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Subject: Oh what a surprise, another Collins cock-up
Aussiegunneragain    10/21/2009 8:18:39 AM
Faulkner orders review into Collins class submarine fleet UPDATED: Patrick Walters, National security editor | October 21, 2009 Article from: The Australian DEFENCE Minister John Faulkner has ordered a review into the operational availability of the RAN's Collins class submarines, conceding that technical issues affecting their performance are a major concern for the government. Play 12345Loading…Please login to rate a video.You can't rate an advertisement.(8 votes) Collins class sub fleet faulty The Collins class submarine fleet could be pulled out of action after faults were uncovered. Views today: 260Sorry, this video is no longer available.Senator Faulkner told a parliamentary committee hearing earlier today that he had directed the Defence Materiel Organisation to review all aspects of the availability of the Collins class for sea duties. "Submarine platform availability remains a major concern," Senator Faulkner said. "Submarines are a critical component of the ADF’s force structure and they perform a wide range of tasks. The government places a very high priority on ensuring that this capability is effective." Senator Faulkner said he would not comment in the detailed operational availability of the Collins boats for security reasons. But he said the DMO review had already recommended some significant organisational changes which were now being implemented, including increased DMO management oversight and scheduling input at ASC in Adelaide, and improved logistic support for both operational submarines and those in long-term maintenance. The Navy will also place senior personnel in Adelaide to work alongside the DMO and ASC. "Significant improvement to submarine availability is vital for the submarine capability, and particularly to Navy’s ability to grow the submarine workforce," Senator Faulkner said. "Like any complex piece of equipment, some unexpected issued and defects occasionally occur that require repairs to be undertaken out side of routine maintenance cycles." "While the current situation is far from ideal, their timely maintenance and repair is vitally important. The safety of the men and women serving aboard them is a paramount consideration." Senator Faulkner said three Collins class boats were currently crewed and in various stages of operating in maintenance cycles. Two of these three boats were in routine maintenance and the other was at ASC for an urgent defect repair. "The remaining three are awaiting longer term docking cycles which involved major overhauls and refurbishment by the original manufacturer, ASC," Senator Faulkner said. The Australian reported today that the navy's $6 billion Collins-class submarines face serious operational restrictions after being hit by a run of crippling mechanical problems and troubling maintenance issues. Some senior engineering experts now contend that the Swedish-supplied Hedemora diesel engines may have to be replaced - a major design and engineering job that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years to complete. So serious are the problems that the Defence Materiel Organisation has put the Collins boats at the top of its list of "projects of concern" - the key equipment issues troubling Australia's Defence leaders. The Australian understands that in recent times only a single Collins-class boat has been available for operational duties but it is unclear whether this involves more than extended training missions. Senior Defence leaders are also vitally concerned about the productivity and efficiency of ASC, the Adelaide-based wholly government-owned builder and maintainer of the Collins class. One senior Defence source characterises the level of concern in senior government ranks about the availability of the Collins submarines as "extreme". In the recent defence white paper, Kevin Rudd announced that the government would double the size of the RAN's submarine fleet from six to 12 when it came to replacing the Collins-class boats from 2025. "If you can't do this right, how do you do the next one," observed one senior Defence source last night. "We spend a lot of money on this core defence capability and they aren't working properly." Defence Minister John Faulkner and Defence Materiel Minister Greg Combet have now demanded monthly updates from the navy and Defence about the operational state of the Collins-class vessels. ASC, the Adelaide-based builder and maintainer of the Collins class, is now working through a range of mechanical issues affecting the performance of the six submarines with the state of the diesel engines a fundamental concern. The trouble-plagued diesel engines are expected to last at least another 15 to 20 years before they are progressively replaced by the planned next-generation submarine from 2025. While ASC believes they can still last the expected life-of-type and has called in a Swiss consultan
 
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DropBear       10/21/2009 10:12:26 AM
 - Just a general comment:
 
There seems to be some twisted belief in Oz (unfounded patriotism perhaps?) that just because "we" build/make things then somehow they are superior to foreign products.
 
Not aiming this at submarines, as this is not my area of expertise, however, it always amazes me when people poohoo "made in China" (for example) and other such countries when some of their stuff outlasts our own overpriced domestic fair.
 
Secondly, would it be possible to acquire a diesel-electric sub based on a nuke like the Seawolf (or any other current gen large sub), instead of designing another Collins replacement? Would the engine and batteries fit in the area that is taken up with the existing nuke reactor?
 
