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The Study Into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability

The Study's Scope
Key Findings
Key Recommendations
Progress Review

Collins Class Submarines
Read the Report

Effective sustainment of the Collins Submarine fleet is vital to Australia’s national security.

Key recommendations in the ‘Study Into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability’ were designed to ensure commercial, operational, sustainment and management issues that hindered the Collins Class submarines through the 1990s, would be solved.

Collins Class Submarine, undergoing maintenance at the Henderson Dock Yard facility

The study provides an insight into past lessons learnt and solutions provided to ensure the Collins Class fleet of submarines are better sustained and more readily available to be deployed at sea when required.

A key point that was highlighted is that Defence has already implemented into its submarine sustainment and planning policies a number of the study’s recommendations, prior to the final review being released in December 2012.

The Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance), ASC Pty Ltd and the Australian Government fully support the implementation of the recommendations.

The Study’s Scope

The Study was a highly technical examination of commercial, operational, sustainment and management issues around Collins Class sustainment. In essence, the Study set out to answer the following questions:

  1. What is wrong now with the Collins fleet sustainment performance?
  2. What caused the current problems with sustainment performance?
  3. Will improvement initiatives address these issues?
  4. What are the recommendations to resolve the remaining issues?

To complete the work the study team reviewed over 2,500 documents and interviewed over 200 people across the Collins Class Sustainment Program.

Key Findings

The Study found that the Collins Class submarines are capable submarines which are competently designed and operated by the Royal Australian Navy, however, many of the problems with the Collins fleet stemmed from a failure to put in adequate sustainment arrangements on entry into service (from 1996), and subsequently to adopt adequate processes for reliability. This has lead to maintenance backlogs, inefficient practices and reduced submarine availability.

Effective sustainment of the Collins Submarine fleet is vital to Australia’s national security. The need to improve sustainment of the Collins Class submarines, and ensure their availability is a long-standing and well-known issue. To better address these issues, the Study into Collins Class sustainment was initiated.

The Study concludes that the availability and reliability of the Collins fleet can be restored to international benchmarks in about three years. Doing so will mean that the Collins Class Program will be able to meet the Navy requirement of two deployable submarines consistency available. 

The Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance), ASC Pty Ltd and the Australian Government fully support the implementation of the recommendations.

A significant move forward for Defence and an example of it taking on board Coles’ recommendations is the introduction of a new five-year performance-based contracting system. The In Service Support Contract (ISSC) aims to ensure work being undertaken on the Collins submarines is quality and delivered on time. The new contract offers DMO options to be exercised subject to satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance.

The new contract was signed in June 2012 and formally began on July 1, 2012.

Read the Report

Read the Media Release

The Key Recommendations:

Key recommendations to deliver long-term improvements for the sustainment and availability of Collins Class submarines include:

  • Accepting that sustainment of the Collins Class had fallen far short of what was required due to systemic failures attributable to logistic support arrangements not being put in place initially;
  • Setting realistic performance targets that will progressively improve performance over the next three years;
  • Clearly defining roles, responsibilities and authority in submarine sustainment; and

  • Moving quickly to bed-down the new In Service Support Contract between DMO Organisation and ASC to deliver more efficient and effective sustainment.

Progress Review: Phase 4 Findings

The Coles Review Team returned to undertake a progress review in March 2014. This fourth and final Phase of the Study assessed the performance of the Collins Submarine Enterprise and the trajectory to attain and sustain International Benchmark Availability.

The review team concluded that submarine availability has improved significantly with the submarine force achieving nearly two and frequently three submarines materially available as measured over successive financial years.

This improvement is attributable to a combination of greatly enhanced availability of spares, fewer planned maintenance overruns, along with fewer faster repairs of defects in operational boats.

Changing to a ten year operating cycle followed by a two-year major overhaul underpins the ability to achieve and maintain benchmark availability.

Preparations for the first two year Full-Cycle Docking, commencing in June 2014, are well progressed.

ASC is undertaking significant work practice changes to achieve this shorter duration, however many of the initiatives are untried so there remains more than a routine risk to be managed to achieve HMAS Farncomb’s scheduled end date.

In addition, the transformation efforts to date need to be embedded to ensure that once attained, the level of availability can be sustained.

Eighteen months into a three year journey, the signs of improvement are encouraging but there remains more work to be done.

Read the Progress Review

The Collins Class Submarines

Australia has six Collins Class Submarines - HMAS Collins, HMAS Farncomb, HMAS Waller, HMAS Dechaineux, HMAS Sheean and HMAS Rankin. 

The characteristics and range of Collins Class submarines have been tailored specifically for its defence and two-ocean surveillance role in the Royal Australian Navy. Designed to be as quiet as advanced technology can achieve, Collins Class submarines have been developed from five generations of submarines designed and built by the Swedish Navy.

Read more about the Submarines’ specifications and history

Contact: dmo.communication@defence.gov.au

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