to get underway between 2011 and 2013. The detailed design for the Future Submarine in Phase 1C will get underway in 2013.

The construction of the first submarine in Phase 2 of Project Sea 1000 will commence afterward.

2 comments:

y they don't go to US ask for nuke subs for lease

they trust and buy all military equipment from US so just beg for nuke sub as well

"they trust and buy all military equipment from US so just beg for nuke sub as well"

Its because Australia doesn't want to spend extra money on nuclear maintenance infrastructure, so they're probably going to go with diesel-electric. Also for some reason nuclear power is extremely unpopular in Australia, so that's another reason why the Aussies probably won't get a nuclear sub.

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