Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The RAN needs more than manpower and ships

So if you add more people into an organisation that has bankrupt senior leadership ethics, that will some how fix a lot of problems....


The shortage of expertise in our services has already led to some dramatic failings. The Australian's Cameron Stewart revealed in February that two-thirds of the Royal Australian Navy fleet had, in the previous year, been unable to operate at full capacity. Figures showed 38 of the RAN's fleet of 54 vessels had been at least partially incapacitated by faults, repairs or crew shortages. And we revealed an internal navy report detailing critical shortages of engineers, and warning that urgent action was required to maintain the fleet and improve "cancerous" morale. The problems were laid bare in February when the federal government wanted to provide naval assistance in response to the devastation left by Cyclone Yasi, and found none of the navy's three support ships was seaworthy. Then, just this month, a report revealed profound safety risks for our Collins Class submarine fleet, in part because of the lack of experienced crew and support staff

In other news. Like a broken record; the rent-seekers are out in force.

Also, great news! Home grown subs may only cost $18B... but not so fast.

"When it all starts to go wrong it will make the Collins $800million plus per annum [sustainment] program look ridiculously cheap."

"Any government that ignores the cold hard facts of Collins would be being more than just cavalier with tax payers' money; they would be failing in their duty of governance."

It is common practice for military think tanks, such as The Kokoda Foundation, to receive corporate sponsorship across the board and for specific research projects.


goldeel1 said...

It would be nice to see a comparison of other navies and what the fleet fault rate for them is. It sounds pretty horrible but then we dont know what constitutes a fault. Is it for example a broken gearbox or the A/C sometimes not working well in the ships laundry?

On the other hand it was nice to see a newspaper article actually questioning and pointing out the link between manufacturers, think tanks and written reports instead of just publishing the spin without reference to this nasty and increasingly standard practice.

goldeel1 said...

Is this "Fleet maintenance software" some form of nuisance blog spam or what?

Your contribution has nothing to do with what is actually being discussed, and the last two sentences come across as being distinctly smart arsed. Your command of the English language is also off in at least two places which comes across as sloppy and unprofessional. Guys if you want to advertise try paying for it instead of rudely barging in and mouthing off in someone's blog. Doing that guarantees I WONT look favourably at your companies product. Negative one out of ten for effort.

Bushranger 71 said...

Consider the biographies at this link:

Ely said...

Hopefully Kokoda/Mr Pacey have included a Technical Risk Assessment appropriate to the "Green Field" Safety Critical platform that is invisaged with attending strategies broadly outlining how the presumably extreme risks are to be foreseen and managed. That should be seen as a critical component of any such work-and DSTO can help them with this.
I see RAND has recently published a "Collins Lessons Learned" within a wider study. While ago now. But some may not be aware.

Albatross said...

Reports elsewhere say that the RAN is looking to recruit 1000 (one thousand!!) trained RN personnel who are excess to requirements in the Old Dart as the RN is gutted to fund the UK's welfare state.

It's a disturbing parallel to what happens in Australian country towns at fruit picking time - hundreds of back packers and newly-arrived immigrants come in to the towns to pick the fruit while hundreds and hundreds of fit and able unemployed young locals sit on their ever widening arses and do nothing more productive than to pick up their dole cheques every fortnight.

What's happening to the ADF/RAN training pipeline? Does the ADF have one (or one that's in any way credible) any more, or was that sacrificed along with much of its effective fighting forces a a cost-saving measure under the 'enlightened' leadership the ADF has 'enjoyed' over the last decade?

NGF said...

Japan is building a new class of large conventional submarines. Now that Tokyo has eased its arms export rules, Australia should at least explore working with Japan to design a Collins Class replacement. Link:

Bonza said...

Agree completely, NGF.

We've been down the "up-scaling a small Euro submarine design" path before. That is what the Collins IS. An up-scaled Euro sub. Yet those who criticise Collins are the same who in the very next breath suggest we should go down the same path for our future capability. Really? What will be different this time round, exactly?

We seriously need to work with those who have demonstrated the capability to design AND build large blue water subs that are compatible with USN assets AND feature the AN/BYG combat system (what we want from Collins, but it's some way off) AND future derivatives as well as the US sourced weapon systems we need to use from our subs.

