Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has announced the signing of a contract for the design of the primary underwater sensor of the Royal Australian Navy’s future Attack Class submarine fleet in a major milestone for Australian industry engagement.
The contract has been signed with Thales UK, through Lockheed Martin Australia, for the design of the outboard flank array and partnering arrangements with Australian industry.
The outboard flank array forms part of the sonar subsystem, which is used when the submarine is submerged, this vital piece of equipment acts as the submarine’s eyes and ears, providing situational awareness for the crew.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the design of the outboard flank array is vital to the operational effectiveness of the Attack Class submarine and its regional superiority.
"Thales is a global leader in underwater systems and the world’s top exporter of sonars and related systems for naval forces. This contract builds on the work Defence already has with Thales to upgrade the sonar suite of the Collins fleet," Minister Reynolds explained.
Thales will support and promote Australian industry capability through a number of initiatives, including:
- Conducting a proportion of the design phase in Australia by engaging one of three Australia-based companies – Thales Australia, Babcock Australia, and BMT Group, through a competitive process;
- Leveraging existing in-country capabilities that support other Australian Defence Force assets, including the Collins Class submarine, for the assembly, integration and sustainment phases; and
- An industry development package for the transfer of industrial capability to Australia to enable the provision of critical sub-assemblies and line replaceable units for both initial supply and sustainment.
Minister Reynolds added, "This is a significant step in the right direction to build up Australian capability for the Future Submarine Program. By bringing together the best underwater sensing technology with local industry, it will ensure we deliver a sovereign regionally superior submarine."
Following the successful completion of the design phase, further work will be contracted for the manufacture of the subsystem from 2023.
The Attack Class submarines will be delivered as part of the multi-billion dollar SEA 1000 Future Submarine program. Naval Group will build 12 regionally-superior submarines to the Royal Australian Navy.
Naval Group's successful Shortfin Barracuda design, which serves as the basis for the new Attack Class, is a conventionally-powered variant of the nuclear-powered Barracuda fast attack submarine currently under construction for the French Navy.
The 12 vessels will be built by Naval Group at a specialist submarine shipyard at Osborne, South Australia.
The Commonwealth government’s Australian Naval Infrastructure (ANI) program will support the development of the future submarine shipyards. The Commonwealth government formally signed the strategic partnering agreement (SPA) with Naval Group in February 2019 ahead of confirming the final design specifications and requirements for the Attack Class submarines.
The Attack Class will enter service with the Royal Australian Navy at a time when 50 per cent of the world’s submarines will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region.
More to come.