The Submarine Institute of Australia has welcomed the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, which provide greater clarity about current and future submarine capability across the Collins life-of-type-extension (LOTE) and Attack Class submarine program.
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The announcements made by the Prime Minister and Defence Minister saw extensive focus on enhancing Australia's submarine capabilities - namely commitments to maintaining the Attack Class submarine program and will continue to provide capability enhancements and life-of-type upgrades for the Collins Class submarines to ensure that Australia maintains a credible submarine force.
This will be further supported by the development and introduction of an "an integrated undersea surveillance system (including exploration of optionally crewed and/or un-crewed surface systems and un-crewed undersea systems), an undersea signature management range, and expanded undersea warfare facilities and infrastructure".
The Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan are welcome additions to the defence policy landscape, which provide greater clarity about current and future submarine capability, according to the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA).
In particular, the SIA supports the commitments in the policy documents relating to extending the life of the Collins class submarines and to investing in uncrewed under-water systems.
SIA executive director David Nicholls said, "While there has been a lot of relatively informal public discussions about it, the 2020 Force Structure Plan is the first significant policy commitment to life-of-type extensions for the existing Collins Class submarines."
Nicholls said the pledge to upgrade facilities and infrastructure to support Australia’s expanding submarine fleet, which is also in the Force Structure Plan, is another positive proposal.
On other parts of the two documents that are directly relevant to submarines, Nicholls added, "The uncrewed under-sea systems that the government has committed to will, alongside Australia’s expanding submarine fleet, further enhance national security."
As part of this commitment, the Commonwealth has also re-emphasised its continued and enhanced support for the nation's naval shipbuilding industrial base, which is to be supported by an updated naval shipbuilding plan, scheduled to be released later this year.
The 2020 Defence Strategic Update states: "The government will continue to deliver this nationally significant program of investment in ships and submarines, modern shipyard infrastructure and the associated vital workforce growth and skilling initiatives.
"Additional investments will be made in anti-submarine warfare, sealift, border security operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance, air warfare, sea control and undersea warfare capabilities.
This will also be supported by extensive modernisation and upgrades to critical infrastructure essential to maintaining the credible submarine capability, which the Strategic Update explains: "The government will continue to invest in new and enhanced facilities to support and sustain the ADF.
"Key planned investments include a new Army watercraft base in Northern Australia, upgrades to key maritime ports to support Navy’s operations, upgrades or new facilities to support the expanded submarine fleet and provisions for significant enhancements for Australia’s airbases."