The Australian Underwater Comedy of Mistakes
By Peter Roberts
It’s getting harder and harder to keep thinking that Australia is not making a hash of our most expensive and complex defecation program – building 12 Attack-class submarines at a cost of $ 90 billion. dollars.
The government has finally clarified whether three or all six of our Collins boats will need a type life extension to cover the gap between them reaching end of life and the delivery of enough new vessels … six will be modernized.
Yet there is no certainty about the cost of building the Attack, or how long it will take, or the suitability of conventional ship propulsion systems or even the suitability of the submarines themselves. even when they come into service.
And most devastating is that there is no certainty about where the training of the skilled underwater workforce is focused in Australia – in Adelaide or Perth.
The seeds for this mess were sown during the tenure of the last Labor government, when decisions about the sub were not made on time, with delays cascading into deadlines and hasty decision making.
The Coalition compounded the problem with the high-level incompetence of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Defense Minister David Johnston.
Abbott slammed the idea that Japan could build our new submarines, with Johnston following suit with the astonishing comment that the Australian Submarine Corporation could not be trusted to build a canoe.
Silly because the Japanese submarine is not at the technological level of our own Collins, and mind-blowing because Johnston himself was responsible as minister for the performance of the CSA.
This led to the appointment of Christopher Pyne as Minister of Defense Industry, which transformed the Australian industry’s relationship with the defense of an irrelevant relationship to a key part of capacity planning for defense.
But the decision to select French Attack’s bid was totally rushed, leading to an inevitable escalation in costs and the need to renegotiate the contract just concluded to clearly state the role of the local industry.
And of course, the decision to build a construction site in Adelaide was political, the consequence of a loss of government support following the “canoe” comment.
Which brings us to today with a new submarine construction site being built alongside ASC in Adelaide, just north of a new construction site (pictured) that has just been delivered that will build the Hunter class frigates.
Adelaide will therefore be the major naval shipyard and Perth the builder of more small vessels.
All is well, except that WA has tried to persuade Canberra to move deep maintenance from the Collins to Perth.
This would appear to create two sites of underwater excellence, which at first glance does not make sense given the looming difficulties in finding enough people with specialized skills to work on one, let alone two sites.
And, of course, this is yet another decision that has been pushed back again and again.
South Australian Senator Rex Patrick, a former submariner, took to social media to express our collective frustration: “The future costs of submarines have gone from $ 50 billion to $ 89 billion and the costs Collins’ lifespan extension from $ 6 billion to $ 10 billion.
“The @DeptDefence team that brought you this is also promoting a risky transfer of Collins maintenance from SA to WA for over $ 1 billion.
“Someone is taking matters into their own hands! “
Photo: South Osborne Shipyard
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