The past year has seen strong momentum maintained in the naval domain across surface and sub-surface capabilities and both in-service platforms and future assets.
Understandably, the strategic importance, complexity and projected cost of the 12 Future Submarines to be delivered under Project Sea 1000 to replace the six in-service Collins-class boats have kept that project in the limelight.
Nevertheless, interest in the Comparative Evaluation Process (CEP) being undertaken under Project Sea 5000 to select the design of the nine Future Frigates that will succeed the eight-strong Anzac-class fleet has been boosted by a new emphasis on air warfare capabilities in addition to the Future Frigate’s primarily anti-submarine role.
Meanwhile the first of the Anzacs has begun an extensive mid-life upgrade, and in late November the OPV 80 design proposed by German shipbuilder Lürssen was selected for the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) slated to replace the Armidale patrol craft fleet.
With the length and diameter of the conventionally-powered Future Submarine now confirmed as 97 metres and 8.8 metres (dived displacement is believed to be 4,500 tonnes) concept design is proceeding to schedule.
Assuming no major difficulties are experienced with design or construction, the first-of-class should be delivered for operational test and evaluation by 2030-31, Rear Admiral Greg Sammut, head of the future submarine program in the Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG), told ADM.
In-service operation would follow “in the early 2030s”, he stated. RADM Sammut was adamant that the Future Submarine would not be a diesel-electric conversion of the Barracuda nuclear attack submarine that is French contractor Naval Group’s reference platform for Sea 1000, but a totally new design tailored to Australian needs.
Concept design should be completed in early 2019, by which time major systems such as the diesel generator sets, the main motor, the lead-acid batteries, the DC switchboard, the weapon discharge system and other important equipment that would determine the boat’s range and endurance, would have been selected, said RADM Sammut.
From that point no changes would be made in major systems, including the batteries and the propulsion arrangements, until after completion of the initial batch of submarines. He did not disclose the number involved in the initial batch.
Subsequent detailed design work out to mid-2025 would migrate into production design, which would generate the production drawings that would be used in the submarine’s construction.
“We want to get to 85 per cent maturity of production drawings before we start detailed production, probably in about 2024. Collins-class construction got underway with only 10 per cent of production drawings completed,” RADM Sammut noted.
Jean-Michel Billig, a member of Naval Group’ executive committee, anticipated a 1,400-1,500 strong Future Submarine workforce in Adelaide from 2024 onwards.
Preliminary design work has now begun on new infrastructure for Commonwealth-owned Australian National Infrastructure, working in collaboration with Naval Group, to support Future Submarine construction.
The objective is to complete by 2021-22 a hull and construction hall, propulsion test laboratory, and a combat system and mitigation facility for combat system integration.
Meanwhile negotiations are progressing between Naval Group and Defence on an overarching Strategic Partnering Agreement (SPA). The SPA will set out terms and conditions that will endure for the entire Future Submarine programme, avoiding the need to negotiate subsequent phases of the programme from scratch.
Similar but separate contracts with combat system integrator Lockheed Martin will cover the design of the combat system, its physical integration, and through-life management.
Nearly nine years after being designated a Project of Concern, the Collins class was removed from that list in October 2017 on the back of significant improvements in availability and performance.
At the same time Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne announced approval for upgrades costing $540 million to modernise the boats’ Integrated Ship Control Management and Monitoring System (ISCMMS), and to enhance their communications capability.
Under Sea 1439 Phase 5B Stage 2 (Collins Communications and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program) enhancements will be made both to on-board information and communications technology, and to satellite communications.
The latter will include the Super High Frequency and Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications platforms – the first to support core Defence business functions, the latter to further enhance operational information - with the first installation to be completed in 2020.
Risk reduction activities are currently underway for Sea 1439 Phase 6, which seeks to develop a fully-costed proposal for Second Pass approval to address deficiencies in Collins’ sonar systems, and acquire a shore-based acoustic trainer.
Anticipated cost in the Integrated Investment Program is $500-$750 million, with final installation set for 2027.
As pointed out by Stephen Johnson, CASG’s General Manager Submarines, the Collins fleet will continue to provide Australia’s only submarine capability for the next 15 years, and will remain the country’s dominant undersea capability for the next 20 years.
“It’s the only platform we’re going to have on which to be able to train enough submariners to grow the submarine force. The 7th, 8th and 9th crews for the Future Submarines are going to be submariners out of Collins,” he commented.
“My focus is to keep Collins on track”.
For more on the Collins Life of Type Extension program, see P28 of the December/January 2018 edition.
Turning to surface activities, the second of the RAN’s three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers (AWDs), Nuship Brisbane, put to sea on 20 November for builder’s sea trials that will test its propulsion, manoeuvring, control and navigation systems.
The 7,000 tonne ship will subsequently undertake sea acceptance trials early this year to test its combat and communications systems, and delivery to the RAN is scheduled for June.
First-of-class HMAS Hobart was commissioned in November 2017 (after which it was designated a Guided Missile Destroyer – DDG) and is expected to be fully operational by December 2018. Delivery of the third and final ship, NUSHIP Sydney, is scheduled for November 2019.
The workup program for Brisbane, as with Hobart, will culminate with US Navy combat system sea certification (CSSC) trials. These will include firings either over the Pacific test range off Hawaii or the Southern California test range off San Diego of the ship’s SM-2 Block IIIB medium range and Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) short range anti-air missiles.
