A deal has been reached between Australia and Japan to collaborate on stealth submarine technology, which could mean Australia's existing Collins-class subs are replaced towards the end of the next decade with a faster, quieter and more efficient variant.
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The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service currently has six Collins-class vessels, all of which are based out of HMAS Stirlng naval base at Rockingham in Western Australia. The Collins-class is a diesel-electric submarine, and it's likely that its replacement will use the same technology; Japan currently runs Soryu-class diesel-electric subs that are considered the best in their category.
The deal between Japan and Australia will see defence research scientists from both countries work together on stealth technology that can be applied to any Navy vessel, including submarines, from next year. The tech isn't guaranteed to make its way into any subs any time soon, but given Australia will need new submarines to maintain or expand its undersea fleet within the next two decades, it's possible the collaboration will bear fruit in time.
Australia is also currently in talks with both Germany and France to replace the Collins-class, which has an expected service life ending in 2025. Delays in researching and finding a new design as part of the Collins-class replacement project means that the boats will have to outlast their rated lives.
The replacement project could cost over $35 billion by the time every new Australian submarine is in the water. Up to 12 new boats are slated for development and construction, up from the six already running, and a 2009 analysis of Australia's submarine fleet renewal plans suggested each sub could cost over $1 billion each to build. [Associated Press]