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ENGINEERS AUSTRALIA MAY 2015
as into our operational analysis capabilities,” he says. Gould
is determined to never repeat the mistakes made during the
early phases of the Collins build. Although he wasn’t involved
with the project at that time, he worked previously at the
highest level within the UK’s Defence Procurement Agency
and oversaw the development and delivery of the Royal Navy’s
latest nuclear powered attack submarines, the Astute Class.
That project, like Collins, suffered significant setbacks during
its early stages but the submarine is now generally considered
to be one of the best the British have ever built.
“[With Collins] it’s clear to me that there wasn’t enough
knowledgeable involvement in some of the big design choices.
Also, the build process started quite early as the design was
still being evolved,” Gould says.
“ That means you’re committing yourself to choices and
design probably earlier than you should – later it becomes
very difficult to recover from those choices, and we are still
recovering from some of them now.”
Gould also acknowledges the need to address the ease
of maintenance and long term sustainment concerns of the
submarines from the very outset. These factors can count for
up to two thirds of the entire cost of the submarines during
their lifespan. They also reduce the availability for operational
employment thereby reducing the return on investment.
“One of the things that will worry me about Astute is the
design freeze in construction – sometimes you compromise
ease of maintenance when this happens and we’ll need to pay
real attention to it with the Collins replacement,” he says.
Zelinsky agrees. “You’ve got to involve the science and
technology (S&T) and engineers earlier rather than bringing
them in later to fix problems.”
He says the DSTO has conducted foresight studies and
worked with stakeholders to try to understand what the
capability, integration, and technical risks are for the future
submarine project. This understanding has helped to shape
the S&T program over the last 10 years.
“So I believe we’re in much better shape from an S&T and
engineering skill basis, in Defence, to handle this project than
we were with Collins.”
Australia doesn’t have the capability to design a new
submarine; hence the competitive evaluation between overseas
contenders TKMS, DCNS and the Japanese government.
In explaining Saab’s exclusion from the evaluation, Gould
says it is crucial that “selection of potential partners is on the
basis they have had a continuous program”.
He is adamant that Australia is not going to work with a
partner who has suffered the problems of a significant gap in
submarine design and construction; a situation he witnessed
firsthand as the UK set out to replace the Swiftsure Class with
the Astute Class towards the end of the 90s. Saab, only last
year, purchased Kockums back from TKMS after the Swedish
government had sold the shipbuilder to the German company
in 1999. Gould says the Swedes haven’t possessed the capability
to design and build a submarine themselves since the Collins
project and this represented “a risk he didn’t want to import”.
Greenfield, who attended the recent Royal United Services
Institute’s Submarine Summit in late March, says many
attendees held “great fears for Australian industry with the
potential for an overseas build”. He felt that many of the good
lessons regarding the engineering strategy used to transfer
technology and knowhow for the Collins project have been
“ There is also no defence industry policy, nor even an
overriding strategic industry policy,” Greenfield says.
GOVERNMENT AS AN INFORMED BUYER
Gould comes across as a steady hand overseeing a process that
presents many pitfalls for the uninitiated. He seems to embody
the notion of the government as an informed buyer, an issue
on which Engineers Australia has been outspoken since 2000.
EA has been concerned at the significant decline in numbers
Cutaway diagram of the nuclear-powered Barracuda submarine
(also pictured left) entering service with the French Navy in 2017.
A conventional version of this design is being considered for the Collins
Class replacement. SOURCE: DCNS AUSTRALIA
YOU’VE GOT TO INVOLVE THE SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY AND ENGINEERS EARLIER
RATHER THAN BRINGING THEM IN LATER TO FIX
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