Our sub fleet world's worst: report
Collins Class Submarine. Photo: Petty Officer Damian Pawlenko
Australia's fleet of trouble-plagued Collins Class submarine is available for operations for barely half the time of comparable countries' navies, a long-awaited independent report has found.
Part two of the Coles report, released this morning, concluded that ''the availability performance of the Collins Class has been slightly over half that achieved by the comparable international programs''.
Led by British expert John Coles, the report stated that this was ''significantly below the RAN's requirement'' for 2011-12.
The six Collins class submarines in Australia's fleet have been plagued by maintenance problems since the first one was launched in 1996. The government is considering various options to replace the fleet, including off-the-shelf, foreign-made subs, custom-made foreign subs or a fleet designed and built here in Australia.
The Coles report recommended that of the Collins Class, two submarines should be available all of the time, three should be available 90 per cent of the time and four should be available half the time. This aim was ''unlikely to have been met in recent years''.
Releasing the report in Adelaide, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said: ''It's quite clear from Coles' report that we fall substanially below any comparable international benchmark.''
The upkeep of the Collins Class had been a ''complex task that has proven very challenging'' since the first submarine was launched.
While submarines require heavy maintenance, the current lack of availability arose because the submarines simply spent too long being maintained.
The maintenance was planned for long periods and, even then, tended to be overrun. When they weren't in maintenance, defects caused problems, the report added.
''The maintenance overruns and the percentage days lost due to defects were approximately double that of the comparators,'' the report found.
The report recommended that ''deep maintenance'' - the period over which a submarine is docked for full upkeep - should be reduced from three years to two.
It also estimated that the Collins Class Sustainment Program spent at least twice as much as other navies maintaining and running their submarines.
Mr Smith said Defence had already negotiated a new maintenance and support contract with ASC that would ''deliver more efficient and effective sustainment services''.
Mr Smith and Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare also announced that a new facility for testing submarine systems, including propulsion, energy and integration technology, would be based in Adelaide.
There were five root causes for the problems with the Collins, the report found. First, the Navy had not given clear, unclassified explanations as what it wanted the Collins Class to achieve operationally. The report noted the Navy had now done this, in response to the report's conclusions.
There was also a ''clear lack of a performance based culture'' in the Collins Class Sustainment Program. This had also improved.
The report also identified ''unclear lines of responsibility'', with blurred accountability between the Defence Materiel Organisation and the government-owned corporation responsible for the upkeep of the submarines, the ASC.
And it cited ''poor planning'' and and poor information flow that meant the program was ''not in a position ... to make optimised long-term decisions''.
The Navy had already made many changes to address the issues, though these were not enough and would ''not resolve all of the issues or root causes identified in this report''.