Chief of Navy hits out at ABC submarine-rescue report

Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan has hit out against claims there’s a dangerous shortfall in Australia’s submarine-rescue systems.

FILE PHOTO: The LR5 submersible clears the water as it begins its recovery after a successful personnel transfer with HMAS Farncomb in the East Australian Exercise Area during Exercise Black Carillon 2013. Photo by Leading Seaman Brenton Freind.

“I reject the premise in the ABC article ‘Veteran warns Australia’s Collins Class submarine fleet has limited ability to save trapped submariners’ (11 November 2020) that our submarines are not safe, or that Defence is not providing a safe work environment for our submariners,” Vice Admiral Noonan said in a statement sent to Australian media outlets.

“Their safety is our number one priority,” he said.

“Royal Australian Navy submariners are a professional force, trained and equipped to manage all possible eventualities related to submarine operations.

“Defence has an existing contracted submarine escape and rescue service provider that is certified to provide services for all likely scenarios and operational areas under which submarine rescue would be performed.

“Australia is also a member of an international coalition established by NATO to provide submarine escape and rescue services globally.

“This coalition was established to provide global support to submarine rescue operations.

“Navy’s rescue systems are annually tested and certified through Exercise Black Carillion (sic*), currently being conducted off Western Australia.”

 

EDITORS NOTES: CONTACT normally wouldn’t publish statements such as this because, without the report being objected to (linked above), they only give one side of an argument. I made an exception in this case, however, because I am aware of the Navy’s contracted rescue arrangements and its membership of the global NATO program mentioned – and thus agreed that the ABC report was probably unfair and unbalanced.
That said, the following comment was added to our Facebook entry…

It should be noted that ‘our’ lone LR5 rescue submersible was retired from service by the Royal Navy (RN) in 2009 and was replaced by the NATO Standard Submarine Rescue System, which is also used by non NATO countries with submarines in service, China for example. The LR5 remains on ‘Lease’ to the RAN but operated under contract. While Defence may talk the talk on safety, they continue to purchase and use equipment deemed by others as [being] in need of upgrade or replacement.

EDITOR’S CHEAP SHOT: I think it is unfortunate that Exercise Black Carillion/Carillon* is spelt two different way within Defence – mainly because it complicated my attempts to search for said exercise.
It is also unfortunate that in searching for Carillion/Carillon on the Defence web site, I only found references to the exercise in 2011, 2013 and 2016. I’m not suggesting it doesn’t occur every year as CN said – I’m saying it’s unfortunate (for the sake of supporting the Chief’s argument above) that Navy PR didn’t give it at least some coverage in the other years.

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Brian Hartigan

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

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