Navy’s minehunter fleet were approaching the end of their planned service life but now have a Service Life Extension to 2035-38 and the challenge of working out the details to get there falls to Commander Glen Price, the man in charge of sustainment at the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Systems Program Office at HMAS Waterhen.
The Huon class were originally designed in Italy but were modified to suit Australian conditions, including improved accommodation and tailored mine hunting capabilities.
They feature a unique hull design, outstanding shock resistance and an inherently low magnetic signature, allowing the ships to operate in hostile mine environments.
The Australian Government directed a targeted Service Life Extension and Capability Assurance Program from 2021.
Commander Price said one of his tasks is sustaining the ships until the program can be implemented and in ensuring confidence in any of the on-board systems not addressed by the program.
“In normal circumstances, you would expect reliability and obsolescence issues as well as increased maintenance costs – as with any ageing platform or piece of equipment,” he said.
“What we needed to do was to come up with a system to ensure we get the best bang for our buck so the ships can continue operating as efficiently as when they first entered service.
“I believe we’ve created a unique asset management approach that will achieve that.”
The team at Waterhen in Sydney have developed a unique model to analyse the status of the 115 critical systems – using available data – from each of the vessels, using specially developed algorithms overlayed with stakeholder subject matter knowledge and expertise.
The data is analysed by a newly-formed Asset Management Working Group made up of key stakeholders from Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, Navy, other Defence agencies and industry.
“The whole purpose of this system is to ensure that we’re on top of not only current issues but that we’re also aware of emerging problems that may not yet be apparent to anyone; moving from a reactive to a proactive science-based asset management model.
“As a group of experts with skin in the game, we can then make evidence-based decisions on what to repair and replace and when to do so," Commander Price said.
Interest in the Asset Management strategy has started to extend to many other Maritime Systems Division System Program Offices, also looking for a science based approach to sustaining their assets, so there is real potential for the model to expand beyond that class of ship.
“The model is simple, but the end result is that we save money and are able to make sure the ships will remain available and fully operational for the next 20 years," Commander Price said.