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New optronic system for Collins-class submarines

A photo of the frigate HMAS Anzac taken by Submarine Warfare Officer’s Course students through the periscope from HMAS Rankin 

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has announced the RAN’s Collins-class submarine fleet will be fitted with new optronic masts to replace its ageing optical periscope masts under a contract worth $381 million.

The new masts will not require a hull penetration, instead using a digital camera atop an extensible mast to display images on a screen inside the boat’s command centre. Not only will this mean that multiple experts aboard the submarine can scan an image simultaneously, it will reduce the length of time a mast is clear of the water surface and reduce space demand in the submarine by removing the command centre’s bulky optical periscope column.

Online journal Defence Connect reports that HMAS Rankin will be the first Australian boat to be upgraded with the new optronic system, in 2024. The upgrade forms part of the planned Collins-class Life of Type Extension (LOTE), a phase of Project SEA 1439, valued at around $6 billion.

Australia’s AUKUS partners, the USA and the UK, already use optronic masts in their submarines and Defence Connect says the retrofit will bring the RAN into line with its allies and familiarise Australian crews with optronic systems before the RAN acquires its own nuclear-powered submarines.

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