COLLABORATION

Australia gains first research submarine to fuel nation’s defense sector

SOURCE: Jametlene Reskp/Unsplash
The research submarine will serve as an experimental tool for the future of submarine design.

A collaboration between multiple Australian universities and industry partners will deliver the country’s first fully reconfigurable research submarine to be used for hydrodynamic and crew efficiency testing for future submarine designs. 

The Australian Research Experimental Submarine (ARES) is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Flinders University, TAFE SA, and the University of Tasmania Australian Maritime College with Defense support from DST Group. 

It is also supported by four industry partners which are SAAB, ASC, Dassault Systemes, and MOOG Australia

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With the full business case behind the project being finalised ahead of the kick-off meeting to be held in February, ARES received funding from the South Australian Government as part of the Defence Innovation Partnership.  

The AU$150,000 funding will add on to an existing AU$350,000 in-kind contribution from participants to fund the project’s first-year run. 

The ARES project will run for a total of three years and is estimated to cost about AU$3 million in total.

According to a report by The Lead, the University of Adelaide Director of the Shipbuilding Hub for Integrated Engineering and Local Design (SHIELD) and ARES project lead Eric Fusil said that the autonomous submarine will be used to test how the submarine behaves underwater to aid in the design and safe operation of new submarines across the globe. 

“Because you can’t see onboard a submarine and you don’t really know where you are going, you need to know that when you are pulling on the controls from inside the submarine that you are setting the control planes outside at a given angle,” He said. 

“You need to know the effect of these angles for each given speed on the trajectory of the submarine – otherwise you are at risk of breaching the surface or diving too quickly.

Fusil also added that despite a worldwide effort in submarine research, it is still difficult to use computers to predict the vehicle’s movement. So in order to achieve this, actual testing research needs to be carried out using small-scale submarines to be able to deliver a safe analysis of how present or future submarines are behaving underwater. 

“These vehicles are often quite specific to a class of submarine whereas our submarine will have the ability to be generic and to be adaptable to any kind of shape overall and also to any kind of location of contour plane,” said Fusil. 

research submarine
Other nations such as the US, UK and France already have research submarines. Source: Sun Jin Cho/Unsplash.

According to early designs, it is said that the ARES measures at about seven metres long and up to 1.8 metres high.

 Its ‘golden wattle’ yellow colour isn’t just for aesthetical purposes or a homage to a classic Beatles tune, it will actually allow the submarine to be easily observed during underwater tests. 

Initial testing will possibly be done in lakes at a depth of 30 to 40 metres, deep enough to test the submarine’s hydrodynamics yet shallow enough for it to be safely recovered by dive teams in case of any technical difficulties. 

The new research experimental submarine will allow Australia to join the ranks of the US, UK, The Netherlands and France who each have their own research submarines which are used extensively. 

The project will also develop a skilled workforce to contribute to Australia’s future submarine programme. 

“The project is quite unique because in Australia so far we have taken products off the shelf and we have customised and adapted them to our Australian environment,” said Fusil.

“On this project, we are starting pretty much from scratch but we have access to a very good technical support network including UK, The Netherlands and potentially the French so we will be able to feed on the lessons learned from these countries and take the best from all of them to build a successful model.”

The project will also involve several international experienced industry experts who will mentor and guide the project. 

The first year of the project will entail preliminary design work before the procurement, manufacturing and testing phases in years two and three.

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Industry partner Dassault Systemes will provide its 3DExperience software platform, which will likely serve as the environment in which Australia’s future submarines are developed.  

Meanwhile, DST Group, the Australian government’s Defence Science Technology agency and one of the project’s major partners, will have the opportunity to utilise ARES to help develop the Attack Class submarine and also to validate other projects Australia is involved in with its allies. 

ARES is one of four South Australian projects funded through the latest round of the Defence Innovation Partnership. 

According to Defence SA Chief Executive Richard Price, South Australia’s three universities each have specific strengths in a range of defence relevant fields and the Defence department will apply these capabilities by connecting these researchers with the defence industry to accelerate development and build solutions to key projects for Australia. 

“The importance of collaboration between the defence industry and researchers cannot be understated; it is the foundation for success and key to solving increasingly complex defence problems,” added Price. 

Meanwhile, Fusil emphasised that securing funding for years two and three was a key priority for delivering the full project. 

“We need to prove to the stakeholders that we are serious and that we are here to deliver. We’ve got the interest from a number of stakeholders – public and private – and we’re trying to find a model where everybody is comfortable to contribute and will also be happy with the outcomes,” he said.