Adelaide to get submarine testing facility

Dec. 13, 2012 at 12:05 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The Australian government will build a land-based test site near Adelaide to ensure working order of submarine subsystems units before installation in new vessels.

Subsystems include propulsion, energy plant and integration technology, a statement from the Australian Department of Defense said.

The decision was based on a study started in November for the Future Submarine Program by the contractor Babcock and with input from the government's Defense Science and Technology Organization.

Australia's submarines are built in Adelaide, South Australia, and details of the new test facility are being considered.

"Elements of the facility will be located also in Western Australia where the navy will have easy access for training purposes, and in Victoria where DSTO maritime specialists are based," the statement said.

The Future Submarine project -- with vessels yet to be designed -- will be the largest and most complex defense project undertaken by Australia.

The test site will be integral to the project because it should reduce the risk of delay, cost overruns, poor availability and increased operating and sustainment costs.

The facility will also help with maintenance of the Collins class fleet, which suffered problems earlier in its procurement process and up to now.

The announcement of the test site comes at the same time as publication of a major report on sustainment contracts for the six Collins Class vessels, the Coles Review, led by John Coles, an independent expert from BMT Defense Services in the United Kingdom.

Since the first of the vessels was delivered around 15 years ago the fleet has suffered maintenance issues and systems failures that have meant only one sub has been operational.

Two submarines -- the HMAS Sheean and HMAS Rankin -- are in "deep maintenance" and completely unavailable, the Defense Industry Daily news website reported last month.

The HMAS Farncomb is in port facing indeterminate maintenance. The original HMAS Collins submarine, commissioned in 1996, is on "limited availability" -- considered fit only for training.

The HMAS Waller was in port for major battery repairs as recently as May 2009, the Defense Industry Daily report said.

The Coles Review has been endorsed by the navy, the government's Defense Materiel Organization, Department of Finance and Deregulation and shipbuilder contractor ASC.

The report made 25 recommendations to restore the Collins class fleet to an international benchmark by 2016.

One recommendation recently was signed, a five-year performance-based In Service Support Contract to ensure work being undertaken on the Collins submarines is to required quality and delivered on time.

Under the contract, which started July 1, the DMO has options to be exercised subject to satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance.

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