Government approves Collins submarine life extension works


The federal government has announced the go ahead for the life-of-type extension programme for the Collins class submarine fleet, extending their life until the arrival of Virginia class nuclear powered submarines.

HMAS Farncomb will be the first of the Collins class submarines to undergo sustainment and capability enhancement at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide under the programme.

More than 300 workers at submarine constructor ASC at Osborne are on strike over what they see as a pay offer lower than than received by company colleagues in Perth.

ASC, and BAE Systems Australia also located at Osborne have been selected by Canberra to build the SSN-AUKUS submarine type which will follow on from the Virginias.

The life-of-type extension programme is part of $4 to $5 billion earmarked to ensure the Collins class submarines continue to provide a potent strike and deterrence capability.

The life-of-type extension of HMAS Farncomb will commence in 2026 and, according to a statement, ensure the future availability of the Collins class submarines, without compromising on submariner safety.

“An optronics upgrade for the Collins class submarines, announced by the former coalition government, will not proceed following advice that it would have added complexity and risk to the life-of-type extension programme.

“The SSN-AUKUS nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines will likewise not be fitted with this particular design.”

The government has also received advice from Defence, in consultation with the United States, that adding Tomahawk cruise missile capability to the Collins class submarines is not viable and does not represent value for money.

The Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines Australia will receive in the early 2030s will come with the Tomahawk as standard equipment.

“These decisions will reduce risk for the Collins class programme and will help maximise Collins class availability as we transition to our future nuclear-powered submarine capability.

“The dedicated workers at ASC are at the heart of sustaining our submarine capability.

“These decisions provide certainty and support the growth and development of ASC’s highly skilled workforce now and into the future.”

The Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the submarines would remain an enduring, potent and credible capability that is critical to Australia’s national security.

Conroy said: “The sustainment and upgrade work on the Collins class submarines give industry the certainty it needs and will provide a further boost for Australians who will benefit from the creation of highly skilled and well-paid jobs.”

Conroy made no comment about the ongoing industrial dispute in Adelaide.

Further reading:
ASC pledges to work with striking workers but cuts pay offer – report
ASC can’t build a canoe, now trusted with N-submarines

Picture: ASC

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