Page 32 - Australian Defence Magazine Oct 2018
P. 32

A new contract and a fresh approach to the in-service support in the north of the RAN’s Armidale class patrol boat fleet appear to be paying dividends.
Keeping the Armidales afloat
DESIGN and construction of the original 14-strong Armidale class was undertaken by Austal but as a sub-contractor to De- fence Maritime Services – later Serco – who were also responsible for sustainment under a contract awarded in 2003.
In 2017 Thales was selected to take over Serco’s support agreement with a five-year contract potentially worth $55 million a year that is extendable to the Armidales’ scheduled retirement in 2025.
The operative date for commencement of the new contract was 1 July last year but this was moved forward to 1 May when it became clear the incumbent was struggling to deliver services as employees looked for opportunities elsewhere.
The new agreement requires the availabil- ity of 13 Armidales – HMAS Bundaberg was destroyed by fire in August 2014 – for an average of 250 materiel days per year.
“In essence that means that the platform and its systems are available for the mission,” Max Kufner, Thales’ Deputy Vice President Marine said to ADM. “For the Armida- les, one of the main mission systems is the
RHIB, they can’t do their operations with- out it. So long as the ship can move and get to where it’s got to go and deploy and recover its RHIB and complete the operational mis- sion, then it’s considered ‘materiel ready’.
“It’s a performance-based contract but we’ve got a period without the 250-day re- quirement and that gives us time to get up to speed and understand all the issues. Overall the maintenance has been going well. We’ve done more than 45 maintenance periods and five or six have finished a couple of days early, five or six have finished a couple of days late, and the others were all on time.”
Thales has a number of performance- based contracts in support of the RAN and each of vessel has its own unique challenges says Kufner.
“All RAN vessels have a usage and up- keep cycle (UUC) that defines main- tenance and operational periods. For Armidales we knew the UUC would be high tempo and that certainly has been the case. It would be fair to say we are still learning and looking forward to embed- ding ongoing improvements to deliver bet-
ter outcomes for the Navy in the future.” Support for 11 Armidales including central- ised planning is based in Darwin at HMAS Coonawarra while two boats operationally
based in Cairns are maintained in Cairns. Facilities at Coonawarra include a syn- crolift to get boats out the water, a travel sys- tem, and 11 hard stand bays, two of which are covered and another two are inside a
very large shed.
In Cairns, Thales sub-contractors Tropi-
cal Reef, BSE and Norship all have either slip bays or lifts, with most of the out-of- water work being undertaken by Norship.
“Norship did a lot of work in the past for Serco and they’re familiar with the boats, they also do work for us in Darwin,” Kufner explained. “But the overall working relation- ship has changed, we have a more hands-on approach to managing the work so we don’t just hand over an entire maintenance period and say go for it, we manage the mainte- nance period ourselves and we’ll also engage some of the contractors ourselves.
“The number of boats we work on at the same time is based on the UUC and Navy’s
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