The Hobart-class is equipped with the US Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), enabling each ship to act as part of a wider ‘grid’ of sensor and weapon platforms that allows similarly-equipped platforms to share surveillance and targeting information.
The first trials of this capability between HMAS Hobart and NUSHIP Brisbane are scheduled to take place off the Australian coast in April 2018, informed sources advised.
Meanwhile the design selected for the RAN’s nine Future Frigates should be known by April 2018, possibly sooner, and construction is slated to begin two years later.
While the new vessels are intended to start replacing around 2027 the eight workhorse Anzacs, their attributes appear to more closely resemble those of the Aegis-equipped AWDs.
This perception was reinforced in October last year when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the Aegis combat management system (CMS) would also equip the Future Frigates.
Recent events in the region had proved that the Future Frigates, intended primarily for anti-submarine warfare, must also be equipped to defend Australia from the threat of medium and long-range missile attacks, Turnbull said.
Sources noted the selection of Aegis over the competing Saab 9LV CMS would ensure continuing interoperability with the US Navy and the ability if required to upgrade the frigates’ proposed medium-range air defence capability from the Standard SM-2 Block IIIA to the longer range, ballistic missile defence-capable SM-6.
Saab Australia will however also play a vital role, developing a tactical interface that will integrate Australian-specific equipment with the Aegis CMS, in particular the Australian-developed CEAFAR2 S/X/L- band active phased array radar system. This will take the place on the Future Frigates of the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1D(V) S-band radar deployed on the AWDs.
A new Saab tactical interface will also replace the Kongsberg-Raytheon unit now equipping the AWDs, while the 9LV has been mandated for all future Australian naval ship projects where the high-end warfighting requirements of the Aegis system are not required.
Work is meanwhile underway on HMAS Arunta at BAE Systems’ Henderson facility on the first full Anzac Mid-Life Capability Assurance Program (AMCAP) upgrade.
Some AMCAP preparatory work was undertaken on HMAS Perth but Arunta will be the first of the class to receive the full upgrade.
This includes replacement of the Raytheon SPS-49(V)8 ANZ long range air search radar with the CEA-developed CEAFAR2-L, and a taller, redesigned mast to accommodate the new L-band radar faces whilst retaining the existing phased array radar used for anti-ship missile defence.
Other AMCAP enhancements include replacement of the Exelis ES-301 electronic support measures (ESM) system, upgrades to the LESCUT and AN/SLR-25C torpedo self-defence systems and the Nulka active missile decoy capability, installation of Link 22, integration of the new radar into the Saab 9LV 453 CMS, and a technical insert for the CMS that will move its operating system from Windows to Linux.
The scope of work also includes replacing existing analogue with digital technology on the Anzacs’ Control and Monitoring systems, replacing voice communications systems, increasing the power and efficiency of the ships’ diesel engines, new sewage systems, upgraded heating and cooling, and the installation of LED lighting.
AMCAP forms the major work element of an eight-year $2 billion Warship Asset Management Agreement signed in April 2016 under which BAE Systems Australia, Saab Australia, Naval Ship Management and the Commonwealth will jointly support the Anzacs for the remainder of their service life.
BAE Systems says AMCAP will involve each ship in a six-week safety phase, 12 months on the hard stand, nine months in the water completing the upgrade scope and test and trials, and four weeks of sea trials.
Allowing for some overlapping, the program will be completed around the end of 2022 – within about three years of the likely replacement of the first of the Anzac class with the first Future Frigate.
BAE Systems’ program manager Peter Ridley assesses AMCAP as being of similar technical and project management complexity to the Anzacs’ recently completed anti-ship missile defence (ASMD) upgrade.
Navantia in Spain cut first steel in June last year for the auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) vessels Supply and Stalwart that will replace the RAN’s current replenishment ships HMA Ships Success and Sirius.
The ships, based on the Spanish Navy’s 19,800 tonne AOR Cantabria, well-known in Australia thanks to a 10-month deployment in 2013 in support of the RAN, are scheduled for delivery in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Full operational capability for Supply is scheduled for 2022.
OPVs and UAS
The new steel-hulled OPVs from designer Lürssen will be 80 metres long and displace 1,761 tonnes. Maximum speed will be at least 20 knots and the ships will have a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles, endurance of approximately 21 days, and a crew of about 40, ADM understands.
The type will be equipped with the Saab 9LV CMS, a single 40mm cannon and two 12.5mm machineguns. It will carry one 11-metre and two 8.4-metre seaboats.
The light armament indicates the RAN has decided against the option of a quasi-corvette, which could handle both straightforward constabulary duties and some more demanding missions, which might otherwise require the presence of a major fleet unit.
The OPV80 does not have a helicopter hangar, although its helicopter landing deck can handle rotary platforms of up to 11 tonnes.
ADM also understands that contract signature will occur this month, January 2018.
Recent developments suggest the RAN may be making progress in its painstaking assessment of options for an interim maritime tactical unmanned air system (UAS), either rotary or fixed wing, to be operated from the OPVs.
Two heavy fuel-powered Schiebel S-100 Camcopter systems were to be delivered to the RAN as launch customer before the end of 2017, while the RAN’s operational evaluation of the ScanEagle fixed wing UAS was completed aboard HMAS Newcastle during a recent deployment to the Middle East as part of Operation Manitou.
The current experimentation will also help inform the choice of UAS for the Future Frigate fleet.
This article first appeared in the December/January 2018 edition of ADM.