UK — Partnership pays off for submarine upgrades

Two of the Roy­al Navy’s Trafal­gar Class sub­marines are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of major upgrades to their com­bat sys­tems fol­low­ing their lat­est main­te­nance peri­ods.

HMS Tren­chant under­go­ing main­te­nance at Devon­port Naval Base [Pic­ture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The Defence Equip­ment and Sup­port (DE&S) Sub­ma­rine Com­bat Sys­tems Group have joined con­trac­tors Bab­cock in suc­cess­ful­ly deliv­er­ing major pack­ages of work dur­ing the Reval­i­da­tion and Assist­ed Main­te­nance Peri­ods (RAMPs) for HMS Tren­chant and HMS Tal­ent, the last of which com­plet­ed last month. The result is a sig­nif­i­cant uplift in the oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ties of both submarines. 

The size of the com­bat sys­tem work pack­ages for each RAMP was a step up from those under­tak­en pre­vi­ous­ly which meant that the Com­bat Sys­tems Group, Bab­cock and the Project Con­tract Man­ag­er Team at Devon­port need­ed to work even more close­ly togeth­er and care­ful­ly review all process­es to get the job done in time. 

The nature and com­plex­i­ty of the sys­tem upgrades meant that some new equip­ment was imma­ture when accept­ed into the pack­age, while still hav­ing to achieve the qual­i­fi­ca­tions required to be fit­ted on a sub­ma­rine. Guid­ance infor­ma­tion need­ed to be ful­ly devel­oped, and con­trac­tu­al and finan­cial ele­ments finalised. 

Inter­de­pen­den­cies between each of the indi­vid­ual upgrades meant all the indi­vid­ual parts of the work had to be deliv­ered for the whole to be achieved. 

Fail­ure by an indi­vid­ual project to deliv­er was not an option. To delay the upgrades until the next appro­pri­ate fit oppor­tu­ni­ty would deny the Roy­al Navy’s fleet a capa­bil­i­ty advantage. 

This approach was met with scep­ti­cism by some who did not ful­ly under­stand how quick­ly com­bat sys­tem equip­ment has to evolve to stay cur­rent in the face of new tech­nol­o­gy and obso­les­cence. The front line demands the very lat­est capa­bil­i­ty it can get. 

Along with the nor­mal main­te­nance and defect rec­ti­fi­ca­tion that takes place dur­ing a RAMP, 14 inter­de­pen­dent com­bat sys­tem alter­ations and addi­tions were com­plet­ed on Tren­chant, and 14 on Tal­ent, togeth­er with a size­able pack­age of work on lega­cy com­bat sys­tem equipment. 

The vol­ume of work required a large num­ber of inde­pen­dent project teams at Abbey Wood to deliv­er their ele­ment of the project on time. 

Sound co-ordi­na­tion and pro­fi­cient pro­gramme man­age­ment by the Sub­ma­rine Com­bat Sys­tems Group was vital in ensur­ing they deliv­ered on their promis­es and there­fore built on the con­fi­dence and rap­port that devel­oped as the projects evolved. 

Project staff admit­ted that things did not always run smooth­ly. But thanks to the prag­mat­ic and flex­i­ble approach of Bab­cock and the project man­agers, and with a high lev­el of trust being built between them, prob­lems were overcome. 

The exper­tise and unique capa­bil­i­ty of Bab­cock in deliv­er­ing sub­ma­rine sup­port and offer­ing solu­tions to emer­gent prob­lems with­out doubt ensured that suc­cess was achieved in part­ner­ship with the DE&S Sub­ma­rine Com­bat Sys­tems Group. 

Sub­ma­rine Com­bat Sys­tems Group team leader, Cap­tain Pat O’Neill, said: 

“While I was always con­fi­dent in the deliv­ery of these exten­sive work pack­ages, oth­ers were less cer­tain of the out­come. I am there­fore very pleased that through excel­lent team­work­ing and pro­fes­sion­al­ism the MOD and indus­try team has succeeded. 

“It is vital­ly impor­tant that with few­er sub­marines than we once had, but with many oper­a­tional com­mit­ments still to be met, we are able to deliv­er com­bat sys­tem updates at any scale with­in the nor­mal main­te­nance cycles, and we have demon­strat­ed this on these platforms. 

“They now sail with sys­tems that deliv­er the lat­est capa­bil­i­ty require­ments and at the same time embody new tech­nol­o­gy which will dra­mat­i­cal­ly decrease future sup­port costs and enhance sys­tem reliability.” 

This arti­cle is tak­en from the Jan­u­ary 2012 edi­tion of desider — the mag­a­zine for Defence Equip­ment and Support. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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