Australian Defense Chief Sooths Submarine Fears
Australia’s Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin held a round-table meeting with members of the Australian media to discuss future capabilities outlined in the newly released 2016 Defence White Paper after concerns arising from the report.
The White Paper was released late February, and it stated that Australia plans to double the size of its submarine fleet to 12 and commission three additional destroyers, nine anti-submarine frigates and 12 patrol boats.
Binskin said it was likely the first of the future submarines would be introduced into service between 2030 and 2033. This means that Australia’s existing Collins class submarines will need to be in the water longer than planned. The original plan was to retire these submarines at around 2026, but the timeframe has been changed.
Biskin addressed the possibility that a capability gap would arise between the retirement of the Collins class submarines and the commissioning of the future submarines.
“It’s probable two Collins will have to go through an additional maintenance period to be able to cover off on the capabilities we need,” he said. “We’re not going to retire them and have no boats in the water, or reduced boats in the water.”
Also present at the briefing was Head Navy Capability Rear Admiral Johnathan Mead who added there were a number of enhancements and upgrades to the Collins class which would ensure it kept its capability edge.
“All of the Collins will go through a full-cycle docking to treat any age issues as well as receive upgrades to their weapons and sensors,” he said.
Binskin said a review would be conducted in the late 2020s to consider if the configuration of the submarines remained suitable. “What that means is boat 12 may not look like boat one. You want to have the flexibility to build in-flights of three or four at a time,” he said.
“The basic hull design is the same, but we’re continuing to evolve the systems as we learn and grow.”
The exact cost of building the future submarines is unknown, but the White Paper indicates $50 billion will be spread over 35 years.
Work on the Collins Class submarines began in the 1980s to replace the existing Oberon class. HMAS Collins was delivered in 1996 and over the next seven years, a further five vessels were delivered.