The only resident experience in the entire world that is building blue water capable, non-nuclear subs, with the persistence, payload, operational range, power generation and compatibility with the USN, is who we should be working with, not whichever vendor from Europe, who has designed the latest 1800t submarine that has no greater operational capacity than the ability to potter around the Mediterranean...

That just happens to be Japan. The similarities between the Collins and the Oyashio Class are no coincidence...

ELP said...

"Really? What will be different this time round, exactly? "

Interesting point. Given the massive amounts of incompetence with the DMO and friends, they would probably screw that up too.

Perplexed said...

Agree ELP, it is not the Machine that those who manage them. Lieutenant-Colonel Bonza read the Coles report and recent Senate Enquiries, or is it too distressing. You cannot keep apologising for this incompetent rabble any longer.

Bushranger 71 said...

“...whichever vendor from Europe, who has designed the latest 1800t submarine that has no greater operational capacity than the ability to potter around the Mediterranean...” That Bonza comes across as DoD prejudice.

Poking around in submarines within China's perceived First Island Chain, at behest of the US or otherwise, would be strategic folly for Australia. But if larger capacity than Type 212/214 is desirable, then why not seek manufacture of say 6 Soryu Class boats in Japan? Interestingly, Japan seems satisfied with the publicised lesser range of the Soryu compared with the German boats, although the Oyashio apparently has longer reach. Whatever improvement on present submarine capability is desirable, cost-effectiveness should be paramount.

The low productivity motor vehicle industry in Australia is hugely subsidised by the taxpayer and support of largely foreign-parented defence industry is very similar, magnifying the cost of weaponry acquisitions. The ongoing reckless spendathon aiming toward a mythical Force 2030 structure is just not sustainable and the mad rush to set major hardware replacement projects in train will likely see increasing slippages when (not if) national expenditure has to be curtailed following likely waning of the mining boom over the next couple of years.

Ely said...

HDW have announced a 216 concept reportedly specifically aimed at SEA 1000. See

NGF said...

Thanks Ely,
I was not aware of the Type 216 announcement. Looks like a serious option.

Bonza said...

NGF and others, you would think that even HDW offering the never before built 216 would be an indication to some here, that 214 or smaller do not and cannot meet the requirements RAN has for a submarine, but apparently not.

Bushranger, whilst I respect your expertise as a former pilot, I would hope you would share the same courtesy to the former submarines who universally recommend a large Blue water sub for RAN's needs in the operational role we have for submarines?

It is no coincidence that HDW and soon enough Navantia, will be offering enormously enhanced versions of their existing products to attempt to meet our needs.

These offerings will be characterised by being roughly 3500t submarines, with integrated USN combat systems, weapons and sensors.

In short, significantly different to what they build for European customers and remarkly similar to the basic design features of the Collins and Oyashio Classes, suitably updated, of course.

When even vendors see the needd for this, perhaps some thought could be given to the idea that just maybe the RAN Submarine Squadron does know what it's talking about, somewhat?

In other sad news, that I'm sure will result in howls of outrage, it appears the Singaporeans have royally stuffed up the double-hulling of HMAS Success, so much so, that she is to be scrapped immediately and won't ever sail again. Who would have thought adding thousands of extra tons of metal to an already tired and overdue for replacement hull, would cause so much twisting and misalignment that the old grl is no longer fit to sail, anywhere?

Besides our Navy that recommended the Government not proceed with this project. No doubt this will be DMO's fault too...

Bonza said...

Apologies, submariners in the post above...

Any chance of an edit function, Eric?

Ely said...

Re your submarine appreciation. I guess that is why we need a decent and compliant study including Risk Assessment System(s) Maturity and Analysis of Alternatives, all benchmarked against how & what we actually achieved with Collins-not the usual hype and subjective opinion.
Speaking only for myself I am troubled by the apparent lack of rigour that seems to have gone into the definition study and discussion so far. It all looks fairly familiar country to me.

Bonza said...

Unless you're working in the Project Team, I'm not certain you (or I) would know exactly what design issues have been studied.

I don't know the entire scope of these studies, but I do know know one thing about it though. RAN/DMO project staff have visited Navantia, HDW and Kockums multiple times during the project definition phase and have received vendor data on all the modern Euro subs, including the enhanced versions they are beginning (led by HDW with the 216) to propose RAN acquires.

