The Collins Class is a Lesson Learned the HARD WAY.
It has long been my contention that the Australian government, of the day, made one fundamental error when it chose a vendor for its first indigenous submarine project.
Kockums, the core designer and vendor for the Collins Class submarine project, had no tradition or history of building a submarine designed for long endurance operations in the Pacific ocean environment. Nor was its tech base and experience, compatible with either British or American practice. The blunt facts of the situation as the Australian government went into the submarine building business, was that it was an inexperienced nation trying to learn how to build the most complex weapon system afloat, short of an aircraft carrier with no experience of its own at all in the management or process for such an undertaking.
And to be frank, one should have wondered why it choose Sweden, of all the possible vendors?
The history of submarine manufacture and operation does not list Sweden as a prime candidate of first notice.
The usual suspects: France, Germany and the UK were available, but their bids were rejected.
And despite the whitewash of the program since then: the actual life cycle price operating costs to fix these gold plated turkeys is an eye popper. Not even the Americans have a blow-out per unit life cycle cost this big and they are legendary for their programs going off budget.
a. Take a look at the environment in which the system operates. In this case the western Pacific basin and the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos and the east Asia littoral waters are an extremely challenging submarine environment, by far the worst operations area on earth for an operator to conduct naval patrol missions by submarines.
b. Develop a list of criteria for what the nation expects it submarine force to accomplish in peace and war.
c. Start asking friendly nations about the true STAGGERING costs of operating submarines, from initial industrial startup to life cycle maintenance, to human costs, to institutional training and education maintenance, to just plain fixing the inevitable day to day goofs.
d. Develop a real budget from c.
e. Sell the program and get the navy, the professional bureaucracy and then the polity on board for the 3 to 5 decade life of the program.
f. Then submit requests for information.
g. Then draw up the requirements as a formal request for bids.
h. The g. involves bow-waking the construction of a shipyard, the training of a workforce, the creation of satellite industries, and the plank-owning of EVERYTHING from mining the ores and gathering the raw materials to actually making all the components to rolling the end-product out of the assembly shed, to building a submarine base and school to house and train and man the boats and crews.
This is an undertaking that would daunt a major first class power who would be able to launch moon-rockets! For that is the comparable aviation type program in complexity with all of its uncertainties. Building a blue water diesel-electric submarine from practically zero is the functional equivalent to building a moon rocket from the same start point.
A nation which embarks on such an endeavor should select its partner vendors with the greatest of cares with the chief criteria, not being the lowest bids, but which consortium has the greatest proven expertise and most successful track record as submarine builders or operators in an environment most like what the end-user desires? Money is going to be spent and it must be spent wisely.
At the time, there were only three realistic choices. The Germans, the French or the Americans.
Given the politics of the time and the costs and experience, the first end-user choice should have been FRANCE. If the Americans had been possible, then they would be Plan B, as they finally turned out to be in reality.