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Expert slams flawed submarines report

A Kokoda Foundation report that argues there are no ''military off-the-shelf'' submarine designs available to replace the troubled Collins Class fleet is badly flawed, an expert analyst has said.

The report, written by former Australian Submarine Corporation strategic analyst, Brice Pacey, is to be launched in Canberra this morning.

Rex Patrick, a former submariner and now a consultant who works with navies around the world, fears the push for another Australian-designed and built submarine program puts job creation for South Australia ahead of national security.

Collins, which is costing about $800 million a year to maintain and operate, hadn't worked and there was no guarantee a second attempt would fare any better.

A draft copy of Mr Pacey's report leaked to The Canberra Times suggested a fleet of 12 ''son of Collins'' submarines of up to 4000 tonnes could be built for $18 billion. This is half what has been estimated by other analysts - including Mr Patrick.

''A state-of-the-art, highly capable MOTS submarine providing perhaps 90 per cent of the required capability and saving $26 billion to be spent on other vital Defence capability is the only option this Government should contemplate,'' Mr Patrick said.


He said there were numerous submarines available which, if operated and supported appropriately, would deliver between 85 and 90per cent of the desired capability at significantly less cost (than an indigenous Collins replacement program).

''Australia should aim for certain 85per cent capability compliance [perhaps even 90per cent] by operating the boats differently rather than a hypothetical 100per cent that may well materialise into 60 or 70per cent if Collins is used as a template example,'' he said.

This could be done for about a third of the $36billion other analysts had estimated designing and building 12 submarines in South Australia would cost.

Mr Patrick questioned claims ''off the shelf'' submarines did not have the range, accommodation or the ability to operate in extreme conditions Australia was looking for.

''Holland operates their European-designed submarines in both the Antilles and near Somalia,'' he said. ''South Korea regularly deploys its submarines to Hawaii, something we seemed unable to do with our Collins class in 2010, not sending a submarine to RIMPAC [maritime exercise] for the first time in decades.'' He names eight different submarines, ranging in size from 1390 tonnes to more than 3000 tonnes, that come close to - or can better - the range of the existing 3350 tonne Collins Class boats.

The Kokoda Foundation report's claim that smaller European submarines would be less comfortable than a full-sized Collins replacement and, as such, likely make it harder to recruit crews just don't hold water, Mr Patrick said.