Deep under covers aboard our subs

Posted: 12/04/2011 in all marine news

Ian McPhedran – 

Somewhere beneath the Great Australian Bight, 50 submariners are heading home to Perth after seven weeks in waters off Australia’s east coast.

Under the command of 22-year submarine veteran Commander Jason Cupples, the Collins Class boat HMAS Dechaineux will spend about 10 days cruising hundreds of metres below the surface before she sees the sun again off the West Australian coast near Rockingham.

The Advertiser spent a day on board HMAS Dechaineux off Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast last Friday to witness the capability of one of the nation’s key strategic weapons.

While the “dud subs” Collins project has been dogged by controversy over the years, when operating properly the boats are among the most lethal and stealthy conventional diesel/electric powered subs in the world. Dechaineux has spent 320 days at sea and covered 50,000km during the past two years meeting the key strategic goals of Australia’s subs – range and endurance.

“These are good boats, but remember they are 3500 tonnes of steel operating underwater in a very unforgiving environment,” Commander Cupples said.

It is a bizarre feeling for a landlubber to dive from 60m to 200m at 20 degrees nose down inside a large steel tube, then immediately rise up at the same angle.

A steep banking turn provides a sensation similar to a banking aircraft, but without the turbulence, as the Collins boat executes what is known as “angles and dangles”.

After simulated fire and propulsion failure drills, the control room bursts into action as the Dechaineux simulates an attack on an unsuspecting merchant ship.

Commander Cupples barks orders that are immediately repeated and obeyed as he prepares to “kill” the ship steaming south down the NSW coast.

This is where it becomes just like the movies.

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