It's going to remain an interesting project for a VERY long time yet, these things take decades even if everything goes smoothly. I'm not sure there's much point getting too worked up about how good idea X is or how bad Y is.

A lot is changing with subs, most recently with the advent encapsulated UAV's being launched from subs becoming a reality.

Such capabilities are going to significantly impact upon potential designs...

Ely said...


Bushranger 71 said...

Bonza; have you not noticed recent calls from some respected defence commentators for update of the strategy underlying DWP2009; also questioning of continued risky emphasis by the US in trying to maintain unwelcome so-called primacy in SE Asia?

Simply; it is potentially dangerous folly for Australia to get sucked into submarine operations within China's perceived First Island Chain. It matters nought what the RAN once did or that some submarine manufacturers are now contemplating longer range boats. Australia needs to focus more on our nearer neighbourhood.

I have never said there is not a case for largish capacity boats for regional roles (see my December 30 post).

Ely said...

The taxpayer has good and well documented reason to distrust your suggestion or inference that DMO/capability staff are doing all of the necessay studies behind closed doors and during their visits all round the place. ANAO report #48 of 2008-09 Planning and Approval of Defence Major Capital Equipment Projects is worth a re-read to remind us that with the sample of projects studied the completion of mandated planning including sound and compliant risk assessment continues to be a major deficiency. So a question is: How does DMO establish or know if its planning is sound? The evidence is that the organisation for whatever reasons (and I dont care what they are) has critical difficulty with this part of their work. Therefore I am keen to see authoritative third party audit of any major developmental project including SEA 1000 before major procurment decisions are taken. And I propose that assurance this is being done at key stages (without all the classified stuff)should be provided to the taxpayer.
I am not sure what your points are re comparing x versus y or not getting "worked up" because the outcome is a long way away. To me these are valid elements of our problem.

Perplexed said...

BR 71,Submarine Warfare is Offensive, not defensive.

1)The Submarine is involved in Recon of the coast of the potential enemy/enemy. It gathers geospatial information and electronic information, fleet movements, aircraft movements etc. Please study the most recent conflict being the Falklands War.
2)Submarines are involved in mine laying off the ports of the enemy. Australia’s potential foes are a long way away. Please study WW2 and the efforts laying mine off the ports of Vietnam, Taiwan etc.
3)Anti-shipping should be conducted close to enemy ports as it shuts them down in conjunction with mine laying. Would you wait until the submarine turned up on your coast?
4)Special Forces. Again study WW2, Australia inserted Special Forces a long way from the 200 mile limit. Try Singapore and further North.
5)Anti Submarine Warfare. Again do it off the port of your enemy, not off your own coast.
6) How would you detect the hostile submarine off the Australian Coast, it is rather large?

Bonza said...


The point of my earlier comment about platform X v platform Y is that such are proposed on a daily basis here and elsewhere in relation to almost every element of ADF capability (but most usually the "cool" pointy end) without a single moment's thought as to whether or not that platform is actually to suited to how the ADF actually employs it's assets, whether that platform is suited to to the "system of systems" our defence force maintains and whether it can be adequately supported or upgraded in Australia and so on.

For subs, people support the S-80, Scorpene or HDW 214 or whatever "off the shelf" sub happens to take their fancy, without considering the extremely complex and vast issues that go into submarine operations (including day to day management of the capability). They assume that because the S-80 (to be used as the example from herein for simplicity sake) is in-service elsewhere without any well publicised issues that therefore we too could operate it too without any issue and that the selection of that submarine simply involves signing an appropriate contract and then waiting for them to turn up...

That idea doesn't even work in relatively simple off the shelf platforms as we've seen with operating and support issues already with M1A1 tanks, C-130J-30 Hercules and C-17A Globemasters purchased "off the shelf". How anyone can expect that with a capability as mechanically and technologically complex as a submarine is beyond me.

As for external advice, I wonder which external agency to RAN or DSTO (who obviously are massively involved in our submarine capability) would actually have the expertise to decide whether RAN's choice was adequately suited to our needs?

Ely said...