Just pondering out loud. http://www.strategypage.com/CuteSoft_Client/CuteEditor/Images/emsmiled.gif" align="absMiddle" border="0" alt="" />
 
 P.S. Incidently, aren't the amphibs going to be built OS or is it merely the design originating from Spain?
 
 
 
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gf0012-aust       10/21/2009 3:14:46 PM

There seems to be some twisted belief in Oz (unfounded patriotism perhaps?) that just because "we" build/make things then somehow they are superior to foreign products.

 its a continuing problem that we have this tendency (and army and RAAF are a classic with some of the platform purchases) that we need to continually inject our own requirements.  that leads to scope creep, that leads to cost impact, and invariably timeline blowouts and invariably further integration issues.  in fact the very thing that we take the pi$$ out of the indians for is something that we do ourselves/

Not aiming this at submarines, as this is not my area of expertise, however, it always amazes me when people poohoo "made in China" (for example) and other such countries when some of their stuff outlasts our own overpriced domestic fair.

 Collins was the first sub (ever) to head down the path of integrating COTS components into a MOTS asset.  It was also the first combat asset in the world to head down the ditributed architecture path - this was years before anyone else.  bleeding edge does not always translate to leading edge.

the replacement sub will not be first of breed (thats been made very very clear)  we will be using extant capabilities and tried and true.  the swedish experiment won't happen again (with subs)

Secondly, would it be possible to acquire a diesel-electric sub based on a nuke like the Seawolf (or any other current gen large sub), instead of designing another Collins replacement? Would the engine and batteries fit in the area that is taken up with the existing nuke reactor?

thats what the upholders were - and they were and still are a complete ferk up.  I seriously doubt that Collins will see a replacement diesel put in as it will involve too much work. the entire boat would need to be remapped, the signature mapping would have to be redone and there would be balance and performance issues etc...  I seriously doubt that we could find a similarly sized MTU (for example) which we could just slot in.
bear in mind that collins is big for a reason.  those engines are big for a reason (we need them to drive the combat and sensor systems - small subs can't do it)
personally speaking, I would not let ASC be the prime.
 
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Volkodav       10/22/2009 4:35:32 AM
I can sort of understand how a bleeding edge fire control system gets stuffed up, but a diesal engine? Haven't they been building them for about a century? If the incompetant asses at ASC were unable to even get that right I'm thinking that the company has no place in building Australia's next submarine fleet. Perhaps we should conduct an open tender and allow them to be built at a competant foriegn ship yard if necessary?
 
Spot on AG, I have no idea how ASC could have stuffed up the Kockums selected diesels, that have been designed, manufactured and (more recently) refurbished by Hedemora for the Collins Class. It is quite clearly ASC's place to usurp Hedemora, in violation of contract and IP laws, and take over the designer and through life support role for them.
 
While the are at it they should also take on responsibility for the combat system, batteries, generators, main motors etc. it only makes sense that way at least they will be getting the blame for their own stuff ups and not those of companies contracted directly to the Commonwealth.
 
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Volkodav    Maybe Sikorsky learned from ASC's experience and towed the line   10/22/2009 4:38:22 AM
 Cover-up on army chopper short cuts

Mark Dodd | October 21, 2009

Article from:  The Australian

CLAIMS of slipshod maintenance of the army's Black Hawk helicopter fleet were covered up by Defence and led to the alleged unfair dismissal of two aircraft engineers responsible for raising safety concerns.

The engineers, with combined experience of more than 40 years of aircraft maintenance, told The Australian yesterday they felt "disgusted and betrayed" by the army and their former employer, Sikorsky.

Their names have been suppressed but both claim they were sacked for raising concerns with Army Aviation of maintenance "short cuts" involving the improper use of computer passwords.

The claims follow the navy's own investigation into a 2005 Sea King helicopter crash off Nias, in Indonesia, that claimed nine lives, which was a preventable disaster blamed on faulty maintenance.

The centre of the latest claims involves Black Hawk helicopter technicians signing off on completion of maintenance work by using other people's computer passwords, falsely indicating a satisfactory inspection by up to three people, as required in aircraft maintenance.

According to the two Brisbane-based engineers, one 47 and the other 53, the practice has been widespread since 2003, involving more than 200 army and civilian contractors at Oakey, Holsworthy, Darwin and Townsville.

It is understood Defence stood down three Townsville-based warrant officers during its internal probe into the allegations.

US-based Sikorsky is responsible for providing a wide range of maintenance, logistical and technical services to the army worth tens of millions of dollars.

Both men said their names had been used to certify work that they had not undertaken.

