When compared to the leading naval powers in the world today, it is easy to overlook Australia's undersea commitment which currently ranks it in the top twenty worldwide. One of the vessels charged with enforcement of Australian sovereignty in critical Pacific waterways is HMAS Collins (SSG-73), a conventionally-powered, guided-missile attack submarine which leads the Collins-class of boats numbering six. The class was based on the Swedish Kockums "Type 471" with Collins laid down in February of 1990 by shipbuilder Australian Submarine Corporation (Adelaide) and launched to sea on August 28th, 1993. She was completed in June of 1994, ran through the requisite trials thereafter and officially commissioned on July 27th, 1996. As of this writing (March 2014), HMAS Collins is in active service with the Australian Fleet fighting under the motto of "Vanguard' while making her home port out of Fleet Base West. Collins is expected to serve well into the 2020s.
HMAS Collins is named after Vice Admiral Sir John Augustine Collins of World War 2 fame. Under his command, his crew sunk the Italian destroyer "Espero" during June of 1940 in Mediterranean waters. Further action placed him in command during the Battle of Cape Spada in July of that same year. Collins was then later injured during a Japanese kamikaze attack on the flagship HMAS Australia (III). Ending his career as Chief of Naval Staff, Collins formally retired in February of 1955 after a distinguished career.
As built, Collins displaces 3,350 tons when surfaced and 3,700 tons when submerged. She is crewed by 48 personnel (10 officers, 38 enlisted) and holds enough endurance to keep her at sea for some 70 days. Dimensions include a running length of 254 feet, a beam measuring 26 feet and a draught of 23 feet. Utilizing a conventional power source (as opposed to nuclear), the submarine relies on a combination diesel-electric arrangement for surfaced/submerged service. Power is supplied by 3 x Garden Island-Hedemora Type V18B/14 diesel-fueled engines for surface work and 3 x Jeumont-Schneider generators for undersea travel. Both sources drive power to a single shaft. Emergency propulsion is provided by a MacTaggart Scott DM 43006 series hydraulic motor. With this arrangement, Collins can reach surfaced speeds of 10 knots and dived speeds of 20 knots. Range is 11,500 nautical miles when surfaced and 400 nautical miles when submerged.
As a modern attack submarine, HMAS Collins is outfitted with a bevy of systems and processing suites for the role. This includes a GEC-Marconi Type 1007 surface-search radar system and Thales bow and towed sonar arrays. ArgoPhoenix AR-740-US serves as the intercept array while a Raytheon CCS Mk 2 (AN-BYG-1) suite manages the combat system. Countermeasures make up a self-defense measure for the boat and crew. Navigation is by way of a Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 I-band radar system.
To the electronic systems is coupled the physical armament made up of 6 x 21" (530mm) torpedo tubes mounted in the bow. Usually outfitted with 22 x Mk 48 Mod 4/6/7 torpedo reloads, Collins can also fire the McDonnell Douglas UGM-84C Sub-Harpoon anti-ship, active radar homing missile as well as release up to 44 "Stonefish" Mark III naval mines as needed.
HMAS Collins' profile is conventional in the world of attack submarines. The hull is tubular and well-contoured for cutting through unforgiving seas. The bow is somewhat bulbous, housing a sonar system and the torpedo launchers. The sail is fitted at midships and contains the dive planes as well as optics, sensors and communications equipment required of clandestine submarine operations in remote regions of the world. The stern holds a rudder fin as well as the single shaft installation. Aided by computer design, the vessel is made as stealthy as possible, taking advantage of modern "noise-reducing" features. Indeed, when trialed with the help of the American Navy near Alaska, Collins was found to be nearly silent when running at "patrol speeds". Automation also supports a minimal crew and efficiency is aided through an all-digital combat system.
Commissioned in 1996, HMAS Collins made news when a "mixed" male/female crew was taken on in May of 1997. This then opened the door to women submariner training in 1998. In August of 2000, Collins made her first test-firing of the UGM-84C Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missile, further broadening her tactical value to the Australian Navy. She entered a period of refitting and repair beginning April of 2001. Suffering engine problems in July of 2009, Collins was again pulled for evaluation and subsequent repairing.
Since then, HMAS Collins has been involved in various training endeavors. As the situation in the Asia-Pacific region seems to head towards instability and a full-fledged arms race against China, HMAS Collins will be further promoted as a deterrent to all-out war.