The opening plenary session, which was held on Day 1 (or the second day) of the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA) 8th Biennial Conference in Canberra, was dominated by positive themes.
This was largely attributed to the fact that in the past 12 months since the previous SIA conference (in Adelaide), the Federal Government has announced the international design partner (DCNS) and the combat system integrator (Lockheed Martin) for the future submarines, among other related matters.
The first presenter on Day 1 was the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO, CSC, RAN.
Noting the past 12 months has been a period of significant change, Vice Admiral Barrett said the future submarines would draw on the experience gained from both the Oberon and Collins-class submarines.
“We have learned; indeed, we have evolved,” Vice Admiral Barrett said. “More importantly, we continue to learn and we continue to evolve and to mature.
“The Government’s decision to construct an Australian submarine capability around a force of 12 boats gestures to an increased awareness of the submarine as a core element of Australian defence strategy in an increasingly challenging environment.”
He said sustainment and training will be critical to the success of the future submarines.
“My new focus is on the capability,” Vice Admiral Barrett said. “Capability, capability, capability.”
The next speaker was Rear Admiral Michael E. Jabaley USN, Program Executive Officer for Submarines, US Naval Sea Systems Command.
In his presentation, which examined cooperation between US and Australian submarine forces, he said the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy have a “firm foundation for cooperation” and that building the future submarines will enhance the alliance.
Rear Admiral Jabaley said the US has two armaments cooperative projects with the Royal Australian Navy, the MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo and the AN/BYG-1 Submarine Tactical and Weapon Control System.
“To execute these projects, the navies have established Joint Project Offices in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “The Royal Australian Navy is our partner, not a customer.”
With an eye to the future, Rear Admiral Jabaley said: “We look forward to continuing to work with Australia to make the future submarine the most advanced and capable conventional submarine in the world.”
Rear Admiral Steve Johnson USN (rtd), General Manager Submarines, Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) within the Department of Defence presented on submarine program management.
He said the path to the future submarines starts with the Collins-class submarines. Other points from his speech included:
- The 12 future submarines provide sufficient platforms to be a significant deterrent;
- Defence is aiming to maximise the role of Australian industry;
- Consistent, daily attention to detail is important for effective program management;
- What is done now with concept design is going to be quite different from detailed design and construction; and
- The nature of our work with DCNS is that DCNS proposes and the Commonwealth decides.
The next speaker was Commodore Peter Scott CSC, RAN, Director General Submarines, Navy Headquarters.
He confirmed a series of life-of-type extension studies have now commenced.
“These studies will be crucial inputs as we strive for force continuity,” Commodore Scott said.
He expects the submarine arm to expand every year for the next two decades.
Rear Admiral Greg Sammut, AM, CSC, RAN – Head, Future Submarine Program, CASG summarised the many significant developments which have taken place since the November 2015 SIA conference.
Looking forward, he provided an indicative timeline for the Future Submarine Program which showed construction of the first future submarine would commence in late 2022 and it would go into service about a decade later.
Construction of future submarines two and three would commence in 2026 and 2028 respectively.
Other presenters on the program at the Shine Dome (at the Australian Academy of Science) included Mr Sean Costello, CEO, DCNS Australia and Dr Andrew Davies, Director, Defence and Strategy Program, Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
The 2016 Conference Dinner was held at Old Parliament House in the evening.