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Labor ignores our mine warfare weakness-Durack



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SENATOR PETER DURACK, QC Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Shadow Minister for Defence

T H E S E N A T E

LABOR IGNORES OUR MINE WARFARE WEAKNESS — DURACK

The Government should consider scrapping the failed inshore mine- hunter project and purchase coastal mine-hunters of proven design from overseas.

Addressing a West Australian audience on defence policy in the..... light of the Gulf war, the Shadow Minister for Defence, Senator Peter Durack said that the Labor Government was ignoring our total vulnerability against mine warfare.

Mines presented the greatest threat to allied shipping in the Gulf. They are a low-technology low-cost weapon and the means of distributing them are available to practically every country. '

Australia has no mine-hunting capability. After spending more than $100 million on the failed Rushcutter mine-hunter project, Labor should admit that the project is going no where and look at the alternatives.

Because of the 'recession we had to have', the only company making the appropriate fibreglass for the Rushcutter ships has gone out of business. We may not be able to build the same ships - assuming the prototypes are ever made to work properly.

Senator Durack said that information he received from Questions on Notice shows that the Rushcutter ships will not be able to operate for around 40 percent of the time on the North West coast because of their limited sea-keeping ability. ;

Around the Sydney area, the ships would not be able to operate for more than 50 percent of the time at certain parts of the

year.

Given the threats posed by mines, the Government should urgently look at scrapping the inshore mine-hunter project and consider purchasing coastal minehunters from overseas.

(ends)

April 24, 1991 (19)

COMMONWEALTH

PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY WiCAH

1

More Information: Peter Jennings: Copies of Senator Durack's speech are available on request.

(06) 277 3725

A U ST R A L IA

Telephone: 09/22! 1277 06/277 3725. Facsimile: 09/221 3350 06/277 3169

*

Mine Hunter Coastal Project (Question No. 522) Senator Durack asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 5 March 1991:

(1) What progress has been made by Navy in the development of proposals for a Mine Hunter Coastal project. (2) What are the titles and Public Service or Australian Defence Force (ADF) ranks of the Department of Defence and ADF officers in­ volved in developing proposals for a Mine Hunter Coastal project.

(3) Has the department considered any propos­ als put forward by Navy for a Mine Hunter Coastal project; if so: (a) when were such propos­ als considered; and (b) what committees consid­ ered these proposals.

(4) If the department has not yet considered Navy proposals for a Mine Hunter Coastal proj­ ect, when is it anticipated that the department will do so.

Senator Robert Ray— The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1) The current Defence Force Capability Pro­ posal for a Minehunter Coastal is in the early stages of development and has not been seen by any of the major Defence Committees.

The Minehunter Coastal requirement is being addressed by the Force Structure Review. I will be reporting the results of that review in May 1991.

(2) The current proposal for a Minehunter Coastal is being developed by the Defence Force Development Division, headed by Major General Sanderson. Specifically, the proposal is being de­

veloped within the Force Development (Sea) branch headed by a Commodore with officers at the staff working level being of Captain and Com­ mander rank.

(3) No dedicated Minehunter Coastal proposal has yet been submitted to the Defence Depart­ ment. The Chiefs of Staff Committee has briefly considered the Minehunter Coastal as part of its , deliberations on the Force Structure Review. These deliberations are not yet complete and I will be reporting the results of the Force Struc­ ture Review in May 1991.

Of the three major mine warfare projects cur­ rently underway, two, the Minehunter Inshore project and the Minesweeping Project, at various stages of their development, considered Mine Countermeasures vessels. These vessels were not

Minehunter Coastals but were larger vessels with fitted minesweeping capabilities. (4) I anticipate that the current Defence Force

Capability Proposal for a Minehunter Coastal will reach the major Defence committee stages in late 1991 or early 1992.

Inshore Mine Hunter Vessels (Question No. 523) Senator Durack asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 5 March 1991:

(1) At what maximum sea-state conditions are the Royal Australian Navy Inshore Mine Hunter vessels currently able to operate such that they could satisfy Navy requirements when operation­ ally complete.

(2) In likely operating areas, what approximate percentage of the time do sea-state conditions exceed the levels given in answer to question (1).

Senator Robert Ray— The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: The Minehunter Inshore (MHI) is currently structurally seaworthy in sea states up to and including sea state 4. An assessment of the ves­ sel’s operational sea state limitations in the mine­ hunting role cannot be provided at this time due to the poor performance of the minehunting sonar. Trials of potential alternate sonars are progressing.

To satisfy Navy requirements, when operation­ ally complete, the MHI must be able to conduct minehunting operations at speeds up to 4 knots in sea states up to and including sea state 3 and transit in sea state 4.

There is a wide range of likely operating areas for the MHI and the sea states within those areas are subject to seasonal variations. The following tables provide information for four such areas over the calendar year.

In these four areas, the average percentage of time an MHI could not conduct minehunting operations due to the sea state being above 3 is 39% and the average percentage of time an MHI could not transit due to the sea state being above 4 is 22%.

These figures only take account of the effect of the prevailing sea state conditions on MHI oper­ ations and transit periods. Other factors, partic­ ularly tidal streams in the northern areas, would further reduce the percentage of time an MHI would be available for minehunting operations but would not significantly alter the percentage of time available for transit.

The ADFs mine warfare capability require­ ments are being addressed by the Force Structure Review. I will be reporting the results of that review in May 1991.

MH1 Sea State Lim itations in Likely Australian Areas of Operation

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Ju n Jul Aug S e p Oct Nov Dec

□ Minehunting Not P ossble H Transit Not Possible

MHI Sea Stale Limitations - Sydney Area

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Ju n Jul Aug S e p Oct Nov Dec

2 0 - -

□ Minehunting Not Possble i Transit Not Possble

MHI Sea State Limitations - South West Coast

Jan Feb Mar Apr Mty Ju n Jul Aug S ep Oct Nov Dec

60

SO

40

i „ z * 20

10

0

60

50

40

30

Z * 20

10

0

. , MHI Sea State Limitations - Northern Coast

Base data supplied by Naval Weather Centre Nowra

MHI Sea State Limitations - North West Coast

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Ju n Jul Aug S e p Oct Nov Dec

r-7 'm □ Mine hunting Not P ossble 0 Transit Not P ossble

Answers to Questions 9 April 1991 SENATE 2149