• US and Australian submarines sails in formation in waters off the west coast of Australia.
Defence/US DoD
    US and Australian submarines sails in formation in waters off the west coast of Australia. Defence/US DoD

US and Australian submarine programs have been the focus of the news cycle this week, with Senator Rex Patrick taking Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds to task over Sea 1000 delays and leadership uncertainties in General Dynamics compounding delays on the US Navy’s Virginia class submarines.

Senator Patrick used the opportunity presented by Senate Estimates to query delays to the Future Submarine system requirements review, originally due to begin back in March but now forecast to happen towards the end of the year. According to Rear Admiral Greg Sammut, acting general manager of submarines, the criteria for the review is still under assessment but the delivery date (in the mid-2030s) is still on track.

Defence also found itself grilled over ‘unclear labels’ on funding increases worth $3.7 billion in tables published online, promising to release ‘updated tables’ once they’re finalised. Senator Patrick expressed frustration with the answers to his questions, saying ‘all is well in the Soviet state’.

Meanwhile, leadership replacements at General Dynamics are reportedly compounding delays in the construction of USN Virginia class submarines. According to US media reports, Electric Boat President Jeffrey Geiger was ousted following ‘mounting frustration’ within the USN that hit boiling point when welding issues were revealed in missile tubes destined for the Columbia class, Virginia class, and the UK’s next generation ballistic missile submarines.

Like the Australian program, General Dynamics Electric Boat is also challenged by workforce shortages in key production locations and a deficit of available skilled labour.

Senator Patrick has previously threatened to withdraw legislative for support for the government over the issue of moving Collins class full cycle docking (FCD) to WA, which would jeopardise jobs at ASC.

"Shifting the task to WA makes little sense," Senator Patrick said. "It is likely most of the skilled workers at ASC would not move west, which would result in a great loss of Collins Submarine corporate knowledge."

ADM understands that government is due to make a decision on the future site of FCDs before the end of the year.

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