ASC develops new welding technique for submarines


ASC has successfully passed explosive tests for an advanced new welding technique for submarine hull steel in a development that opens the way to more efficient and reliable welds for Australian submarines.

The newly approved TIP-TIG welding method is a more consistent and improved welding process and is expected to lead to increased efficiencies for submarine sustainment while retaining a safe environment for submarine crews.

To gain Commonwealth approval, ASC-welded test specimens of the hull steel had to pass repeated explosive bulge tests at a facility in Victoria. The tests involved a one square metre specimen of Collins Class hull steel, made up of two sections that had been welded together.

The test specimen was repeatedly blown up until the “bulge” in the steel produced a thinning of the hull of a certain specified per cent. The tests were conducted with the specimens held at a temperature significantly below zero degrees, simulating the most demanding under-sea conditions.

Careful examination of the weld showed that cracks did not grow or break through, successfully passing the test.

ASC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Whiley said the successful explosive tests demonstrate ASC’s continued expertise in submarine hull fabrication and welding capability.

“Proving this advanced application of TIP-TIG welding for the high tensile, low carbon steel used in the Collins Class submarine pressure hulls means we will achieve even higher quality and reliability in our future work on Australia’s fleet of Collins Class submarines,” Whiley said.

“And it demonstrates our ongoing capability in ‘build like’ skills, leveraging our long history as a submarine builder, maintainer and design authority in Australia. This is a result of ASC retaining more than 40 per cent of its submarine workforce with skills and experience from the original Collins Class build in the 1990s and 2000s.”

Peter Whyte, the first welder to ever work on the Collins submarines, is proud of where the program stands today.

“As the first welder on the Collins build I’m proud of what the team at ASC achieved in the build of the fleet,” Whyte said. “It was difficult, challenging but equally rewarding to be part of something special.

“Today those same disciplines and dedication are part of the current team that works on the fleet. The next generation of welders and all trades in are very capable and committed to achieving a world class product for the RAN.”

The new technique will be introduced for the re-welding of HMAS Waller’s hull in its current full cycle docking in Osborne, SA.

The news follows the recent announcement that ASC is the first Australian defence company to receive the international corporate certification for excellence in procurement by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).

 “This achievement will guide our future work in procurement — a critical role as Australia’s largest locally owned defence prime contractor, supporting the Government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan,” Whiley said.

ASC built and maintains the Collins Class submarine fleet, employing more than 1,200 submarine personnel in SA and WA. 

In recent weeks, the company has signed on with asset management experts to strengthen its life-cycle management execution of the Collins fleet under a new partnership with the Asset Management Council of Australia.

It has also a signed a renewed strategic cooperation agreement with Defence Science and Technology Group for Collins.


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