Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 16:19 | SYDNEY
Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 16:19 | SYDNEY

First class, second class, Collins class


Rory Medcalf


28 January 2010 13:54

Australian Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner has a reputation for speaking plainly. Not yesterday, when he told the Seapower 2010 conference that the availability of the nation's Collins class submarine fleet was 'less than optimal'.

When you get below the surface, that actually means our island-continent with vast maritime interests has been reduced to having just one operational submarine.

What an embarrassing contrast to the 12 promised in the current Defence White Paper – not to mention the 18 or 30 which some prominent defence analysts think we need. Thank goodness that the forbidding strategic environment envisaged in the White Paper – great powers poised for military confrontation in the sealanes, or perhaps even contemplating the coercion of Australia — has not yet come to pass.

Yet for all this, the government seems determined to press ahead with its plan to create the Son of Collins, a uniquely Australian boat, meant to be the most potent diesel-electric sub ever made. All the Minister had to say yesterday was to remind us that the RAND corporation had been commissioned to 'examine the nature of the required design capability' and report on whether Australia has the ability to produce this fleet domestically.  (The uncharitable might guess at a one word answer.)

Meanwhile, although the idea of Australia buying submarines off-the-shelf remains off the agenda, that has not discouraged Navantia (already contracted to build much of the country's future surface fleet) from including a model of its Scorpene class submarine at the Pacific 2010 defence expo being held alongside the Seapower conference — just in case.

Photo courtesy of the Royal Ausralian Navy.