The Future Submarine Program (FSP) is the largest and most complex capability acquisition program in Australia’s history.
It aims to deliver Australia a regionally superior submarine capability, which will be built, operated and sustained by Australia.
The program must ensure Australia’s industrial capability necessary for the build, operation and sustainment of the Attack Class Submarines. The lack of sovereign submarine design authority expertise and the need for a large sustained industry workforce in Australia is a significant challenge.
Australia requires a sovereign industrial capability to support the operations and sustainment of the Attack Class submarines without unduly compromising capability, quality, cost and schedule. The FSP presents a high degree of complexity exacerbated by the orchestration of concurrent systems engineering, program management and commercial activities across three organisations, in three different countries.
It requires effective collaboration and cooperation with international overseas partners from France and the US to ensure its success. Such a project requires mixing and harmonising cultures, business processes, toolsets, and adjusting to different operational needs and procedures in terms of methods, confidentiality, legal frameworks, and national security constraints.
Coherent management and governance are needed to address development throughout every stage of the capability lifecycle.
The role of systems engineering
As one of the Australian engineering consultancies supporting the program, Frazer-Nash led the development of a Systems Engineering Governance Approach (SEGA) to address the complex sociotechnical challenges for the project working across organizational and national boundaries, between the engineering teams in Australia and France.
Whilst in its early stages, a key component of the SEGA is getting the governance correct from the outset. Good governance will ensure an effective and viable systems engineering organisation within the FSP enterprise.
The SEGA integrates systems engineering principles and practices. It does this by incorporating key functions of cohesion, intelligence, operation, coordination, audit and production for the effective control, communication and integration of all systems engineering teams.
“We started with an established program vision, an identity if you like, and purpose for all systems engineering teams,” Frazer-Nash Consultancy Group Leader, Submarine Systems Engineering Advisory, and also Systems Engineering Governance Manager, Future Submarine Program, Dr Quoc Do said. “The vision is to provide exceptional systems engineering services necessary to design and deliver a regionally superior and sovereign Future Submarine capability for Australia.
“It has a set of common values and operating principles, and cultivates a sense of belonging, ownership and encouragement to take corrective actions toward achieving our common vision.”
The SEGA seeks to achieve viability of systems engineering functions across the entire project, ensuring all essential governance functions are performed. This requires considerable cohesion of systems engineering activities with the highest levels of collaboration and cooperation across the entire team.
At the heart of the program’s systems engineering practice is a Systems Model. It is the single point of truth supporting engineering processes such as user needs analysis, system specification, architectural design, and early verification and validation. The Systems Model delivers knowledge management, enhancing the ability of stakeholders to understand the system, its behaviour and performance, thus informing major current and future design decisions.
A Systems Engineering Governance (SEG) working group is taking a holistic view of the problem space. Amongst other things the Group is foreseeing key challenges, risks and opportunities as well as peaks in workload for systems engineers and developing strategic plans to ensure resources are in place at the right time to meet demand.
Early on in the project, it was recognised that the adoption of systems engineering standards, ISO/IEC/IEEE 15288, over historical ship building processes sheds more light where essential implicit and tacit knowledge lies.
“The program has adopted an international systems engineering best practice approach. It is a structured approach that provides added rigour to traditional shipbuilding engineering processes,” Dr Quoc Do said.
Whilst the current early Design stage primarily focuses on defining systems capability in the operational domain, functional domain and solution-independent physical architecture, it is also considering the “whole of life” perspective for the Attack Class Submarines.
Note: Dr Quoc Do is Frazer Nash’s Consultancy Group Leader, Submarine Systems Engineering Advisory, and also Systems Engineering Governance Manager, Future Submarine Program.