One alleged breach of procedures involved critical work on the Black Hawk's stabiliser fin, said one of the technicians; and the most minor was a false authorisation certifying aircraft had been properly washed.

Attempts to alert senior managers at Sikorsky to the corner-cutting were met with "disinterest" and advice to "go and sort it out amongst yourselves", the two men said. They then raised their safety concerns at Townsville with the army.

"A warrant officer got us in and gave us all an interview," said the 53-year-old aircraft electrical engineer.

"Then he tried to keep it all in house and bury it and then he got back to us and said, 'Sorry, it's gone to 16 Brigade' and we were sent home (stood down).

"As soon as we said we would seek legal advice - then an (army) investigation started.

"So all I did was ask for a paper form (to record maintenance concerns) and I got the sack for that."

After complaining of sub-standard work procedures, both men were stood down for six weeks on full pay then sacked - one for alleged "inappropriate behaviour" for speaking out and the other for admitting he gave his password when asked by his foreman. Asked to respond to the men's claims, Sikorsky confirmed it had sacked the technicians but denied aircraft safety issues.

"A thorough investigation and safety audit was conducted by Sikorsky Helitech in parallel to a defence department investigation," a spokesman said.

"It was conclusively found that there was no compromise to aircraft or personnel safety as a consequence of the alleged activities."

Both men have since lodged claims of unfair dismissal against the company.

 
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gf0012-aust       10/22/2009 4:48:24 AM
I could give some horror stories of primes who have wilfully engaged in deceptive conduct in maintaining platforms, but I like my job too much.

stories on either side can be found if one is willing to have the patience to trawl through the details of the main and through life support contracts.

quite frankly, I've always stated that the job is to get the best asset in place for the warfighters - that does not mean that we have an obligo to support local industry if they are not up to the job.  granted there can be national interest issues, but for me we tend to err on the other side.

we're being asked to assist industry in the current climate - but if its an abuse of the public purse then that it plainly wrong.

ASC is being let down by an imcompetent executive with too many senior pandas in the engineering stream.

If they can't clean house by 2015 I agree, go open tender.  As it is the executive at ASC assume that they are in the hot seat, and people who are comfortable don't always perform at their best
 
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VelocityVector       10/22/2009 5:05:35 AM

Collins class safeguards your sovereignty.  And more.  Please don't count on us.  Marine diesel is no technical challenge for you.  I'm lost on this issue, unless personnel available to maintain gear are well under requirement and equipment simply was run ragged.  Which I doubt.  Screw NPT, if need be, take possession of our Los Angeles class, subsidized by us, until we can get Virginias to you, subsidized by you.  Apparently you could pay more for less.  Good luck.  0.02

v^2

 
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Volkodav       10/22/2009 6:08:15 AM
I could give some horror stories of primes who have wilfully engaged in deceptive conduct in maintaining platforms, but I like my job too much.
 
stories on either side can be found if one is willing to have the patience to trawl through the details of the main and through life support contracts.
 
It happens through out industry, I had a stand up argument with a production manager who wanted to send out faulty suspension components to be fitted to passenger cars coming up two decades ago.  One thing I have to say about ASC is they do take safety seriously and they have often copped the wrath of the FEG and or SPO for getting in the way of the "can do" attitude.

 
quite frankly, I've always stated that the job is to get the best asset in place for the warfighters - that does not mean that we have an obligo to support local industry if they are not up to the job.  granted there can be national interest issues, but for me we tend to err on the other side.
 
The trouble is it is difficult to think of a defence project (in particular a submarine project) that hasn't had issues, here or over seas.  Would we realy be any better off trusting any of the other builders.  EB is the only one I would give the time of day to and they haven't built a DE Sub since the 50's.

we're being asked to assist industry in the current climate - but if its an abuse of the public purse then that it plainly wrong.
 
You have to look at the TLS side, how much deeper would the sh!t be if we were relying on an OS prime to rectify the issues with the OS contractors?  Would the subs have even entered service yet?

ASC is being let down by an imcompetent executive with too many senior pandas in the engineering stream.
 
Two many of the engineering managers aren't even engineers (one of them is a chef , not even a tradesman) and there is a prevailing attitude that, no matter what your backgound or experience, unless you have worked on the Collins project for at least a decade you know nothing of value.

If they can't clean house by 2015 I agree, go open tender.  As it is the executive at ASC assume that they are in the hot seat, and people who are comfortable don't always perform at their best
 
Sad but true, the recent purge saw many people who actually knew what they were doing moved sideways or out.  Another point I have to make though is the current head of DMO was the CEO of ASC not that long ago....
 
