Collins Class Submarines: Defense Minister Richard Marles has an “open mind” to solutions

Defense Minister Richard Marles fired a warning shot at Australian leaders, saying he had an “open mind” to change.

Defense Minister Richard Marles hasn’t ruled out ordering additional submarines before the country’s new fleet is completed in about 20 years.

Mr Marles said one of his top priorities is bridging the gap between the retirement of Australia’s old Collins Class fleet and the arrival of nuclear-powered submarines.

Marles on Monday said he had an “open mind” about the option of procuring an additional fleet of conventional submarines – a “son of Collins” – for use in the meantime.

“I don’t want to run the hares on any of that,” he told ABC.

“What I would say is that my mind is really open, because it has to be to face what is the capacity gap that has arisen. And we will be very focused on trying to deal with it. “

Marles, who is acting prime minister this week while Anthony Albanese is in Indonesia, said the 2040s were “too far away” to wait for a replacement for the Collins class fleet.

He said the capability gap would be up to two decades long, saying he doubted the nuclear submarines would be completed by the previous government deadline of 2038.

ABC reported last week that a group of Royal Australian Navy veterans urged the Defense to consider building Collins Class-based submarines for use before the new fleet was ready.

“Urgently pursuing Collins’ life extension and building more submarines are both necessary to bolster today’s submarine capabilities and prepare the industry and navy for nuclear submarines,” the former submarines wrote.

Former Defense Minister Peter Dutton ruled out the acquisition of another submarine fleet, saying, “It is not in our national interest to pretend we can have a third class of submarines – somehow, we can buy it off the shelf.”

The chief of the navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, also expressed his opposition to the idea.

The Collins submarines would be replaced by another fleet of conventional submarines which would be built in South Australia by the French naval group under a $ 90 billion contract.

The French program was abandoned last year when the Morrison government announced it would pursue nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS partnership with the UK and the US.

Mr. Dutton said the deal meant that Australia’s six Collins-class submarines would undergo “life-of-type” upgrades that would extend their lifetimes by 10 years.

The upgrades would be staggered and would take two years for each boat, starting in 2026 to be completed in 2028. The first boat to be upgraded is expected to retire in 2038.

It was revealed in a hearing of Senate estimates in April that the canceled French deal could cost as much as $ 5.5 billion despite the contract being torn up well before construction began.

The abandoned program has already cost Australia at least $ 2.5 billion, including $ 100 million in termination costs as part of the deal with Naval Group and Lockheed Martin.

Marles called it “possibly the worst defense procurement failure we’ve seen in our nation’s history” and blamed a “revolving door” by the Coalition defense ministers.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this year defended his decision to tear up the French contract to pursue the new AUKUS deal.

He said Australia’s strategic environment has changed since the French deal was signed in 2016 to the point that its submarines would not be suitable.

“Australia needed nuclear-powered submarines. This is what we need to keep Australia strong and to keep Australia safe. And I would not have allowed Australia to give up this opportunity, “she told reporters in April.

Originally published as Defense Minister Richard Marles has an “open mind” for huge changes