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Editorial CommEnt
In service but ill-
prepared for action
the readiness of the royal australian navy’s Collins
class submarines has been adversely affected by
personnel shortages.
D
esigning and building new classes three ‘Kilo’ (Sindhughosh) class boats to In the past four years the Royal
of warships and submarines is a launch missiles was “extremely limited”. Australian Navy has achieved only 67-79%
tremendously complex, costly, The Indian Navy is, of course, also of its recruitment targets and now is
and sometimes arduous business, but dependent upon foreign resources if any experiencing a shortfall of 13.3% in its trained
recent evidence reinforces the belief that of its submarines get into trouble, and workforce, although, the Royal Australian
maintaining such assets in an operational the Defence Ministry’s failure to make a Navy is said to be developing “new and
state can be equally difficult. decision on the US$65 million programme innovative” policies to remedy the personnel
India has recently begun a US$6.5 for two deep-submergence rescue vessels problems, which cut across the service but
billion programme to acquire another has meant the programme has had to start most acutely affect the submarine fleet.
six submarines, at the same time that the again with the tender being reissued. Building ships on time, to the required
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Another navy that is also depend- standard, still seems to be problematic in the
there reported that less than half the existing ent on outside technical expertise for USA, where Navy Times recently reported
Indian submarine fleet is operational. its submarine technology, Australia, has that USS San Antonio (LPD 17) had to spend
Reports from India about Project 75A recently launched a US$3.24 million study time in a shipyard in Bahrain for repairs
describe a programme for new submarines on its submarine requirements for the to its lube oil system, thus interrupting its
with air independent propulsion (AIP), 2020s, even though it is unable to operate maiden deployment.
submarines that would be capable of four of its six Collins class boats. In late August 2008, on the eve of its
land-attack missions and take the form The government of Kevin Rudd is due maiden deployment, San Antonio was stuck
of a follow-on programme to the six-boat to publish a defence White Paper in early at the pier for two days with a broken stern
Project 75, for Scorpène class boats, which 2009, outlining the rationale for a fleet of gate while the rest of the Iwo Jima Expedi-
will be built by Mazagon Dock. up to 12 new submarines, to be the subject tionary Strike Group got underway, this being
Naval Spyglass reported recently that of the study to replace the Collins fleet after one of the latest in a long list of problems with
requests for information have just been 2020. It is estimated that this plan will cost a ship that was delivered late and massively
issued and requests for proposals are the equivalent of US$17-22 billion. over budget. In fact, as Navy News reported,
expected in 2009 with the new boats also Both the Navy and the Government a July 2005 inspection report made clear that
being built in India, although another are in agreement about the importance this, the first ship in the LPD 17 class, “would
yard may become involved in the of submarines for Australian defence, but have perpetual problems”.
programme. However, the CAG report, big questions remain about the readiness Inspectors found “poor construction
issued at the end of October 2008, raises of the existing sub force. The study will be and craftsmanship ... throughout the
serious issues about India’s ability to conducted by a project office under both ship”, and officials singled out problems
maintain a large fleet of submarines. the Capability Development Group and with wiring for particular attention.
The report noted that only 48% of the the Defence Materiel Organisation, but a Its condition – along with another
submarine fleet is operational, and that fourth ‘in-service’ Australian submarine poor performance in 2007 – prompted
more than half the submarine force had has recently had to be moved into dry US Navy Secretary Donald Winter to
only a quarter of its operational life left. dock because of crew shortages, and a publicly chide shipbuilder Northrop
Refit and maintenance work, said the lack of personnel means that another Grumman, saying the fleet “still does
report, is poorly organised, usually on a three boats are unable to operate for the not have a mission-capable ship” two
piecemeal basis, and the ability of at least same reason. years after delivery. WT
Warship Technology January 2009 5
WT_Jan09_p5.indd 5 12/23/08 2:20:07 AM
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