I fear that I am beginning to belabour the point. But you again justify why we need the analyses that I have been on about. And not just with SEA 1000.
And I was not talking about "external advice" being provided to DMO/Capability/ project. I was proposing that the taxpayer needs to be provided with assurance independent of that provided by DMO that appropriate selection has occurred and the planning deficiencies found by ANAO in audit report # 48 of 2008-09 Planning and Approval of Defence Major Capital Equipment Projects (and by more recent reviews),have been controlled to an acceptable level of risk before executive procurement decisions are made. The Audits should be performed by authoritative third party Auditors against relevant Standards. This not a new concept.DSTO can help with the method required by some elements of the analyses but I doubt that DSTO is an organisation accredited to perform compliance audits.

Bonza said...

So would you suggest ANAO for instance has the relevant capability inherent within it, to suggest whether or not capability solutions meet the requirements we have for them?

Even they admit they don't...

Even a company such as Price Waterhouse Coopers or KPMG can only come in and audit as to whether or not a particular organisation has met it's own policy/procedural/legal requirements.

Not one of them are qualified as to whether or not capability X meets the requirements that we have for a particular capability gap.

Ely said...

No. I am not suggesting that ANAO (or the other companies you name) is a capability assessing or a T and E/systems engineering organisation. But ANAO is able to audit compliance with guidance and Legislation, applicable standards etc.
More simply, please go to page 36 of the ANAO Audit 48 2008-09 There you will see the four recommendation arising from the audit. All have been agreed by defence. I would like to see those independently audited and verified as having been satifactorily implemented before excutive decisions are taken. ie Simply do those things and have them audited and certified to that effect-first. This would be a good start-they are not a cure all and there are no guarantees. The approval processes may well and should, choose to use independent experts to validate technical risk assessments of high risk capability options Btw you might care to look at TRA July 2009 Read Version pdf for an overview in amplification of DSTO's work on system maturity.
My justification for desiring an independent compliance audit before the potential train wreck is that we have ongoing difficulty with these aspects of management. With SEA 1000 and other Majors I propose that the taxpayer has insufficient reason to justify a faith that this work will be satisfactorily completed in-house and (particularly) behind closed doors.The stakes are just too high for misplaced trust that this time we are going to "get it right". And I suggest until we can do this "homework" our aspirations re capability are likely to remain impracticable and increasingly costly.
BT on this.

Bushranger 71 said...

Hi Perplexed; some wires crossing perhaps!

I can remember much of WW2 including that 30 or so ships were lost around the Australian coastline, mainly due to submarine activity. Most of my military career involved joint warfare activities and I was across what was happening in maritime warfare (AJASS was staffed jointly by RAN and RAAF). Also privy to highly classified information on northern hemisphere underwater activities and awareness of largely unspoken Navy/Air Force efforts in SE Asia. Add to that 11 months at Staff College where all aspects of military operations and involvement in conflicts are addressed in depth. So I appreciate what submarines have done in the past and their contemporary military capabilities.

Regarding the Falklands War; the major lesson that Australian defence planners should have learned is that deployment of significant military assets in largish ships is folly, yet 2 x LPD aircraft carriers are being acquired principally for that purpose!

Since the recent US Presidential visit to Australia, there has been ongoing debate in other forums regarding American intent to focus more militarily on the Asia-Pacific region. Australia owes the US an unrepayable debt for its sacrifices during WW2 from the fierce 6 months Guadalcanal campaign onwards and it is understandable that Americans might feel let down by the dismal diplomatic failings of Australia and New Zealand in the SW Pacific. This is probably what has triggered intentions to boost US military involvement in our region. But there is far greater concern being expressed by many respected identities concerning the American aim of maintaining so-called 'primacy' in the SE Asian region where China is the emergent major military power.

Increased focus of ANZUS alliance partners on the SW Pacific region is of course welcome and appropriate; but there will be higher risk than ever before of Australia being sucked into conflict in SE Asia if the US remains determined to maintain an unwelcome presence there to largely benefit its huge military-industrial complex. Conceivably, America will have Australia over a barrel and how will that conflict with China's economic stranglehold on Australia?

Although the Navy should properly have more influence than politicians and the Public Service regarding the characteristics of its platforms; the politicians decide the broad area of operations for the ADF (as defined in DWP2009) and that does not presently include operating within China's perceived First Island Chain, in my interpretation. In the emerging strategic circumstances, it would be politically stupid to even contemplate submarine operations anywhere near China's maritime approaches.

See the Lowy Institute website for much interesting debate on these issues by respected identities and this contribution of 6 January 2012 published also at Business Spectator: