Collins-class subs getting major sonar upgrades

Australia’s strategic priority on enhancing its submarine capability will be supported by Thales through major upgrades of the sonar systems on all six Collins-class submarines.

FILE PHOTOA C-130J Hercules overflies a Royal Australian Navy Collins-class submarine off the WA coast. Photo by Corporal David Gibbs.

The A$230million contract with Thales is part of a A$542million project approved by the Australian government for the upgrade of the Collins-class sensor capabilities, the key to extending the life and the regional superiority of the Collins fleet. 

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said the Collins sonar upgrades continued a 30-year history of support for the Collins program since the original transfer of sonar technology from France in the 1980’s that formed the basis of the underwater systems business in Australia. 

“It is critical that Australia maintain the highest levels of submarine capability from the Collins fleet until the Future Submarine enters service,” Mr Jenkins said.

“The sonar systems are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the submarines, and Thales will bring together the best underwater sensing technology from around the world to ensure the Collins remains a potent force.”

Manufacturing and integration work will be carried out at Thales’s underwater systems centre of excellence in Rydalmere, Western Sydney, supporting more than 140 jobs, including 50 people directly employed on the project. 

In an internationally collaborative program, the Collins’ legacy cylindrical array will be replaced with a Modular Cylindrical Array (MCA) based on Sonar 2076 submarine technology developed by Thales teams in the UK.

The existing flank array will be replaced by the latest generation flank array from Thales teams in France. 

Thales will work with local industry including Raytheon Australia as the Combat System Integrator to deliver the upgrades for the six submarines integrating products from other Australian providers including Sonartech Atlas, and L3 Oceania. 

ASC welcomed the announcement and said that as the platform system integrator of the Collins-class it would work closely with combat systems integrator Raytheon Australia and sonar systems designer Thales Australia to install and integrate the system into the platform, starting with HMAS Waller during its full cycle docking currently underway in Osborne, South Australia.

ASC CEO and Managing Director Stuart Whiley said the submarine enterprise was working collaboratively to maintain highly capable Collins-class submarines and to ensure the smooth transition to the Future Submarine fleet.

“With the Collins-class submarine set to be Australia’s submarine capability until the early 2030s when the Future Submarines enter service, this sonar upgrade project is incredibly important in maintaining that capability into the future,” he said.

“As builder and maintainer of the Collins-class submarines we have a world-class submarine workforce numbering more than 1110 people in South Australia and Western Australia and I’m incredibly proud of the work they do in keeping Australia’s submarines available, capable and reliable.

“The transformation of submarine sustainment since the introduction of the Coles Review recommendations, including reducing the time it takes to undertake a full-cycle docking down from three years to just two years, has been remarkable.

“ASC looks forward to continuing to work closely with our submarine-enterprise partners and government to ensure the Collins-class submarines and the industrial capability built up over the past 30 years remain Australia’s most important strategic asset.”

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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