IODSTo the presumed delight of the government, the immediate reporting of its response to the review of the RAN surface fleet, released on February 20 was positive, talking about a doubling of ship numbers. However, even a cursory review of the timetable suggests that this effect will only be achieved in the midto late-2030s. In the near-term, fleet numbers shrink.

Titled ‘Enhanced Lethality Surface Combatant Fleet’, its analysis is weakened by leaving out of the equation forthcoming platform upgrades and maintenance activities that will have an important impact on availability from at least 2026. These include:

  • Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyer midlife upgrades. These will begin in 2026 and will take at least two years, possibly longer for the first ship. There are three Hobart class, so until about 2033 only a maximum of two will be available at any one time;
  • Anzac class frigates. Of the current eight in service, two will be retired immediately. The remaining six will be upgraded presumably one at a time. This means that, optimistically, five will remain available with the caveat that they are old platforms;
  • Since the Arafura class have been stripped of their weapons by the RAN, their initial small but important contribution to the surface fleet has been deliberately downgraded to zero;
  • Even though the focus is on the surface fleet, it is important to remember that the Collins class submarines are also starting their Life of Type Extension (LOTE) program in 2026. Each boat is scheduled to be out of the water for two years, but it would come as no surprise if the first one was unavailable for three years or more.
  • Submarines are notorious for being much more difficult to overhaul than planned because it is only when they are fully opened up that the extent of the corrosion, wear & tear, and damage becomes apparent.

This is an excerpt from APDR. To read the full story, click here.


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Kym Bergmann
Kym Bergmann is the editor for Asia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) and Defence Review Asia (DRA). He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism and the defence industry. After graduating with honours from the Australian National University, he joined Capital 7 television, holding several positions including foreign news editor and chief political correspondent. During that time he also wrote for Business Review Weekly, undertaking analysis of various defence matters.After two years on the staff of a federal minister, he moved to the defence industry and held senior positions in several companies, including Blohm+Voss, Thales, Celsius and Saab. In 1997 he was one of two Australians selected for the Thomson CSF 'Preparation for Senior Management' MBA course. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of companies including Raytheon, Tenix and others. He has served on the boards of Thomson Sintra Pacific and Saab Pacific.


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