The Australian Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne, informed on 14 June that Thales is to undertake a major upgrade of the sonars onboard the fleet of six COLLINS-class submarines. Aimed at extending the operational life of the vessels and maintaining regional superiority, the upgrade contract is valued at A$230 million (€147 million) and will support 140 jobs at Thales Australia’s Rydalmere facility in western Sydney.
The Australian government has approved a total of A$542 million to upgrade sensors on the COLLINS-class boats, of which the Thales contract is a major component. In an internationally collaborative program, the legacy cylindrical array on the submarines will be replaced with a Modular Cylindrical Array (MCA), based on Sonar 2076 submarine technology developed by Thales teams in the UK. The existing flank array will be replaced by the latest generation flank array from Thales teams in France. Thales will work with local industry, including Raytheon Australia as the Combat System Integrator, to deliver the upgrades for the six submarines, integrating products from other Australian providers including Sonartech Atlas, and L3 Oceania.
Thales is a key strategic partner of the Australian Defence Force and the Royal Australian Navy, and is Australia’s market leader in underwater systems, having supplied advanced sonar and minesweeping systems to naval and civil customers in Australia and overseas for more than three decades. “France and Australia have collaborated closely on sonar systems for the COLLINS submarines since the start of the programme more than 30 years ago. Thales teams based in France, UK and Australia have worked together as one team to master the sonar technology in Australia and to share know-how with one ambition: assure long-term regional superiority for the Royal Australian Navy,” explained Thales’ Vice President, Underwater Systems, Alexis Morel.
“It is critical that Australia maintain the highest levels of submarine capability from the COLLINS fleet until the Future Submarine enters service. The sonar systems are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the submarines, and Thales will bring together the best underwater sensing technology from around the world to ensure the COLLINS remains a potent force,” added Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins.