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Thursday, 25 February 2010
Page: 1307

Senator Johnston asked the Minister for Defence upon notice, on 11 January 2009:

(1)   What was the rationale behind the statement ‘the Government takes the view that our future strategic circumstances necessitate a substantially expanded submarine fleet of 12 boats in order to sustain a force at sea’ (Defence White Paper 2009, p. 64, paragraph 8.40).

(2)   Will the Royal Australian Navy be capable of manning 12 future submarines when it had great difficulty in 2009 of manning and operating just one submarine.

(3)   What is the expected cost of acquiring 12 future submarines.

(4)   Will the submarines be built in South Australia.

(5)   When is it expected that the first approval will be provided to advance the purchase of the 12 future submarines.

(6)   What is the expected through-life support and operating costs of a fleet of 12 future submarines over a 30 year operating period.

(7)   When is it envisaged that the first of the 12 future submarines will be launched and fully operational.

(8)   What is the phasing-out program for the existing Collins Class submarines.

Senator Faulkner (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   In preparing this White Paper, the Government focused most directly on the force structure that the Defence Force would need to secure Australia. As the White Paper notes, the force structure required to deter or defeat armed attack on Australia means maintaining the capacity to exert air superiority and sea control in our maritime approaches. The White Paper examined a range of military challenges Australia might face over the next generation and sought to design a force structure that responded appropriately to that wide range of possible circumstances.          A classified force structure review was conducted to support the White Paper. Drawing on that study an expanded force of 12 submarines is based on:

  • assessments of the operational tasks identified in Chapter 10 of the new White Paper;
  • a maritime force structure based around three Surface Action Groups; and
  • planning based on operating three submarines in order to continuously maintain one on
  • station at any given time.

   Operating 12 boats will allow for four submarines to be on station at one time - of which two could support the anti-submarine warfare requirements of a Surface Action Group, while two could be engaged in other strategic missions.

   (2)   Yes, it is within Navy's capacity to crew 12 future submarines. The recommendations of the 2008 Submarine Workforce Sustainability Review are being implemented; the submarine workforce has been stabilised and is expected to grow as reforms take effect. Three submarines were crewed in 2009.

   (3)   It is too early in the capability development process to focus on acquisition costs. There are a number of options being explored to deliver the Future Submarine capability.  The studies, cost and capability trade-off options and conceptual design activities that will be conducted between now and second pass in around 2016 will inform decisions that the Government will make, and will determine the eventual cost of the Future Submarine. 

   (4)   The Government is committed to the Future Submarine being assembled in South Australia. Like the Collins Class, the Future Submarine will be likely to comprise components manufactured in Australia and overseas.  The Government intends that assembly of what will be a vast array of components will take place in South Australia.

   (5)   The Minister for Defence has previously approved the expenditure of $15.4 million for early studies and scoping activities by Project SEA 1000, the Future Submarine project. The present intention is for the Government’s initial consideration of key early project elements such as project strategy to take place during 2010.  Funding for further studies and other activities to be undertaken in subsequent two to three years will be sought at that time. The Government expects to make decisions about the project a number of times leading up to second pass in 2016.

   (6)   Through life support and operating costs will depend upon the submarine that is acquired and the sustainment concept adopted for it. The studies being conducted over the next two to three years will refine the options and associated costs.

   (7)   The current intention is that the first of class will begin sea trials around 2022 with the objective of being at an initial operating capability for Navy before the withdrawal of the first COLLINS class in 2025.

   (8)   The phasing-out program for the COLLINS class will be influenced by the delivery programme for the Future Submarine, which has not been determined.  The transition plan will be designed to minimise:

  • Impact on overall submarine availability,
  • The period of transition, and
  • The associated costs.