CANBERRA, BM, ($1=1.30 AUD) – The Royal Australian Navy is armed with six Collins-class submarines. They were manufactured 30 years ago by the Swedish company Kockums, which is now part of the large Saab group. The life cycle of this type of submarine, according to the Australian Ministry, should reach its end sometime in 2030-2031. That’s why Australia ordered brand new Attaka-class submarines from the French Naval Group, which are based on modern technology and construction of French Barracuda class submarines.
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Long before 2030, the French were to deliver the first submarine to the Royal Australian Navy. However, it turns out that this will not happen and the optimal delivery time for the first submarine has been changed to 2035. This puts the “kangaroo” in an awkward position and would significantly weaken the navy’s combat capabilities.
The Australian government is thus forced to seek a solution through its existing six Collins-class submarines. Canberra has already voted a budget of nearly $ 4.6 billion for their renovation. It was supposed to happen anyway, but if the French plans coincided with the pre-guaranteed ones, Australia would only upgrade three Collins-class submarines. Now the costs are doubling.
Class Collins is an aging design. Such an investment may not be so successful, because Australians will have to upgrade the technology with modern, as well as equipment, and it is not yet clear whether this class will be able to withstand such an upgrade. The Australian company ASC will work on the upgrade, and Australians will receive help and advice from the Swedish Saab. Australia’s Minister of Defense Peter Dutton admitted the modernization program presented “a tight timeline, no question.”
“We need to be realistic about what lies ahead by way of threat in our region, and the submarine capacity is a significant part of how we mitigate that risk and it’s important we get the program right,” Dutton told The Australian. “There is no doubt in my mind that we need to pursue a life-of-type extension [for the Collins class].”
But the bad news for Australia doesn’t end there. The program that finances the project for the new fleet of submarines turns out that instead of the planned $ 40 billion, it will have to pay $ 69 billion. The discrepancy in the initial price given by the French and these 69 billion is large, which forced Australia to talk hard about ending the project. This is why relations between Canberra and Paris are strained, unclear, and questionable.
The Australian Government must make a serious decision. There are at least two other options on the table to solve the problem. One is for the existing Collins-class to be upgraded by Naval Group with the French updates in question. How profitable this will be – so far no one says.
The other option is to seek the services of the second-ranked bidder in the tender for Australian submarines – Thyssen Krupp. The German company then offered its submarine Type 216, which is half price from the French competitor.
The ball is in the hands of the Australian Ministry of Defense. Because if some time ago this was a temporary problem, now it is urgent and in Canberra, they have to decide what to do. There are solutions, the question is how feasible they are, whether they are financially profitable and whether the decision that will be made will increase the combat capability of Australian submarines.
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