Australia is in danger of being left with a critical “submarine capability gap” in a future Asia Pacific conflict, a Senator and naval veteran has warned.
Senator Rex Patrick wants the Federal Government to fast-track the upgrade of Australia’s ageing Collins class submarines to ensure the country retains an effective submarine force in the near future.

“With tensions rising between Australia and China, it is vital we have effective submarine capability,” he told

There are calls to upgrade Australia’s ageing Collins class submarines amid rising tensions with China. (Royal Australian Navy) (Supplied)

The Collins vessels are scheduled to end their service by 2026, while the first of Australia’s 12 new Attack-class submarines is not expected to be delivered until about 2035 – potentially leaving the Australian Defence Force without submarines for years.

Despite costs blowing out to almost $90 billion, the French-designed vessels – being built under the Future Submarines Program – remain in the design stage.

The Federal Government said about 4000 jobs in Adelaide will be involved in building the vessels.

But some security experts have expressed concern that the 2035 delivery date may be on the optimistic side.

Mr Patrick, a former Royal Australian Navy submariner, says the underwater craft are essential for Australia’s defences and provide a deterrent against aggressors.

Independent Senator and navy veteran Rex Patrick is worried that Australia will be left with a submarine gap in its defence policy. (Supplied)

“Submarines are an important part of our defence the force … they are one of the few assets that provide some form of invisibility being hard to track by satellite,” Mr Patrick said.

He said they offer a wide range of military capabilities including, anti-surface warfare, intelligence gathering and deploying special forces.

Other Asia Pacific nations – including China, Taiwan and Singapore – are modernising their submarine fleets.

Mr Patrick says the rising in tensions with China makes it vital to start upgrading the Collins class submarines soon under the life-of-type extension (LOTE) program.

“We definitely need to focus on that,” Mr Patrick said.

China is among the Asia Pacific nations expanding and modernising their navies. (AP)

The planned work would see a major overhaul of the submarines, which were commissioned with the RAN in 1996, ensuring they could remain operational beyond 2026.

Last year’s Federal Government Defence Update warned of the increased risk of Australia being involved in an Asia Pacific conflict.

Mr Morrison unveiled the $747 million spending package on four key training bases during his visit to Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Japan – $66.3 billion

Countries with the highest military expenditure in the world

This content first appear on 9news

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