CANBERRA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government on Wednesday announced that it had commissioned a project to "sustain the capability" of its aging Collins class naval submarines, ahead of the introduction of the next-generation Shortfin Barracuda subs from around 2030.
In 2016, the Australian government announced that French shipbuilder DCNS had been selected to build 12 next-generation naval submarines to replace the six Collins class subs which have been in service since 1996.
In a media release, Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne said the projects to upgrade the Collins class subs over the next 20 years would ensure they stay "potent and agile" while DCNS's Shortfin Barracudas are being built.
"The 2016 Defense White Paper makes it clear submarines are an essential part of Australia's defence strategy and a powerful instrument for deterring conflict and contributing to anti-submarine warfare in our region," Payne said on Wednesday.
"The government is committed to continuing appropriate investments in the Collins class, including priority capability enhancements, obsolescence management and fleet sustainment."
"This will ensure Australia maintains a potent and agile submarine capability until the introduction of the future submarine fleet."
According to Payne, the upgrades will occur in two distinct phases; firstly, the Collins class submarines will undergo a refreshment of the control systems to bring them up to modern standards, while the second phase will involve an upgrade to the subs' communications capabilities.
Also in a statement on Thursday, Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the maintenance projects would employ a further 120 people at a cost of half a billion Australian dollars (391 million U.S. dollars).
"On average, 120 people per year across New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia will be employed over the life of the program," Pyne said.
"Combined the projects will inject approximately 540 million Australian dollars (423 million U.S. dollars) into the Australian economy over the next 20 years."
The announcement came just a week after defense experts described the estimated retirement date of the Collins class submarines as "wildly ambitious," as the new French-made Barracuda class submarines would likely be delayed in their creation, leaving a "decade gap" in service.