In comments that will rattle the Defence hierarchy, Commander James Harrap, a 20-year navy veteran, said Australia's submarines had "the least reliable diesel engines ever built", and attempts to upgrade the boats would be a waste of money because their performance would only get worse.
"I don't believe the Collins-class are sustainable in the long term and many of the expensive upgrade plans which have been proposed would be throwing good money after bad," he said in a written account of his time as commander, obtained by The Weekend Australian.
Commander Harrap, who has commanded both HMAS Waller and, until last month, HMAS Collins, said: "Lack of available stores inventory, increased equipment failure rates and submarines living with reduced capability is something I expect will persist for the remaining life of the class.
"I do not believe we have the capability to independently design and build our own submarines.
In response to a recent negative report of Australia's submarine prospects in the coming years authored by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), top Navy brass released a statement to the fleet which claims confidence in the Collins subs to meet the operational requirements of the government.
Yet, the hard truth seems otherwise. Harrup also states:
"Over the last two years, I believe these problems have become worse," he wrote. "Throughout my command of both Collins and Waller, full capability was never available and frequently over 50 per cent of the identified defects were awaiting stores.
"Collins has consistently been let down by some fundamental design flaws, leading to poor reliability and inconsistent performance. The constant stream of defects and operation control limitations makes getting to sea difficult, staying at sea harder and fighting the enemy a luxury only available once the first two have been overcome."
Tying up the Collins subs and scrapping them could be a big money saver. They offer no credible capability.
The first boat of an off-the-shelf sub purchase could start to be fielded within only a few years. Then, as the capability proves itself, further boats could be added. This would provide a real submarine force as opposed to a dream submarine force that only consumes billions and has no return on investment.
For the capability it delivers (or doesn't deliver) the $27B per year defence budget needs a haircut. A bloated civilian workforce (over 21k and counting), an incompetent Defence Material Organisation (DMO), way too many flag-ranks and senior executives, a corrupt leadership environment, along with a variety of useless items on the Project of Concern list means a house-cleaning is in order.
The condition of Australia's submarine fleet is iconic of the state of the entrenched Defence bureaucracy.
Moribund and dysfunctional.
UPDATE--- "Barking mad".