- A.N. Other
- History - general, Ship design and development
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Through acquiring the ‘J’ class, the RAN gained a high level of experience in submarine maintenance. The lessons learnt during this time assist the RAN to be better prepared for the maintenance of submarine squadrons in the future. There were no costs associated with purchasing the boats but the overwhelming costs of getting them to an operational level were unacceptable and the funds could have been better spent elsewhere.
After decommissioning the ‘J’ boats, it was decided to purchase two new submarines. Two ‘O’ class submarines were ordered and were commissioned on 1 April 1928. These submarines were advanced for the time and were ordered with unproven engines. During the transit to Australia, these engines failed and resulted in a nine month delay in Malta.10 This restarted the debate in Australia as to the future of submarines in the RAN. Due to these factors and the onset of the great depression and in 1931 it was decided to return the boats to the Royal Navy.11
Given the financial position of Australia at the time the ‘O’ boats should never have been purchased. Once again the costs involved were enormous, yet only two years of effective use were gained. The lessons learnt with the acquisition of the unproven engines are important and are relevant considering that Australia is currently investigating options for propulsion for its latest generation submarines.
In 1942 a Dutch ‘K’ class submarine was offered to the RAN for use as an Anti-Submarine warfare training boat. The Navy accepted the offer and set out to complete a major refit on the 21 year old boat. In 1944 K-IX suffered a battery explosion and due to costs involved it was decided not to proceed with repairs.12 The K-IX proved once again that shortcuts are not possible in gaining a submarine capability. The K-IX refits were expensive and virtually no effective service was gained from her.
Through time submarines have become necessary for the defence of Australia. Before the acquisition of the Oberon class, their importance was questionable. The ‘E’ class boats proved to be an important part of our history, however, the other three classes proved to be expensive blunders. By purchasing boats second-hand, the RAN inherited the costs required to return the boats to a suitable state of repair. Prior to gaining these submarines, suitable infrastructure for the maintenance should have been put in place. Without this infrastructure, the boats were simply overly expensive.
Compilation of authors, Submarines Photofile No. 7 Australian Seapower, Sydney: Topmill, 1995.
Davidson, J., Beneath the Southern Seas; the Silent Service. Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2005.
Evans, B., The loss of AE1. Wartime Issue 16 (summer), 2001.
Kipling, R., ‘The Trade’ – Sea Warfare. Available: ttp://www.kipling.org.uk/poems _trade.htm.
Stevens, D., The Royal Australian Navy—A History, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1958.
Walters, P., Security beneath the waves, Weekend Australian, 18 Oct 2009.
White, M., Australian Submarines: A History. Canberra: AGPS, 1992.
- Kipling, R., ‘The Trade’ – Sea Warfare. Last accessed 14 Sep 2009.
- Walters, P., Security Beneath the Waves, p24.
- Evans, B., The loss of AE1. Wartime. Issue 16 (Summer), p10.
- White, M. 1992, Australian Submarines: A History, v.
- White, op cit, 31–39.
- Stevens, D. 1958, The Royal Australian Navy—A History, pp43–46.
- Compilation of authors, Submarines Photofile No. 7 Australian Seapower, pp13-14.
- Stevens, op cit, p45.
- White, op cit, pp79–110.
- Davidson, J. Beneath the Southern Seas; the Silent Service, p126.
- White, op cit, pp157–164.
- White, op cit, pp166–177.