Australia's current Collins class submarine (Defence)

Defining Australia’s future submarine

Australia's current Collins class submarine (Defence)

Project Sea 1000 aims to deliver twelve regionally superior submarines to the Royal Australian Navy from the early 2030s to replace the current fleet of six Collins class boats.Australia’s unique requirements call for twelve large, long-range, conventionally powered submarines of a design that, put simply, does not exist in its entirety today.

The reference design for the Future Submarine is the French Navy’s nuclear-powered Barracuda (Suffren) class boat, the first of which is in an advanced state of construction at Naval Group’s (formerly DCNS) facility in Cherbourg. However, designing a submarine to meet Australian sovereign requirements (not least of which is the boat’s combat management system) comes with some significant challenges.

Initially known by the manufacturer as the Shortfin Barracuda 1A, the Australian submarine will be in the region of 97 metres long and have a surfaced displacement of around 4500 tonnes, according to Naval Group figures. By comparison the Collins class boats, regarded as some of the largest conventionally-powered submarines in service today, are 78 metres long and have a displacement of 3000 tonnes.

To say that Sea 1000 is a major undertaking is an understatement. The $50 billion programme is the largest defence project in the country’s history and the risks associated with designing and building such a boat – with a workforce that largely does not exist today – are significant. This is particularly so when the Federal Government’s naval shipbuilding enterprise plans to construct nine anti-submarine warfare (ASW) – optimised frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in similar timeframes are all taken into account.

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