The contract to deliver a submarine rescue system for the Navy’s Collins and Attack Class submarine fleet has been axed by the Department of Defence.
Defence has confirmed it has terminated Phoenix International’s $255 million contract, signed in 2018, to deliver a new sovereign air transportable Submarine Rescue Service capability to the Royal Australian Navy’s current and future submarine fleet.
This follows a review conducted in response to a series of project delays in 2019 and 2020.
Defence is yet to reach a settlement with Phoenix International, but noted it would work with the prime and its subcontractors to come to an agreement.
The Commonwealth government has now directed the Department of Defence and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to conduct a “comprehensive investigation” to “inform lessons learnt into procurement practices and relevant accountabilities”.
Former Navy Captain Anthony Miller has previously expressed concern over the scrapping of Phoenix International’s contract, questioning the adequacy of the Colins Class fleet’s current rescue system.
"Our main concern is what happens if we have a submarine sink in a depth further than 400 metres," he said amid reports a potential cancellation last year.
"How do we rescue the submariners?
"It can only launch in very calm conditions and it can only swim or operate in currents that are benign. Here in Australia, we have some of the worst conditions.”
However, Defence has reiterated that it’s confident in the capability of the current system, which it claims can be sustained for several years to come.
“The Royal Australian Navy retains a suitable submarine rescue system supporting the Collins Class submarines under an existing contract with James Fisher Defence Australia,” a Defence spokesperson said.
“This system can be sustained into the late 2020s, affording the government time to consider the acquisition of a replacement system, which will be required to support the larger crew size of the Attack Class submarine.”