11 June 2024

Scaled-back Collins-class submarine Life Of Type Extension program approved

| Andrew McLaughlin
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HMAS Rankin, a Collins-class submarine

Collins-class submarine HMAS Rankin. Photo: US Navy.

The $5 billion Collins-class submarine Life Of Type Extension (LOTE) program has been formally approved by the Federal Government but has had two key planned elements of it cancelled.

Deemed necessary in order to get the Navy’s six Collins-class boats through to the late 2030s and into the 2040s, the LOTE is a two-year process designed to extend the life of the nearly 30-year-old submarines.

The LOTE involves essentially cutting the submarines in half and replacing their diesel and electric engines, power conversion and distribution systems. The boats will also receive a cooling system update and a comprehensive hull assessment, and all of the new equipment will be integrated into the existing command and control system.

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HMAS Farncomb will be the first submarine inducted into the LOTE at ASC’s shipyard at Osborne in South Australia in 2026. It will be followed at two-year intervals by the remaining boats.

But two planned enhancements to the submarines have been cancelled by the Commonwealth. Part of the upgrade was to include an optronics upgrade – new periscope and other masts – which the government says will now “not proceed following advice that it would have added complexity and risk” to the program.

The planned addition of long-range Tomahawk land attack missiles has also been cancelled after consultation with the US, because it is deemed to not be viable and does not represent value for money.

The government says the two cancellations will reduce risk for the Collins-class program and will help maximise Collins-class availability through the transition to nuclear-powered submarines in the 2030s.

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Australia will still acquire the Tomahawk to be employed by its three Hobart-class destroyers from 2026, has undertaken to look at equipping the six planned Hunter-class frigates with it, and it will also be standard on the Navy’s 3-5 Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines from 2032.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the LOTE program underscored the government’s commitment to ensure the ADF had the capabilities it needed to deter potential adversaries.

“Sustainment of the Collins-class submarines continues to meet the Navy’s operational requirements and ensures the submarines remain an enduring, potent and credible capability that is critical to Australia’s national security,” he 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.”

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