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gf0012-aust       10/22/2009 3:22:46 PM
Would we realy be any better off trusting any of the other builders.  EB is the only one I would give the time of day to and they haven't built a DE Sub since the 50's.

There's also NG, although they've done some dodgey work on other projects.  Boeing also have their feet in the sub industry, but I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole.

You have to look at the TLS side, how much deeper would the sh!t be if we were relying on an OS prime to rectify the issues with the OS contractors?  Would the subs have even entered service yet?

agree, it could have been worse.  I'd happily buy other swedish kit for other critical platform, and its a moot point, but I'd not go near the swedes for underwater maritime assets again.  ironic as I like the way that the swedes will genuinely try to get a solution.  as opposed to thales (as an eg) who pretend that they have the answer and then either go out and rent a body or buy the capability from someone else and then flog it off as their own idea. :)

Two many of the engineering managers aren't even engineers (one of them is a chef , not even a tradesman) and there is a prevailing attitude that, no matter what your backgound or experience, unless you have worked on the Collins project for at least a decade you know nothing of value.

nothing like a bit of pseudo occupational arrogance to stuff up your reputation.  even the germans, who manage to keep a straight face wherever possible, will crack a barely controlled smile when you talk to them about how some of the senior systems engineers in ASC think that they can design subs.

Sad but true, the recent purge saw many people who actually knew what they were doing moved sideways or out.  Another point I have to make though is the current head of DMO was the CEO of ASC not that long ago....

and there are some interesting spinoffs from that little transition.... :)


 
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Aussiegunneragain       10/23/2009 3:30:49 AM
If ASC wasn't responsible for hiring and managing Hedemora to build the engines then I stand corrected. Perhaps somebody could fill me in on the nature of their relationship. I still think ASC is a lousy company though for all Collins class cock ups that they have made and they are apparently woefully inefficient. See link below about them hiring tradespeople to do bugger all on our money.
 
>>
 
More generally I think you can put the reasons for us insisting on building these big projects here down to three.
 
1. Patriotism - A stupid reason all around.
 
2. Strategic Reasons - To maintain a local shipbuilding industry in case of a big conflict requiring us to build new ships. The problems with this reasoning are:
 
a. it involves us paying a premium and wearing these sorts of stuff ups, consequently reducing our ability to respond effectively to a smaller, more probable conflict, to ensure a shipbuilding capability that we are only going to need if we face World War 3; and
b. when you only build 6 subs over a 10 year period every 30 years, does that give us a realistic ability to pick up and start churning them out at short notice during the other 20? I doubt it.
 
Therefore I'd suggest that the trade off isn't worth it.
 
3. Economic and Political reasons - Its hard for governments to send billions of dollars off-shore without having any Australian jobs to show for it. However, I would argue that this reasoning is no longer relevant (if it ever was). Ken Henry was in the paper today saying that once we are out of these short term economic woes we can expect the Asian led resources boom to continue for decades. That means we are going to continue to have skill shortages, so what is the point in creating more skilled jobs in Australia when we can't fill the existing ones? We would just have to pay a premium to bring workers who would otherwise be building our subs in Germany, Sweden or the UK to Australia, to work for a company that can't do as good a job as ones overseas that have much bigger production runs and therefore economies of scale andexpertise. I'd rather see the Government saving our money for more/better capabilities or even to reduce the taxes we pay.
 
 
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Volkodav       10/23/2009 7:35:47 AM
AG with all due respect you do not know what you are talking about, then again nor does the reporter whose story you posted or for that matter the auditor, who was assigned to find problems (real and imagined), not to provide an honest assessment.
 
I am not in a position to say very much but this is a highly politicised issue with much exaggeration on the part of individuals and groups trying to push their own agendas, in some cases I could quite fairly suggest some are even trying to divert blame.
 
Look at it this way, ASC is government owned and as such is not in a position to contradict the official line even when it is inaccurate to the point of being dishonest.  ASC have to do what they are told when they are told even if it stuffs their schedule and wastes money.  There is carrying on about how long FCD's take yet the fact ASC was directed to extend one FCD and delay two others to bring the RCS and HWT into service slightly earlier is completely ignored by the government and the media.
 
Try reading "Collins Class Submarine Story: Steel, Spies and Spin". It gives a pretty balanced history of the project and the truth about the issues encountered.  Once you have read it you may well reconsider what I see as unfounded criticism.
 
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