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TIP-TIG welding for submarines
The Australian builder and maintainer of the Collins Class Submarine, ASC, had signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Australia’s Defence Science and Technology (DST), renewing a relationship that has produced successful collaboration and innovation across Australia’s submarine fleet.
ASC Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Whiley said that the collaboration with Australia’s leading government sector defence research organisation was critical to the company’s commitment to continuous improvement.
“As the builder, design authority and maintainer of the Collins Class fleet, which will be in service into the 2040s, ASC’s partnerships with subject matter experts and research organisations are a high priority,” said Mr Whiley.
“I’m delighted to secure ASC’s continued collaboration with DST and look forward to further benefits for Australia’s operational submarine fleet, the Collins Class, across ASC’s responsibilities in submarine maintenance, sustainment, upgrades and life-of-type extension.”
ASC and DST have worked together for many years. Since ASC and DST last formalised the collaboration in 2013, the organisations have delivered positive outcomes for Australia’s Submarine Enterprise in the following areas:
- Submarine structures, including the certification of a new hull-welding technique this year;
- Materials, including main motor banding refurbishment;
- Hydrodynamics, including assessing changes to sonar fairing designs;
- Signatures, including radar absorbing materials on submarine masts;
- Diesel engines (performance improvements, condition monitoring).
TIP-TIG welding for submarines
ASC has successfully passed explosive tests for an advanced new welding technique for submarine hull steel in a development that opens the way to more efficient and reliable welds for Australian submarines.
The newly approved TIP-TIG welding method is a more consistent and improved welding process and is expected to lead to increased efficiencies for submarine sustainment while retaining a safe environment for submarine crews.
To gain Commonwealth approval, ASC-welded test specimens of the hull steel had to pass repeated explosive bulge tests at a facility in Victoria. The tests involved a one square metre specimen of Collins Class hull steel, made up of two sections that had been welded together.
The test specimen was repeatedly blown up until the “bulge” in the steel produced a thinning of the hull of a certain specified per cent. The tests were conducted with the specimens held at a temperature significantly below zero degrees, simulating the most demanding under-sea conditions.
Careful examination of the weld showed that cracks did not grow or break through, successfully passing the test.
ASC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Whiley said the successful explosive tests demonstrate ASC’s continued expertise in submarine hull fabrication and welding capability.
“Proving this advanced application of TIP-TIG welding for the high tensile, low carbon steel used in the Collins Class submarine pressure hulls means we will achieve even higher quality and reliability in our future work on Australia’s fleet of Collins Class submarines,” Whiley said.
“And it demonstrates our ongoing capability in ‘build like’ skills, leveraging our long history as a submarine builder, maintainer and design authority in Australia. This is a result of ASC retaining more than 40 per cent of its submarine workforce with skills and experience from the original Collins Class build in the 1990s and 2000s.”
Peter Whyte, who welded the first hull sections for the build of HMAS Collins in 1989 and is now a senior project manager, says ASC retains and applies the highest welding standards.
“As the first welder on the Collins build I’m proud of what the team at ASC achieved in the build of the fleet,” Whyte said.
“Today, those same disciplines and dedication are part of the current team that works on the fleet. The next generation of welders, and all the trades, are very capable and committed to achieving a world class product for the Navy.”
The news follows the recent announcement that ASC is the first Australian defence company to receive the international corporate certification for excellence in procurement by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).
“This achievement will guide our future work in procurement — a critical role as Australia’s largest locally owned defence prime contractor, supporting the Government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan,” Whiley said.
ASC built and maintains the Collins Class submarine fleet, employing more than 1,200 submarine personnel in SA and WA.
In recent weeks, the company has signed on with asset management experts to strengthen its life-cycle management execution of the Collins fleet under a new partnership with the Asset Management Council of Australia.
It has also a signed a renewed strategic cooperation agreement with Defence Science and Technology Group for Collins.
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